One of my favorite bands, Mumford and Sons, an English folk-rock band, won two Grammy’s earlier in 2013 and continue to gain popularity throughout the U.S. Their use of the creative style is extremely intriguing for many, because unlike plain or official styles, the creative style has the ability to evoke a tremendous amount of emotion when read or listened to. But, because the creative style is very subjective, there can be many different interpretations of what the lyrics mean.
I believe that the lyrics to “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons are referring to a failed relationship in which one partner wasn’t giving it their “all”. It seems as though the writer is reflecting on the relationship, trying to figure out why they should feel guilty for giving their whole heart, and all of their trust to this person who wasn’t able to do the same for them. I think the “white blank page” refers to the relationship being erased, or over, but the swelling rage is the writer not able to move on because there are unresolved issues or questions.
Because in the beginning of the song it says, “Can you lie next to her and give her your heart, your heart as well as your body...” he is referring to his ex-lover being with someone new. It seems as though he is questioning how her new partner is any better for her than he was. “And can you kneel before the king and say I’m clean, I’m clean.” In many interviews the band members have spoken about faith, and the importance of it in their lives. So I think this line refers to the writer’s relationship with God. I take it as the writer being a holy man, willing to admit his faults. But, as he says many times, loving this person with his whole heart was not a fault.
He also seems to feel very used for his emotions. “You desired my attention but denied my affections...” I think means this girl was interested in him, but not getting to know him on a deeper level or emotion that he was interested in. He seems to have cared for her greatly, while whoever he is speaking of just kind of enjoyed the attention she was getting. Their intentions when entering into whatever relationship they had here different. This often happens in many relationships, and is devastating for the individual who pours out all their feelings and expresses their love for someone, so this line especially evokes emotions of let down, sadness, and almost betrayal. In the very end, the lyrics say, “Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life.” I believe this is also a reference to God or religious beliefs, because as I mentioned before, faith is a major part of many of the member’s lives.
There can be many interpretations on the lyrics to “White Blank Page”, but the use of the creative style paints a very straightforward set of emotions for the reader or listener. “White Blank Page” begins with instruments being played quietly yet quickly with lead singer Marcus Mumford crooning the lyrics, “Can you lie next to her, and give her your heart, your heart, as well as your body…” quietly, creating emotions of past letdown in a relationship, making the listener realize that the person they were with wasn’t doing all that they could to make the relationship work, which could either be a reminder or an eye opener for the listener. If they already knew that the individual they were in a relationship wasn’t putting in a full effort, they might feel angry again about the whole situation. It might bring back that sense of betrayal they felt in the past. But, if they are just realizing while listening to this song that the person they were in the relationship with wasn’t really putting much of an effort into it, it may create emotions of sadness and even disappointment in themselves not being able to recognize this earlier on.
As the music slows down and gets very quiet, lead singer Marcus Mumford’s voice slowly sings the lyrics, “But tell me now where was my fault, in loving you with my whole heart, oh tell me now where was my fault, in loving you with my whole heart.” This would create a sense of sadness and loneliness to the listener, reflecting back on how much they sacrificed in the unbalanced relationship.
Then, the strings of several instruments are strum at the same time to create a loud, dramatic, dark emotion. Marcus’s voice raises, and if you watch the music video, you see he begins to belt out each phrase with all of his might, sweating as he aggressively strums the strings of his guitar. The music builds up a bit, then slows, and continues in this pattern throughout the entire song. It’s done to create a sense of anger with the listener; anger in themselves for giving so much to someone, but also anger towards the person who was not able to give all that love back. When the music slows it creates emotions of sadness, sadness that the relationship didn’t work and also sadness that at the time of the relationship, you didn’t realize there was such an imbalance.
The back and forth of emotions comes together at the end with the lyrics, “Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life. Oh, lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life”. As I discussed earlier, “the truth” could be a reference to The Bible and God, or it could mean just wanting to be with someone who is true and honest. Either way it’s taken, it creates an emotion of optimism and ambition. A confidence that one day you’ll find truthfulness and where you find that you will be content and happy. The pace picks up and then slows down throughout the entire song, and there is a battle between his emotions of anger and sadness. At the very end of the music video, the band members close their eyes as they repeatedly sing the word “heart” slowly with the lead singer, and it appears that there is a single tear in the corner of Marcus’s eye. The emotion is easy to feel when listening to the song, but it intensifies greatly by watching the video.
Because the creative style does evoke so much emotion dealing with losing something you’ve loved, or realizing you deserve more, Mumford and Sons appeals immensely to individuals around ages 25-35. At those ages individuals have more than likely experienced a few failed relationships of their own, and often times are beginning to wonder if they’ll be alone forever, which is something nobody hopes for. Through the use of creative style, Mumford and Sons can relate to their audiences emotions of heartache, let down, and feeling alone. They are able to bring their audience back to their darkest times relationship-wise, yet really keep the listeners hope and goal of a successful relationship alive. Through their lyrics, Mumford and Sons create emotions of the strength to carry on, and the confidence that you will find someone who treats you well, as well as the ability to respect yourself and know what you deserve. Overall, Mumford and Sons seems to be intending to make their listeners know that they are not alone, we’ve all been through relationship ups and downs, which is very comforting, and a big part of why I think this band has had so much success.
Looking into the rhetorical devices used that helped in creating these emotions; the main device used in this song is the use of epizeuxis. Lines such as “your heart, your heart..” “your love, your love”, and “Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life” are repeated immediately after they are stated. The use of the words heart, love, and truth are very revealing to the emotional text in particular, because all three of those words trigger various intense emotions of caring. Each of those words mean so much more than just the word itself, which is why Mumford & Sons chooses to use the creative style, to evoke such deep emotions of love, tenderness, and devotion.
There is also the large amount of times “and” is used in the lyrics, which is polysyndeton. This is probably used in order to build up the story and to create a feeling of multiplicity. It’s almost cueing the audience that there is going to be even more emotion loaded onto the emotion that’s already been expressed. It’s almost as if it’s an overload of emotions. There are a few times where hyperboles or exaggerations can be found within the lyrics, such as when it says, “give her your heart”, and “lead me to the truth”, and “loving you with my whole heart”. It would be hard to actually physically give someone your heart, just as it’s not possible to lead someone to the truth, because “truth” isn’t a physical object. But, there are emotional undertones in these exaggerations, because the emotions involved with metaphysically giving your heart to someone is a big deal. You’re giving them all your trust and raw emotions, and it’s easy to get hurt when you do this. These metaphors and exaggerations create that emotion and imagery in the listener’s mind of loving someone so much that you don’t have any walls up, you’re all theirs. Those are all very strong emotions.
There are also two phrases in which the use of an adjective is used to describe something that doesn’t necessarily need to be further explained, “swelling rage”, and “white blank page”. The writer of this song could have just used the word “rage”, or “blank page” or “white page” as descriptions, but he elaborated probably to create a clear image in the listener or readers mind and emphasize how much rage there is, or how blank the page is. This is another way in which emotion is evoked, because everything is described in such detail that it paints the picture in your mind. As the listener you’re picturing a swelling rage (anger), and a white blank page (possibly erasing the relationship). Because these lines aren’t until later in the song, they already have the audience’s emotions revved up, so the use of descriptive words just helps to not lose any of the strong emotions they are feeling already.
There is also the possible use of allusion when the lyrics state, “kneel before the king”. I would assume this means God, but the fact that “king” is not capitalized, it makes me question who he is referring to for sure. But if the listener pictured God, symbolically someone who is able to pass the type of judgment that he’s looking to find would be someone who is able to admit to his or her faults and be humble. So “kneel before the king” creates the emotion of surrendering to your own faults, or humbling yourself.
Mumford and Sons would not be able to evoke the types of emotions they want to create through plain or official styles, because those styles come out and say exactly what they mean directly. The creative style allows there to be interpretation, allowing the audience to imagine their own experiences into their minds while listening to “White Blank Page” because of the shared emotions. When they use creative style to evoke sadness with a relationship, the listener is able to think of a time they felt sad with a relationship, and make that song their own with their own experiences. If Mumford and Sons had chosen plain style, it wouldn’t have been as relatable for listeners because the emotions aren’t implied with those styles, they’re provided. The creative style has many implied emotions through the use of rhetorical devices, allowing the story of the song become lifelike in the mind of each listener.
- Katie TerBeest