Mini Lyric Analysis - "Human" by Christina Perri

I was in my car the other day and this song came on the radio (well, my Sirius XM, to be exact). "Human" by Christina Perri was released as a single in 2013 for her 2014 album "Head or Heart". It can be described as a pop power ballad. It's not the newest song in the world, but it's not super old yet either. It almost didn't get released as Perri felt the song was too personal to put on the album, but responses from friends and colleagues convinced her to release it. You can hear her talk about it on a "Behind the Album" documentary here.


Lyric Analysis can be a powerful tool music therapists utilize to reach a variety of goals with their clients. Of course, goals are always personalized to the specific individual, but some of the goals that can be addressed include improving/increasing self-expression, emotion regulation, providing positive coping opportunity, finding new coping skills, problem identification, goal setting, working toward positive thinking, and self-awareness. This is just a few. When I work with clients using lyric analysis, I almost always personalize the goal more. For example, if I'm working with someone with a history of depression and difficult relationships, I may use lyric analysis to help them feel the emotional support of the artist through the song (emotion regulation, self-awareness), identify where relationship boundaries in the song were violated (identify current negative coping skills, self-awareness), and identify how the artist dealt with creating new boundaries (identify new positive coping skills, goal setting).


I frequently find myself doing mini lyric analyses in the car as I hear new and not-so-new songs. It is truly amazing how the meaning of a song can change as you mindfully listen to the lyrics and pay attention to how they are having an impact on your body responses, your thoughts, and your emotions. My questions to myself usually lean toward, "What does this song mean for me right now?" or "Why are these lyrics having this sort of an impact on me today?" or "Can I just let myself be with this response?"


When I lead an "official" lyric analysis in one of my sessions, I typically have a specific set of questions to ask in case my generic questions don't lead into a deeper conversation. Sometimes in adolescent groups, the group members can be hesitant to openly share, so more pointed questions are helpful.


If you're feeling up to it, try this with me today. Listen to the song and follow along with the lyrics. Then read the questions below and reflect on the answers. Please feel free to share your answers in the comment section if you want!


(I specifically did not choose the official video. Trust me on this one and keep reading.)


Human

by Christina Perri

I can hold my breath, I can bite my tongue I can stay awake for days if that's what you want Be your number one

I can fake a smile, I can force a laugh I can dance and play the part if that's what you ask Give you all I am I can do it, I can do it, I can do it

But I'm only human and I bleed when I fall down I'm only human and I crash and I break down Your words in my head, knives in my heart You build me up and then I fall apart 'Cause I'm only human

I can turn it on, be a good machine I can hold the weight of worlds if that's what you need Be your everything I can do it, I can do it, I'll get through it


But I'm only human and I bleed when I fall down I'm only human and I crash and I break down Your words in my head, knives in my heart You build me up and then I fall apart 'Cause I'm only human

I'm only human, I'm only human, just a little human

I can take so much 'til I've had enough 'Cause I'm only human and I bleed when I fall down I'm only human and I crash and I break down Your words in my head, knives in my heart You build me up and then I fall apart 'Cause I'm only human


Mini Lyric Analysis Questions

  1. What do you think the song is about? What is the artist trying to communicate?

  2. Are there any words, phrases or lines that particularly resonate with you? Why do you think that is?

  3. Are there any words, phrases or lines that you have a strong negative response to? Why do you think that is?

  4. The first time she sings, "I'm only human..." there is only a piano and cello. The other times, the accompaniment is much fuller. Do you think that changes the meaning of the words in the chorus?



Now, listen to it again, but watch the official video this time. Read the questions after this video.


Do any of your answers change? Why or why not?


Mini Lyric Analysis Questions after Official Video

  1. What do you think the song is about? What is the artist trying to communicate?

  2. How does the video add or distract from the meaning of the song?

  3. Are there any words, phrases or lines that particularly resonate with you? Why do you think that is?

  4. Are there any words, phrases or lines that you have a strong negative response to? Why do you think that is?

  5. The first time she sings, "I'm only human..." there is only a piano and cello. The other times, the accompaniment is much fuller. Do you think that changes the meaning of the words in the chorus?


Thanks for taking the time to experience this song with me! I look forward to possibly hearing how you hear this song today.

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Music Therapy, LLC

Proudly serving the Lynchburg, Virginia community since 2006

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