“If all of this influence that this part of the country has and this musical scene has- if it doesn’t do anything with it, that would be the tragedy.” That’s Eddie Vedder talking about Seattle and the way of thinking that arose in a place laden with culture by the subgenre Grunge at that time, 1996. Moreover, the quote explains the critical stance taken in the song “Society” written by Jerry Hanan but performed by Vedder and Hanan in 2007 for the soundtrack of the movie “Into the wild” directed by Sean Penn. The context of the song formed it’s theme as, in a different time or place or language or for a different audience, the outcome would most likely have differed.
“Society” echoes the values of Jon Krakauer, protagonist of “Into the wild, whose diary entries are the basis of the film. These are transcendalist views on a society that is incapable of working in harmony with nature and thereby giving one no option but to exile oneself to freedom in nature. Both Hanan and Vedder have a tendency to reflect on these ideals making the song all the more suiting to the film, whose viewers are also the primary audience for the track.
The English language and free speech in the USA allowed Vedder to write as he wished without constraints. “We have a greed with which we have agreed” is wordplay at its finest, which could not have been expressed so poetically and still loaded with meaning in a language like German, which often just isn’t as viable for musical purposes. The time and place were also vital in the use of language as it is clearly critical: “Society, you’re a crazy breed.” In a country with censorship or where opposing the governmental system is punishable like in Soviet Russia of the mid-20th century, a lyricist would not have been able to express oneself so openly and would have had to rely more on symbols, imagery and metaphors to get their message across. Even though limited in quantity, literary devices were used with quality like in “Your thoughts...
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