1 October 2011
The Definition of Paradise
One person's utopian world may not always be the same as their neighbor’s. What one person may deem a paradise may well be a slum for others. Depending on the time and location of the speaker, their ideal lifestyle may be a reality, or simply a dream of one. Both Stevie Wonder, and Coolio musically interpret their societies’ idea of paradise. Both Coolio’s and Wonder’s songs gloomily display their views on society. Through the difference in context of each writer’s life, these two interpretations of the same song are very different in meaning. Both songs identify the struggle of life as being directly related to the evils of the world such as money and power. Stevie Wonder's “Pastime Paradise” reflects on the racial inequalities that America has struggled with for decades. The song also describes the hope for a future world free from discrimination. Coolio's “Gangsta’s Paradise” represents the hard lived lives of gangsters in inner cities. The song also alludes to their dream of one day living in peace. Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” reflection on discrimination between races was greatly altered by Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Coolio’s description of struggles between gangs was still similar in theme, but very different in meaning.
Stevie Wonder was born on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan (Marquis Who's Who LLC.). The blind Stevie Wonder has been known by America as an R&B icon since his early 1963 release of “12 Year Old Genius”. Since his start in the music industry, Wonder has won 25 Grammy Awards (Africa News), was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 (Puterbaugh), and has been recently awarded the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by President Obama (Africa News). Throughout his career, Wonder has created many songs in which he addresses certain subjects in order to bring change. Wonder once said “I am not a politician. I am an artist. I do express certain feelings about certain things. Even if I give a song that deals with a negative subject, it's only constructive criticism to encourage our minds to look and go in a positive direction” (Trescott).
When Wonder released his 1976 hit song “Pastime Paradise”, America had only been integrated for 22 years. In America during 1976, most blacks were not treated equally. Wonder’s lifetime experiences with race relations directly influenced his word choice in “Pastime Paradise”. In his music, Wonder usually plays songs with his signature style of being weirdly mellow, and forcibly upbeat (Mazmanian). But in “Pastime Paradise”, Wonder strongly reveals his concerns with how African Americans are treated. He does this by giving the song a gloomy, depressing style. Wonder best demonstrates his concerns with racial inequality by using powerful words such as “segregation”, “race relations”, “mutations”, and “miscreation”. When Wonder references those “living in a pastime paradise”, he is possibly alluding to how Americans are so fixated with the past. Another interpretation of Wonder’s song is that he is alluding to African Americans wanting to be back in Africa with their ancestors. Many African Americans have been trying to earn equality ever since slavery was abolished. Wonder is no exception to this. Through a combination of protest, song, and support of fellow blacks, Wonder demonstrates his support for equality in America. It is apparent in the second half of the song that Wonder dreams of the integration of man. In the second half of the song, Wonder describes a future paradise in which there is no such thing as inequality between different races. He uses words such as “consolation”, “integration”, and “confirmation” to paint a picture of a world in which all people can live together in unity. Through his credibility of being a pop icon, Wonder hoped that people would hear his song and want to end any racial inequalities still present in...