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Rhetorical Analysis of the Song “Permanent” by David Cook

Songs, as one of the forms of human expression, can be interpreted differently. According to a person’s experiences, feelings, current problems, he gets the sense of the song through a lens of personal intussusceptions. The latter cannot be perceived as either good or bad because music, poems, and other creative works tingle through everyone’s souls differently. People try to analyze pieces of art according to various standards, and this is how they can approximately judge them and share opinions. Generally, we have to admit that various masterpieces became popular not because of these judgments but because of the feelings, the majority of us have towards these works.

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However, rhetorical analysis helps people to abstract from subjectivity and try to comprehend the purposes of the song and the manner of the creator. It is also important to separate personal interpretations and involve critical thinking in the evaluation. In this assignment, I want to implement rhetorical analysis to the song Permanent by David Cook and disclose the major aspects brought up in it.

The first time I heard the song was in 2009 in the TV show American Idol. When David was singing it live, everyone in the audience was crying because of the strong emotional message the song had. The prehistory of its creation says that David’s brother, Adam, was sick with brain cancer, and after long struggles with the disease, he died. David sang the song live on the show eighteen days after his brother deceased. However, the lyrics do not straightly point to David’s brother or death which I found the most attractive when choosing a song for analysis. David Cook, in one of the interviews, also states that the lyrics were written in a way that people can take what they want from it. Someone can think about death, the other will associate the song with love, someone else will consider it is about his character and struggles in life.

The author of the song first shared his creating with the audience of the TV show American Idol in 2009. After the episode was released, the song became popular among the young generation, the users of YouTube, the Internet, and television in general. The song’s rhetorical objective is to share with the audience what the author felt after losing a close and dear relative. David Cook tries to live through the pain, sorrow, and the feeling of lacking his brother. Thus, we can conclude the author of the song wanted to share with the young generation his pain and loss via this tune.

The strategies the author of the song uses to achieve the goal of transmitting his feelings to the audience are various and will be disclosed below. All the strategies can be gathered in the type of rhetorical device called pathos because David Cook invokes various feelings and emotions in the listener. The song’s melody is slow with piano as the leading instrument that plays similar repetitive accords, called in music language a sequence. The minor key united with previously mentioned factors automatically brings a feeling of sorrow and sadness. In the beginning, violin in the background accompanies the piano with long sounds associating with quiet crying.

Gradually the melody and singer’s voice become louder with the culmination at the words I’m permane-e-ent. All the words and phrases are united, they sound linked to each other, and the loudness of the sounds increase smoothly which can be described in music language as legato and crescendo. These technical moments remind the listener of a scream but not full of angry, but a scream full of pain and loss.

The lyrics of the song do not tell a particular story. It is presented to the audience as a conversation with the second person indirectly pointing at his struggles. The open questions prove that which is especially seen in these lines: “Will you think that you’re all alone / When no one’s there to hold your hand?” (Em Di 0:42-0:50). The author also uses a rhetorical device called anaphora which is the repetition of certain phrases and sentences.

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The beginning of the first verse is also the ending of the song that seems to be remained without an ending, with an open question, with an unsolved problem. This device can be interpreted variously: the loss of a brother might lead to repetitive thoughts to the author of the song, he might say similar phrases trying to talk to the brother. David Cook might also want to leave the opportunity to the audience to come to their conclusions by listening to an open ending. Anaphora is oftentimes used in music, and the initial purposes of it vary depending on the creator’s intention.

Another anaphora is the phrase I’m permanent that goes through all the lyrics and reflects in the song’s name. It is more likely that David Cook wants to claim he is forever here for his brother, ready to help, be nearby, and support him despite his decease. Another possible explanation of this repetitive phrase is that author’s brother will permanently stay in his heart and mind as not always anaphora has a direct meaning. We can only assume the exact meaning of this phrase to the author and the purpose of its repetitive usage. However, the phrase goes through the song and plays a central role in its lyrics.

The song by David Cook Permanent is mostly organized in the pathos category as it is influencing the emotions and feelings of listeners. The logos category is not central because the author of the song does not use logic to convince the audience in the way he feels. On the contrary, the one who is in pain partly loses logic and talks with feelings, not facts. At the same time, logos does not play a significant role to the listener because he is influenced only by pathos. That is why assessing the song from a logos perspective is hardly manageable. The ethos category is also not meaningful in this emotional song as the author’s credibility does not have to be proven to achieve the audience’s trust and to convince listeners.

Consequently, pathos is a leading category of the song Permanent and fully defines the perception of a listener. The way the song impacts another person will depend on his current condition, experience, and type of character. Regarding Kairos, it is essential to say that the song raises the topic of pain and loss of someone dear and close, and this theme will remain up to date in any period of time. Peoples’ feelings and emotions will stay important as long as humanity exists, and the song might always tingle through humans’ souls in various decades.

Work Cited

Permanent by David Cook (Live from American Idol Grand Finale).YouTube, uploaded by Em Di, 2009. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, November 10). Rhetorical Analysis of the Song “Permanent” by David Cook. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/rhetorical-analysis-of-the-song-permanent-by-david-cook/

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StudyCorgi. "Rhetorical Analysis of the Song “Permanent” by David Cook." November 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/rhetorical-analysis-of-the-song-permanent-by-david-cook/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Rhetorical Analysis of the Song “Permanent” by David Cook." November 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/rhetorical-analysis-of-the-song-permanent-by-david-cook/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Rhetorical Analysis of the Song “Permanent” by David Cook'. 10 November.

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