Advanced language from a music review
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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary.
These podcasts are graded from A2 which is around lower intermediate all the way to C2 which is advanced. I’ll also cover some slang and some exam English.
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This is a C2 podcast so I’m going to focus on some advanced vocabulary. Today, I want to talk about music. You see, Lianne a Havas, an artist that I admire has just released her third album. I have been looking forward to this release as there aren’t many contemporary acts that I really enjoy these days. I’m sure there’s a lot of music out there that I would love, but it’s getting harder to find as I get older so today is a special day.
Music reviews in magazines are often full of really complex language. Sometimes, I’m not sure that many native speakers understand it all. Nevertheless as this is a C2 podcast, I’m going to take 3 advanced phrases from music reviews and try to explain them.
La Havas has a kind of rich musicality and soulfulness that musicians admire.
OK, there are two tricky nouns in this sentence. The first is musicality which really just means musical talent, but when you read it in a review, it implies that the artist understands music and that the music is a bit complicated. Lots of pop and folk music is pretty simple. There are hundreds of songs you can play on the guitar that only use three chords. Sometimes the rhythms might be a bit unusual and add some musicality, but generally musicality is reserved for complex compositions.
The other noun was soulfulness which is formed from the adjective soulful. The dictionary definition of soulful is expressing deep emotions, often sadness. However, in a music review, it calls to mind soul music which is a genre that originated in the African American community in the USA in the 1950s and 1060s. I’m not going to try to define soul music, but just want to point out that when soulful is used in a music review, the connotations with soul music places the artist in a musical tradition that originated in African American music.
La Havas is more expressive and assured than ever
Expressive in a music review is similar to soulful. It means that the music is effective in showing or conveying emotion. I think it’s generally used in the same way as soulful, but perhaps without the idea of sadness or the correlation with soul music.
Assured is an interesting adjective. It basically means confident. However, in my mind, it’s related to the form of life of the person it describes. So someone might be assured in their work, but not confident in general. If an artist is assured, the artist appears confident about their artistry. This is quite hard to understand in relation to music. A nervous artist lacks the confidence to take risks, they will create derivative boring music. A bold or confident artist may express themselves in unusual ways. They might take risks and create new forms of music. An assured artist is somewhere in between, they will take some risks, their choices will not be wildly out of the ordinary, but they will not simply play it safe.
This album is a living piece of vibrant art that remains both personal to the singer-songwriter yet just as cathartic for the love-struck listener.
There are a few things to explain in this extract. A living piece of vibrant art. At the heart of this phrase is a piece of art which is quite straightforward. Vibrant is interesting because it’s more commonly used to talk about colours. If things are bright and colourful, they are vibrant. More generally, it means full of life and energy so a vibrant piece of music is generally loud and energetic. But a vibrant piece of art means something slightly different. It doesn’t just mean loud and energetic, it could mean very expressive or striking.
A living piece of art is another complex expression. It doesn’t mean the same as lively or vibrant – instead, it implies that the music is to be played as an accompaniment to your life. Music played in a concert hall is music that you stop and listen to. It’s like a painting in a gallery. But music that you hear as you get on with your life is like street art – it’s art, but not cold and reserved.
The other adjective I want to explain is cathartic. If something is cathartic, it is a psychological release. So if you are really emotional, it can feel like you are emotionally full and then if you cry, you let the emotion out. Crying is cathartic when you are very emotional. If you are feeling very angry or stressed, doing something physical like going for a run can be cathartic. I find that playing video games can be cathartic when I am feeling stressed. The review described the album as cathartic for the love-struck listener. If you are love-struck, you are infatuated or somehow trapped in the strong emotions you feel towards another person. This review suggests that listening to this album will help you relieve your love-struck feelings.
So there you have some complex vocabulary related to music reviews. It’s really challenging language so I hope my attempt to explain it makes sense to you.
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