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.

I hope you find these  podcasts useful. If you do, please leave me a rating and review as this will help other learners find these podcasts.  


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.  

Number 1

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. 

Number 2

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. 

Number 3

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.

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a comment or a review and don’t forget that you can read the transcript for this podcast and complete some language activities on

Thanks for listening.

Show CommentsClose Comments


  • Elham
    Posted 17/08/2020 at 3:55 pm

    I enjoyed the episode. Please carry on with the job.

    • admin
      Posted 17/08/2020 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Elham – I appreciate the message.

  • Susana
    Posted 10/09/2020 at 3:07 pm

    I was looking for C1/2 podcasts and luckily I happened by yours. They are very useful and your explanations are perfect. Besides, you quickly get to the point and don’t use unnecessary music. I love it! Thanks a lot.

    • admin
      Posted 10/09/2020 at 3:15 pm

      I was going to stop making C2 podcasts as I didn’t think that many people would be interested, but I’ll keep going. Thanks for the comment. I really appreciate the feedback.

  • Ricard
    Posted 12/11/2020 at 2:16 pm

    Please, do keep making C2 podcast.s. There are hundreds of B2 podcasts and resources but it seems that there is no audience for C2 or they take us for granted because it s supposed we are autonomous and confident enough. Thanks once again

  • Nélide Garimez
    Posted 10/12/2021 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you very much for your podcast, there are really good, since I have discovered them I listen while walking or doing other staff but also sometimes listen and try to shadow you, and I use different leves from this c2, to B2, depending on the moment, for example if I am doing exercise and I can’t listen carefully I use something simple and i believe something come into my brain without effort and also it is good go back to the basics,… anyway congratulations and please keep going.

    I have some subjects I would like very much for you to use en this wonderfull podcast, there are::
    – Mediation – as for example what it is – main points- other is differencies similarities with conciliation, arbitration,.. etc,
    – Legal procedures- for example what is barister solicitor, lawyer,..etc.

    thank you very much

    thankyou very much

    Posted 28/12/2021 at 7:36 am

    Thanks, Jack.

    Posted 12/07/2022 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you very much Jack for your explanation, Very enlightening. I also did enoy it.

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