Finding Inspiration in Music

by Kyle Hickman

The Power of Lyrics

All of us listen to music for very different reasons. Depending on the day, our reasons can vary: perhaps we throw a song on in the background to replace silence or we are in a certain mood and a particular artist, band, or genre just hits the spot. Music keeps the boredom away in the car. Sometimes, it helps motivate us to complete a workout. Other times, we choose a type of music because it helps to provide positivity in otherwise trying times.

If you know me well, then you know how important music is in my life... and I listen for all of those reasons listed and a thousand more. Since I am also an avid supporter of effective leadership, I naturally find obscure lessons about leadership in music. In fact, because music is such an integral part of my life, connecting it to leadership is largely unavoidable. For the purposes of this blogpost, I am particularly interested in how songs inspire people to better their lives and make change. It is amazing how a song written by an artist for one purpose can serve as something completely unique for every single person who listens to it. Based upon some of my experiences as a graduate student and other developments in my life recently, here are five songs which really resonate with me:

Eminem - Beautiful

This song has always had a special meaning for me. With the City of Detroit filing for bankruptcy earlier this week, it hits home more than ever. As a supporter of all things Michigan (born and raised), the combination of the lyrics and the vivid portrayal of the city in the music video reminds me that what the area represents is still beautiful. As you can imagine, this Chrysler advertisement from the 2011 Super Bowl represents the same emotions for me.

Rise Against - Help is on The Way

In May of this year, I took a trip to New Orleans, LA with the students of the First Year Leadership at Texas A&M University-Commerce. During that trip, we gave back to some local philanthropic organizations while learning about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. It was utterly shocking how the storm devastated the area and still effects life today. Since then, this song has taken on extra meaning for me. Read some student perspectives on the NOLA trip.

Flobots - Anne Braden

Most of us likely heard the Flobots for the first time when they released Handlebars in 2009. If you were able to get your hand on their album "Fight with Tools," perhaps you stumbled upon this gem, which details some of the racial tension in the south during the mid-20th century. The story of Anne Braden is particularly inspiring for those searching for answers during the Trayvon Martin aftermath. One particular sequence of this song that stands out for me is at 1:42-1:58 (I apologize for the lack of a real music video, but this song never was released as a single).

Anberlin - Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights)

From the onset, the lyrics "I wanna live inspired, I wanna die for something..." hit you like a stiff right hook. As you venture deeper into this song, it reveals more of this incredible story of being unselfish, giving to others, and finding purpose for your life. It applies to almost anyone who listens.

"The more I live I see... this life's not about me!"

Alter Bridge - Blackbird

Let me introduce you to Alter Bridge: if you do not know who these guys are, I suggest you familiarize yourself. Almost every one of their songs could fit into this blogpost in one way or another. Get lost in almost 10 minutes of mesmerizing lyrics, fantastic guitar work from Myles/Mark, and a meaning that is unbelievably inspiring. I am simply one of the many AB fans who recognizes the beauty of this song. What is the meaning? Take a look at the video and comment below with your thoughts!

If you were to write a similar blogpost, what songs would you list? What really inspires you?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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