ACA Blog

Jackie Torres
Aug 02, 2011

The Interpretation of Change Through Music

I have been an avid singer for most of my life. Now, avid does not mean good, as friends and family who have heard me sing can attest to. But I do love singing! I am especially skilled at memorizing lyrics, which I am sure comes from my strong desire to sing along to my favorite songs.

A common theme for songs is about change. A common theme in counseling is about change. What do songs and counseling both have in common? Different lenses to approaching and viewing change.

Fast Car-Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman shares in the song that she works at a convenience store and desperately needs to get away from a family situation she is in. She sings:

“You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so we can fly away
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way”

When I am tired of mulling over a decision, I will finally tell myself that I either make the choice now or never. This hurried approach to change may not be the best way of making an informed decision or the best decision, but it can change the current predicament. Sometimes any sort of change in behavior will be the impetus to a better situation, instead of a continued analysis of a problem.

What’s also interesting about this song is that Chapman is enlisting the help of another person to facilitate her change. What does this person have that can help me, she asks? A quick way out of this situation and hopefully ongoing support.

The Man in the Mirror-Michael Jackson
How many times do we stress that the only person we can control and change is ourselves? We cannot change our friends, family, or strangers. Michael Jackson sings:

“If you wanna make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself and then make a change…”

This song brings the power of change back to the person. There is a call to have people look into what they can do to create a new situation for themselves. Jackson goes on to sing “I’m starting with the man in the mirror”. In counseling, the focus of our sessions is with the client. What can the client do or reframe differently, that would allow for positive changes to occur?

Waiting on the World to Change-John Mayer
In contrast to Jackson’s song about self-empowerment, John Mayer’s song may seem to take a different view. Mayer sings:

“That's why we're waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change”

We may be puzzled as to what is holding back transformation. Sometimes, we believe the problem is too large and we don’t have the resources and power to make the change. Mayer recognizes this difficulty by sharing:
“Now we see everything that's going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it”

From these three songs, we see some of the ways change is viewed and approached. Analyzing songs is a great way to get the conversation going. What are some of your favorite songs about change?



Jackie Torres is a counselor in Colorado with a particular interest in the world of work. She enjoys helping people find what makes them feel strong and energized at work. She is also learning to play the guitar.

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