The more you read, the easier your life as an English student gets.
And yet sometimes the thought of actually picking up a book which is not on the A-Level course makes you flinch.
It shouldn’t. Want to know why?
Well, let’s do what we do so often when we want to prove a point and turn to Against The Current.
Let’s start by listening to ‘Paralyzed’…
When Chrissy Costanza tells herself she’s going to, “Fight a little longer,” we’re immediately drawn to that word ‘fight’. The dictionary tells us that it indicates a battle, a contest, a struggle, an argument – basically, any clash that involves at least two opposing sides. When fighting, a person strives vigorously for or against something. In establishing their own inclination to fight, we get a sense of the conflict inherent in Against The Current’s life. The idea that they’re prepared to fight for “longer” only underlines the band’s character. This fight is not a momentary situation. It is enduring and thus we get a sense of the courage and determination it takes to continue with it.
Choose the most likely of your A-Level texts (given the amount of conflict at the heart of pretty much every book you’ve studied, most of them will be fit for purpose!) and look for the first use of the word ‘fight’ (or closely related synonym). This will be QUOTE 1.
Okay, now, let’s get back to ATC. Watch this:
“The fighting’s near,” but that’s okay. Chrissy Costanza’s ready. And we KNOW she is because, like the creative team behind League of Legends, we’ve already heard ‘Paralyzed’. We know the singer’s been fighting for a long time, we know she’s ready to fight more and we know she’s not going to back down. And, because she’s already told us about her willingness to stand up for herself, we feel less nervous than we would otherwise. She fits as a spokesperson for League of Legends because she knows what it means to be involved in a fight. More than that, she knows that the things she wants are worth fighting for. If the fighting was near and we didn’t know these things, our reaction to that one lyric would be very different.
Move forward in the same text you started exploring in response to task 1. Find another reference to fighting or conflict. This will be QUOTE 2. How does your understanding of QUOTE 2 shift when you explore it in light of QUOTE 1? We absolutely trust Costanza when the fighting comes near in ‘Legends Never Die’ because of what we learnt about her in ‘Paralyzed’. Is the same true for the character in your chosen text? How is your understanding of the character’s relationship with conflict building over time?
Right, let’s see where ATC will take us next…
Chrissy Costanza sings: “It’s looking like they want war again,” and now we REALLY feel sympathy for the singer. ‘Paralyzed’ was released in 2015. Three years later (‘Voices’ hit the airwaves in 2018) and Costanza is STILL fighting. If we hadn’t listened to ‘Paralyzed’ or ‘Legends Never Die’, we wouldn’t quite get the enduring nature of this conflict. That adverb “again” hints at it, but it’s only our wider listening and our long-term relationship with this band that really helps us to understand them in the deep way we do.
Revisit the three Against The Current quotes we’ve explored so far:
- “Fight a little longer” (‘Paralyzed)
- “The fighting’s near” (League of Legends)
- “It’s looking like they want war again” (Voices)
- What kind of fight(s) do you think Costanza is involved in? Who or what is she battling?
- Now consider the kind of challenge(s) facing your character. Describe the enemy (or enemies).
You are now well and truly immersed in Against The Current’s universe! And how easy is it to analyse Costanza’s lyrics? Soooo much easier than if you were looking at one of her songs (or, if you like, texts) in isolation!
Try this. We think you’re ready…
Okay, this feels a bit different…
Costanza sings: “I’m so tired of waging war.”
Isn’t that the saddest thing you ever heard? Our strong, committed vocalist has been pushed around so much that she feels like her strength and commitment are no longer enough. And we TOTALLY appreciate how she feels because we’ve been with her through all those years of fighting. OF COURSE she’s going to feel like it’s too much. OF COURSE she’s going to find it hard to stay resolute. If we investigated this quote in isolation, we would never understand quite why she feels the way she does. We have to know Against The Current’s whole catalogue in order to know that this despondency is NOT typical of them. Its impact is so much more shocking and thought-provoking as a result.
Look to the second half of your chosen text. How is your character responding to the fight/conflict they’re faced with? Does their response – based on what we learn from QUOTES 1 and 2 – match with what we would expect from them? If so, what does this say about the character and the situations they’ve been experiencing? If not, what does this say about the character and the situations they’ve been experiencing?
Two more amaaaaaaaaaaazing ATC songs to go…
So, ‘burn it down’ comes right after ‘shatter’ on Against The Current’s 2020 ‘fever’ EP. And listen to Costanza now! “Fight back,” she demands and that surge of renewed strength feels all the more powerful given how low she felt just moments ago. Look across all the band’s output and this willingness to fight is so typical. The flashes of hopelessness are atypical. Again, we would not know this if we hadn’t listened to so much of Against The Current’s music. Obviously, hearing ‘burn it down’ is enough of an enormous pleasure in itself, but without context we would not have such a clear sense of Chrissy Costanza’s fighting spirit.
Talking of context, let’s try thinking about the real world. The world we ALL live in. Not just you. Not just Against The Current. ALL OF US. By now, you’ve probably identified Chrissy Costanza’s opposition. Typically (see how easily I can use that word ‘typically’ now that I know Against The Current’s material so well!), she’s fighting herself (her mental health issues and other anxieties) OR the state (the misuse of power, the differences between those ‘in charge’ and the rest of us).
- What do you know about the world post-2015 that makes sense of these battles?
- What is happening in the world of mental health? How have we been thinking about mental health since 2015? What landmarks or attitudes might you highlight?
- Why does Costanza feel the way she does about ‘government’? Which world events have contributed to this feeling that the average person on the street needs to fight the people tasked with looking after them?!
And so, to bring this class to a close, the show-stopping ‘lullaby’…
When Costanza tells us to: “Strap up for another fight,” we feel every emotion going. We feel sorrowful that the fight hasn’t ended, angry that Costanza hasn’t been rewarded for her efforts so far, wowed by her ability to remain standing as the monsters advance once again!
And, if we learn anything from listening to Against The Current’s material as a whole, it’s that the fighting goes on and on.
But DO NOT get depressed about that.
Be proud that you’re on the same side as Chrissy Costanza and co. – and be sure that winning isn’t always about winning. It’s about knowing what’s right, and committing to a cause. It’s about staying true to yourself, about believing that your principles are worth FIGHTING for. The demons might not go away when you ask them to, but that doesn’t mean they can defeat you.
You are stronger than you know.
Look to the latter sections of your chosen text. How is your character responding to the fight/conflict they’re faced with? What message does the writer leave us with in relation to ‘the fight’? What do they want their readers to understand about ‘the fight’?
Once you’re done, you can send your ideas in. We want to publish the most exciting writing and offer advice.
Then have a go at another Against The Current class!