- Identifying key themes within course texts
- Identifying vocabulary used for effect
- Exploring use of language techniques in relation to theme
Slam Dunk is such an important festival. It brings together so many of the bands we love and celebrates the spirit that bonds music listeners and songwriters alike. It’s ALSO very worth nothing that when we look at the themes explored by so many of the Slam Dunk artists, we are simultaneously learning to deal with the messages at the heart of our very own GCSE and A-Level course texts.
slam dunk (the literal definition): a ‘slam dunk’ is basketball speak; it is a particularly easy shot, one that is difficult to miss. When completing a ‘slam dunk’, a player thrusts the ball down through the basket.
slam dunk (the metaphor): Calling something a ‘slam dunk’ infers that its accomplishment is beyond debate. Saying something is not a ‘slam dunk’ would be to suggest it’s not obvious, not simple, not particularly easy.
slam dunk (the festival): a two-day pop-punk/emo/metal event starting in Leeds and finishing in Hertfordshire.
The most difficult task at Slam Dunk (the festival) is working out which bands to watch. We’ve picked out five of the artists we’re most excited by this year. Why are we so crazy for them? Maybe it’s because their individual mission statements are so clear – and we absolutely know that they will do what they set out to do.
We’re calling them ‘Slam Dunk’s slam dunks’.
Your first task is to simply read about – and listen to – Slam Dunk’s slam dunks. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a chance to think about your own course texts in relation to the ideas discussed.
- Doll Skin
- Bury Tomorrow
- As It Is
- VUKOVI: All That Candy
VUKOVI’s Janine Shilstone discusses her OCD here. If you’re looking for a band that know all about facing demons and refusing to let those demons win, then VUKOVI are your slam dunk.
Now, consider how VUKOVI force their ball (their message) into the hoop (your soul) with such torpedo-like power. Here are three ideas:
- Those verbs “wrapping”, “messing” and “creeping” really give a sense of the suffocating, confusing, malevolent nature of Janine’s OCD.
- The repetition of “lose”, “burn” and “drown” emphasise Janine’s growing confidence – she will defeat her OCD.
- The lack of rhyme in the verses signifies the unpredictable, ill-fitting nature of Janine’s OCD.
2. WARGASM: Spit.
WARGASM aren’t at all happy about the state of the planet. If everywhere you look, you see yet further evidence of the planet’s decay, then there’s no doubt you’ll love watching this band slam dunk their ideas.
Now, consider how WARGASM force their ball (their message) into the hoop (your soul) with such torpedo-like power. Here are three ideas:
- The “rusted” metaphor sets the tone. Given enough time, any piece of iron will change entirely into rust and disintegrate. WARGASM would prefer that the planet not be allowed to disintegrate.
- The repetition of the adjective ‘disgusting’ underlines WARGASM’s own feelings fairly clearly.
- If you’re “sick”, you’re suffering from physical or mental illness. WARGASM’S use of the word “sick” might seem metaphorical but actually there must be something wrong with a world which so enthusiastically undermines the potential for its own survival.
3. Doll Skin: Mark My Words
Doll Skin celebrate the power of women and articulate the anger they feel towards the men that have held them down. Anyone who cares about equality will be grateful to Doll Skin for absolutely slam-dunking the feminist message.
Now, consider how Doll Skin force their ball (their message) into the hoop (your soul) with such torpedo-like power. Here are three ideas:
- The “cuffs” metaphor rightly parallels the female situation with imprisonment.
- The repetition of that imperative “mark” is suggestive of a woman’s mental power. The woman’s belief in herself and her rights remain undiminished despite the odds she has faced throughout time.
- The idea that someone else has “broken” singer Sydney Dolezal’s legs highlights the violence inflicted on women and further emphasises a woman’s mental strength – even in a state of physical incapacitation, Sydney holds on to her ideals.
4. Bury Tomorrow: Better Below
When Bury Tomorrow’s incredible ‘Cannibal’ album came out, frontman Daniel Winter-Bates spoke a lot about his mental health issues. If you’re struggling with any kind of inner turmoil, Bury Tomorrow will slam dunk it for you. They’ll make you feel seen and then they’ll make you feel better.
Now, consider how Bury Tomorrow force their ball (their message) into the hoop (your soul) with such torpedo-like power. Here are three ideas:
- The plosive alliteration in that opening line emphasises the force with which Daniel’s mental struggles have left him “battered and broken.”
- The personification of the “ground” highlights the anxiety that Winter-Bates feels. He is “swallowed” up by it in a way that underlines how little control he feels he has over his situation or environment.
- The rhetorical question, “would I be better off below?” captures Winter-Bates at a real nadir.
5. As It Is: The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)
As It Is slam dunk their criticism of the male stereotype in a way that will have you waving your arms in the air and leaping around like a lunatic. Yes, they have a song called ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ but, of course, the point is that they do!
Now, consider how As Its Is force their ball (their message) into the hoop (your soul) with such torpedo-like power. Here are three ideas:
- When Patty Walters sings, “Stay strong, hold on,” those imperatives, “stay” and “hold”, really enforce the idea that the tough times will end.
- The use of the adjective ‘strong’ is key too. Just because you’re crying doesn’t mean you’re weak.
- Walters sings about the unhappiness that, “sinks into your soul.” The sibilance signifies how silently a person’s anxieties might creep up on them. You can’t hear them – and you can’t see them – until they’re on top of you and this makes them extra-dangerous.
Decide on the message you feel your favourite course writer is delivering to you. Which idea do you feel that author/poet/playwright has absolutely slam dunked?
Make a note of the slam dunk and then, as we’ve done above, consider how your writer has forced their ball (their message) into the hoop (your soul) with such torpedo-like power.
By the time you’ve defined your writer’s slam dunk and listed 3 pieces of evidence as proof of that slam dunk, you’ll find you have a plan for at least one great paragraph of analytical writing – and, quite possibly, the springboard for a whole essay.
It might be fun to start by looking to see if your course writer shares a sense of purpose with any of the artists we’ve celebrated above. So, do feel free to revisit any of the ideas below if they feel relevant:
- mental strength
- environmental concerns
- the position of women
- mental health
- the male stereotype
Okay, that’s almost it for this class. Just have a think about what you’ve achieved today – and send us your notes so that we can assess your progress!
Don’t forget to buy tickets for this year’s Slam Dunk Festival – it’s going to be HUGE.
Now check out our Wormholes classes/podcasts with Holding Absence and YONAKA.