Ava Max sings songs that dissect the concept of power whilst making you feel like you can take on the world. Perfectly meta.
- MUSIC FOCUS: Ava Max.
- ACTIVITY FOCUS: Write an essay exploring the significance of power in one of the texts you’re studying.
Enjoy our latest chart: Top 10 Ava Max Power songs.
Read our essay exploring the significance of power in the music of Ava Max.
Okay, here goes…
Throughout much of Ava Max‘s music, it feels like the singer’s under threat from partners trying to exercise their own power in a way that could impact negatively on Ava.
10. ‘Maybe You’re The Problem’
“Your short fuse, just like a time bomb”
Just listen closely to ‘Maybe You’re The Problem’; the idea that Ava’s partner is putting her in a position of peril seems clear. And, on one level at least, it’s apparent that Ava is under threat. The “short fuse” metaphor is indicative of her partner’s explosiveness. It’s worth noting, though, that a “time bomb” is only truly effective if it can be set precisely. That “short fuse” actually undermines the bomb’s usefulness and so indicates the other person’s inability to function properly. Yes, the person being described has some kind of physical power, but actually it’s Ava who is more in control; her ability to see things clearly suggests she has the power to manage things more evenly than her partner. To some degree, it’s the intimidating nature of a bomb that invests it with so much of its power. However, the truth is that a bomb can generally only explode once, after which its threat diminishes – all Ava needs to do is to make sure she’s nowhere near the kill zone when it detonates.
“Got a bulletproof vest under my dress
Packed bags under my bed”
Again, when listening to ‘Weapons’, there’s no ignoring the fact that Ava is detailing a world peppered with forces potentially powerful enough to take her down – but it’s her ability to protect herself that’s more striking. Yes, the power of the “time bomb” – and whatever other weapons Ava might be threatened with – is significant enough that she feels it necessary to wear a “bulletproof vest” and to have a packed bag ready for a quick getaway. However, as we’ve already seen in relation to the “short fuse”, it’s Ava’s ability to recognise danger, and to manage it, that marks her out as so incredibly powerful. The dress that she’s wearing is interesting. Typically, the female has been presented throughout history as inherently lacking in power. The “dress” highlights Ava’s femininity – whilst the underlying “bulletproof vest” is clear evidence of the power that women across time have always had to possess in order to simply stay standing. Looked at from a certain angle, the vest may well symbolise the fear inherent in the experience of being female, but Ava uses it to cement her power. She’s protecting herself in a way that enables her to combat fear and make progress in spite of it.
“Everywhere I go, I’m haunted by your ghost”
In the lyrics to ‘Ghost’, the adverb, “everywhere”, might once more underline a woman’s need to perpetually be on her guard. The threat of danger is constant. But that “ghost” metaphor also hints at the ultimate impotence of the forces trying to bring Ava Max down. The idea of being haunted might not sound pleasant, but isn’t the implication that the other person in this equation is – figuratively speaking, at least – dead. Who, then, really has the power? Ava Max. Again.
‘Cold As Ice’
“I keep a pistol under my pillow at night
I close the curtains and I sharpen my knife
I build my walls up and I build ’em up so high
So no one’s getting inside
I learned my lesson last time”
With her music blasting in our headphones, we feel an increasing amount of admiration for the resolute Ava Max. As has happened throughout the lyrics explored above, the words to ‘Cold As Ice’ create the sense that she has the power to define her own vision and then to follow that vision through. It’s just a shame that she has to take such extreme measures to protect her own space. The metaphorical curtains, walls, knife and pistol all underscore the lengths she has to go to in order to do what she wants to do. That she has the power to maintain a clear sense of purpose is testament to her tenacity.
‘Born To The Night’
“I was born to the night”
Now, though, comes the real defining moment for the singer. Having found a way to negotiate some distance between herself and the negative forces that have been threatening to hold her back, Ava realises she was ‘Born To The Night’. The night symbolises the world that, as a woman, has been deliberately hidden from her. Now that she’s forced her way past the obstructions detailed in some of her other songs, she realises that she belongs in this world just as much as anyone else. Metaphorically speaking, she’s as connected to this new world as a baby is to their mother. The deep understanding she has of her environment as a result invests her with real power.
‘Hold Up (Wait A Minute)’
“I walked out your car
Then I slammed your heart”
Feeling newly empowered, Ava Max now transcends the influence of any negative forces completely. This is apparent when she sings about walking out of her partner’s car. Typically, a car represents freedom, but with someone else at the wheel, Ava realised her role was as a passenger in someone else’s life. That metaphorical “slam” makes clear how absolutely she’s now moving away from any of those time bomb wielding ghosts. It took power to outrun them but the repeated use of pronoun in ‘Hold Up (Wait A Minute’)’ supports the suggestion that she’s now more independent and powerful than ever.
‘Million Dollar Baby’
“She’s a miracle
She’s a miracle
She broke out of her chains”
By the time ‘Million Dollar Baby’ starts booming, Ava Max’s inner strength – her POWER – couldn’t be playing a more significant role: it has liberated her. No longer does she have to worry about fighting some kind of massive obstacle every time she wants to move forward. And maybe calling her a “miracle” sounds like hyperbole – but perhaps, actually, it’s an appropriate way to describe a woman who’s managed to forge her own path. Historically, it’s been so difficult for a woman to break out of those metaphorical “chains”, and only when we understand that will we truly appreciate why that “miracle” label is deserving of repetition throughout the infectious ‘Million Dollar Baby’.
‘Who’s Laughing Now’
“Ha ha who’s laughing now?”
Then comes ‘Who’s Laughing Now’. The rhetorical question speaks for itself. Ava Max is IN CONTROL. The significance of this fact cannot be overstated. In ‘Who’s Laughing Now’ she sings about being stronger – mentally, she knows she can do ANYTHING. Laughter is associated with fun. Having power is fun!
“Drop a few bills then pop a few champagne bottles…
Tell all of your friends to be here”
And so Ava Max does indeed have fun. She celebrates her role as an independent woman, and the imperatives (such as “Drop” and “Tell”) repeated throughout ‘The Motto’ are indicative of the authority Ava now has. That authority has liberated her, and the champagne is indicative of a triumphant mood and bubbling excitement.
‘Kings & Queens’
“In chess, the king can move one space at a time
But queens are free to go wherever they like”
Ultimately, then, Ava Max’s songs track her path to achieving true power. In ‘Kings & Queens’, the “queen” metaphor perfectly synthesises the dynamic qualities Ava – and all women – possess. As the singer observes, the queen is the least restricted of all the chess pieces: the queen is capable of doing things that the other pieces can’t even dream of. It’s worth thinking, too, about how the role of the queen in a game of chess has changed over time. The queen was originally only allowed to move one diagonal space at a time and so its current freedom stands as a symbol of progress, and also hope that further progress, with regards to gender equality, is on the horizon.
The power Ava Max displays throughout her catalogue is incredibly significant because it serves as inspiration for women who might otherwise feel paralysed by the barricades Ava refers to in songs like ‘Maybe You’re The Problem’ and ‘Weapons’. Her progress – despite a myriad of obstructions – symbolises the increasing potential for women in a world that’s slowly becoming less unequal.
Write an essay in response to this title:
Explore the significance of power in a text of your choice.
When talking about power, you might focus on physical power, mental power, spiritual power – or any other type of power that’s relevant to your character(s).
Feel free to follow your own structure, or to use the structure as suggested by our Ava Max essay:
- Paragraph 1: Evidence and analyse the size of the obstacles facing your character. Examine how your character responds to these obstacles with the aim of proving how powerful they need to be to remain strong in the face of such negative forces.
- Paragraph 2: Evidence and analyse the satisfaction your character feels when realising their own power. Examine the advantages that exist because of your character’s power.
- Paragraph 2: Maybe your character does not overcome the challenges explored in paragraph 1. In which case your essay becomes about how significant their lack of power proves to be. Examine the problems caused by your character’s lack of power.
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