“Imagine” Song by John Lennon vs. A Perfect Circle
The song “Imagine” in variations of John Lennon and a band A Perfect Circle seem to be quite similar; still, the songs are different in their sense and message. The original variant written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono is more transparent to the listener than A Perfect Circle’s one, as they decided to convey the entirely different gist. Moreover, the tempo and mood are quite different, so the listener can feel that the message must be completely different in each variation of the song. The purpose of the paper is to provide a detailed compare and contrast rhetorical analysis of the song “Imagine” presented by John Lennon and A Perfect Circle.
First of all, the genre of the songs differs: while John Lennon’s “Imagine” is a soft rock or pop, A Perfect Circle remade it into an alternative rock version. The tempo is almost similar, mainly, a slow, low tone melody, without any rapid changes. In John Lennon’s release, the number of instruments is notably smaller than in the rock version of A Perfect Circle. In the alternative rock song, there are piano, drums, cello or a violin, while the original version includes the keyboard and the beats, probably, drums. With the help of all these aspects like tempo, melody, instruments involved each song creates the moods, which are quite different from one another.
It is worth mentioning that the message of each of the variant depends on the time. John Lennon created in the era of the hippie movement. He was a sensitive individual, agitated for peace and love as others in that time; hence it is not surprising that the song written by him and his wife means to inspire to love. On the other hand, A Perfect Circle, being representatives of contemporary rock music, highlight global problems, encourage people to fight for justice; consequently, the goals of two songs differ.
The context, sense and message are different in each variant, as despite almost identical text, the mood and gist stay in opposition. The meaning is quite comprehensive: a man – the narrator asks to imagine particular situations, scenes, events the whole song is built in the form of a monologue. When listening to Lennon’s version for the first time, the mood and sense are transparent. It creates a romantic atmosphere, conveys the feeling of love and hope: “No hell below us, above us only sky” (Lennon, 1971). The line conveys the sense of unity, the harmony that is present in the entire text. The music video for Lennon’s song helps to understand its meaning. The clip demonstrates John Lennon and Yoko Ono, their love and special bond; consequently, it makes the gist even more transparent to the recipient.
Compared to the original variant, the version of A Perfect Circle is vague enough to understand it from the first time. The mood of the song is pessimistic, so, the listener may assume that the song is not about love. If the person watches a video and listens to the song several times, he will see the scenes of violence, poverty, wars, social issues. It may be easier to comprehend that the gist of the text conveys some global issues. The song is logical; it makes sense, and mainly, it describes various situations, a period of events; consequently, it perfectly conveys the main idea in both variants. Surprisingly, the text is universal enough to demonstrate entirely different senses in almost the same lyrics.
Regarding rhetorical devices, the text of the song includes anaphora, repetitions, imagery litotes, hyperbole and metaphors. First of all, the lines start, mainly, by word imagine: “Imagine there’s no heaven”, or “Imagine there’s no countries” (Lennon, 1971). This device conveys the main idea – to imagine something that does not exist. Comparing two variants, in Lennon’s song, this is a message to the beloved women, to encourage her to be with the narrator, to imagine a new world and how perfect everything can be. In the alternative version, anaphora helps to draw attention to the problems. It deals with motivation to imagine a better world, without wars, ecological disasters, social issue. Constant repetition of this phrase helps to emphasize the main gist in each of the songs.
Imagery is the second primary stylistic device in the song. The narrator describes events and scenes, so the person who listens to it unintentionally starts imagining it, as there are particular physical objects and abstract notions. It all deals with highlighting the main aspects of the text; thus, the gist may influence the person. For example, in a newer version of Lennon’s song, “Imagine there’s no countries…Nothing to kill or die…Imagine all the people…” provokes particular images in people’s minds (A Perfect Circle, 2004).
Litotes in the song lyrics emphasizes another concept regarding the gist of the song. From the very beginning, the narrator in both songs wants to encourage the audience to imagine a better world. Still, to emphasize that the planet is not so perfect at the moment, the narrator deliberately uses litotes, for instance, “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try”, or “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do” (Lennon, 1971). By these lines, the narrators highlight the idea that there is no heaven for real, and there are no actual countries, as everyone lives according to their principles.
While describing particular images in the song, the narrators use metaphors, metonymy and synecdoche mainly. Regarding metonymy, there is a line in Lennon’s song “the world will live as one” (A Perfect Circle, 2004). By this phrase, the narrator means to describe all the people. Additionally, there are several examples of synecdoche; for instance, “No need for greed or hunger – a brotherhood of man” (Lennon, 1971). In this case, man means the whole world population, represents unity and friendship. Moreover, all the images presented by the two artists are hyperbolized. While depicting a perfect world, love, and peace, both descriptions are exaggerated as there is no ideal world possible. The unrealistic images fascinate people and involve them in the song more.
To sum up, despite the similar lyrics, two variants of the song “Imagine” differ regarding their purposes, mood, tone, background. John Lennon’s variation of the song is mild, relaxed, inspiring to love someone. A Perfect Circle remade a song into a disturbing, tense, highlighting global issues piece of art. To understand it, a person may compare the music clips for each song, pay attention to the historical background, music, instruments. The lyrics are almost identical; hence the same rhetorical devices help to convey the ideas presented in each of the song variations. “Imagine” is worth attention in both variants, due to its stylistic and idea diversity.
- John Lennon. (1971). Imagine [Song]. Imagine [Album]. Ascot Sound.
- A Perfect Circle. (2004). Imagine [Song]. Emotive [Album]. Virgin Records.