Yellow triangle with security camera with an eye on the screen above black words on yellow saying Jonathan Coulton Solid State excalamation point

I have been a Jonathan Coulton fan for a few years. I can’t even remember where I heard of him first – his body of work entertains songs about science to pure satire of anything ranging from pop culture to politics.  One thing is for certain, I’m sure that I found him on the internet. Jonathan Coulton began his career by building a fanbase primarily on the internet. A place where once society believed would be a water hole for us to gather and exchange ideas, to be connecting and finally united. Our current political state has proven how difficult that dream has been to accomplish, now more than it has ever been. The main underlying theme for Solid State, Jonathan Coulton’s ninth studio album, is that of coping in a dystopian but rather in the present future. Many of the songs sound as though they would be a setting in a distant world of a Post-Modernist’s nightmare, but hits very close to home with how things actually are. In interviews, Jonathan expresses how this is the idea behind his concept album, but doesn’t really delve into the political aspect of it. Most musicians I listen to have very heavy suggestive political lyrics that may be interpreted this way or that, but it is clear that he is a political thinker. On a recent tweet, he says “This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” referring to the decisions made by Donald Trump in office as of late regarding banishing our Transgender portion of our military service members.

When I first listened to Solid State, I got what I expected simply from the title and the album cover of a camera with an eye on it, that feeling of big brother watching over us. I knew that he would “follow through,” with contributing to our chaotic political state, and that he would take the philosophical approach of having a responsibility toward his society as an artist. The first song “Wake Up,” is a soft and soothing melody accompanied with a comforting message about the world waiting for you to wake up for another bright tomorrow. His whole album appears to be riddled with double meanings, such as in this first track urging you to “Wake Up,” not in a literal sense as the surface of the lyrics suggest, but to wake up to our current state. This idea is supported by lines such as “We can't make a move without you, we can only dream about you,” as a call to action toward society. The album goes further with making allusions to our slowly dwindling resources and over medication, very real issues going on in the world that we see as distances away – but in actuality, time is the only thing we have. Everything else is doomed as long as things continue to be the way they are now.

The title track for the album, also “Solid State,” has this Central American beat to it found commonly in a lot of music coming from Mexico. I can’t help but think that there is some connection with the ordeal with the wall and prejudice against immigrants, as an intentional pairing with the lyrics. Lines like “Watch them rise and fall one after another, don't forget to follow through. Human after all, take care of each other. Who it hurts and how it ends, how far it goes, it all depends on you.” Remind me of how presidents will come and go, and while we go through the trials and errors of this phase, we need to take action and take care of each other while we all get through it, together. Things really get political with the line in the song “Brave,” “The whole world is doing it wrong, and I Can't not correct them. Slack jawed Sheeple with their eyes closed, As if I don't already have enough to do, there's too many of you, more than I can save.” As well as a song appearing to be about Donald Trump himself being a very simple minded man in a role that he must be having a great struggle living up to in the song “Ordinary Man,” -  “Start to think maybe they're right about you Maybe it's over now, maybe it's true And you know you're Never gonna stand up Be who you're supposed to be, Just like me.”

The majority of the remainder of the album touches base on our society interacting with each other about our political climate. People all talking at once, pitiful rebellions, even down to the core of what must be something a lot of people can relate to. Of opening up your social media feed, being flooded with terrifying news and political tragedies, and subsequently looking up pictures of cats in order to cope and recover from the mental trauma of processing it all at once. The pain of the everyday American feeling a little lost in the world and just trying to make it through their day, “Head down, straight on,  You'll be fine.” Trying to remind yourself that you have to take it all one day at a time, and do what you can, sometimes having to pick your battles and pushing through a crowd full of ignorance and hate.

This album is something that you can listen to and take whatever you want from it, but this is my interpretation. It is beyond the scope of simply technology taking over our lives, but of the ways that the internet and communication also affects our politics, and forces us to watch our American dream get trampled while our eyes are pried open and head held to the ground. Maybe we can watch it recover, eventually, but for now just as Jonathan expresses, we will watch them rise and fall one after another. We’re human after all, take care of each other. People will continue to make mistakes, and we have to continue to learn how to fix them.

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