Diagram of a Simple Man by Acceptance

Colliding By Design by AcceptanceTrack: Diagram of a Simple Man
Artist: Acceptance
Genre: alternative, rock
Music Rating: 10/10
Lyrics Rating: 9/10
Overall:
10/10
Sounds Like: Anberlin, OneRepublic, Something Corporate
Interesting Fact: The boys are back.
Bonus Fact: This song is in Eb. Incidentally, that is my favorite key to write in (which is actually pretty unusual).
Best thing About this Track: The beautiful balance it walks between abstract and reality.
One thing I wish was different: The end is emotionally powerful, but it can drag a bit if you’re in a  particularly analytical or verbal mood. I’m a glutton, and I would’ve loved a third verse or a bridge. I want to know if they would’ve maintained the structural callbacks, because 😍!
Website: Acceptance

Before I really get into this, I just have to say: this song is truly an embodiment of every reason why I love music. Unfortunately, I can’t rant for pages and pages, so I will restrain myself and just give an introductory analysis of some of the things that I love about this song, but please understand that this in no way approaches an adequate tribute to its full artistry.

Music, like all great art and storytelling, is about taking the audience on a journey through tension and resolution. The very concrete reality of sound is composed of a collision that converts the potential energy of tension kinetically into the surrounding atmosphere, traveling outwards, resounding, and then resonating within us, as our perception absorbs the impact, and the energy dissipates. Just as sound and wave theory can be dissected and described through these lenses, we can take a much more macroscopic approach to music theory and understand larger musical movements through these juxtaposed forces.

Conflict and resolution: the building blocks of any story. The two halves of any whole piece of art. Before we delve too deeply into music theory and I lose myself entirely, let’s take a step back and remember that this is to be a Diagram of a Simple Man. Nevertheless, that does not make it a Simple Diagram of a Man. The presence of duality is another theme that is explored in this song in great detail, asking about opposites and pondering upon mutual exclusivity. Perchance it is the simplicity of man that is the most complex.

Consider for a moment, reality. What is it? Do the day-to-day externalized deeds make up the definition of man’s life? Or is a more complete picture found upon analyzing intellectual complexities and abstractions? Does potential energy need to be actualized in order to exist as energy in the universe? Science has somewhat to say on the matter, but philosophy also concerns itself greatly with these questions. Before we begin wandering down abstract paths and find ourselves lost in the deep crevices and shadows of a Platonic cave, let’s shift again and talk about visual chromatics.

The sensation of color is perceived due to the isolation of specific frequencies of light waves. A full ray of light (as we all know) is white, and the complete absence thereof is black. But reality does not operate in even and whole integers. Some light is absorbed. Some is reflected. Some is emitted. Though we understand that labels and seperatization does not give a complete truth of the whole, it is a way that we may categorize and identify both abstract and concrete nouns to some extent. It also offers beauty and variety to what would otherwise be a very dull world.

There have been many debates and studies as to how deeply the perceptive process affects the reality of the colored spectrum (or really any aspect of reality) and how exactly that relates to our mental and emotional processes. Does blue look the same to me as it does to you? (Real talk: No. It doesn’t, because I’m colorblind. But that’s beside the point!) Why is yellow considered “happy”? Do humans dream in color, or do our brains process the images and add it in after the fact? Why do some people dream in black and white? Though it is a topic that is still scientifically contested, there was a time when the popular belief was that everyone dreamt in black and white. That brings us lyrically, right back to the song.

There is a generally understood societal metaphor for the invocation of the phrase “black and white”. More than dull or monochromatic, it is generally used to evoke feelings of certainty and a lack of ambiguity. It has less emphasis on the exclusion of color and places more prominence on the lack of a meeting or melding of the two ends of the spectrum into any shade of grey. So the line, “we live in black and white” begins not as a resignation of tedium, but as a statement of the concrete world we operate in during the day-to-day routine of our lives. The next line, however, makes you rethink things a bit with, “We dream in color.”

First of all, the literality of it is immediately supposed to make you question its veracity. Next come the emotional and mental implications. It reminds us that refusing to meet in the middle of black and white not only eliminates confusion and enforces boundaries, but also takes away the joy and vivaciousness of the world around us.

The ingenuity of this piece however, is in none of that. The genius is this: this song never takes a side. When coming to resolution of two seemingly opposing forces, it is generally understood that the storyteller will side with one and spurn the other to some extent as less worthy or valiant. This song maintains the vitality of both “black and white” and “color”. We need both. Both enable us to function in reality and append to our humanity.

Let’s circle back around to music theory for a moment. (Don’t worry. I could talk about the musical theory of this song for days, but I am limiting myself to these two lines to save you the boredom of my nerdiness.) We know that there are specific intervals intended to resolve, and specific intervals that are intended to build tension preparatory to said resolution. Taking a look at the lines “We live in black and white. We dream in color,” one would expect (given that they are the final and penultimate lines of the chorus) “black and white” to end on a precipice and “in color” to come swooping down for a grounded conclusion. That is blessedly not the case.

“Black and white” reaches resolution. That line is self-contained in the narrative and entirely independent of it’s lyrical sister. When listening to the song, the brain automatically preempts the melody and shouts in your mind before it finishes that it will jump up to the third on the last note of the line to build tension, but it instead remains stubbornly and resolutely, firmly on the root of the key. Black and white is grounded. It is not a cheap shot or a setup for an emotional juxtaposition. It is a fact of reality. Then next line (obviously) also reaches its own resolution, but it does so independently and without reservation or concern for the previous resolve. The veracity of one takes nothing away from the other. It doubles down and strengthens the conclusiveness.

Well, we’ve now gotten to the end of this thing, and I never mentioned The Wizard of Oz. So . . . that happened.

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Lyrics:

Put on my nametag. Stare in the mirror
Give me some answers. Make it clearer
Now and then I’m in my head

As the sun is getting older
While the clock is counting over
Am I more than this?

We get caught up between the sea and the sky
Give me that look in, that look in your eye
We live in black and white
We dream in color

Met a stranger near my station
Says you’re alright. Take a vacation
The things to see before I’m dead

As the air is getting colder
While the years are turning over
Where will I exist?

We get caught up between the sea and the sky
Give me that look, that look in your eye
We live in black and white
We dream in color

We dream in color
And we live in black and white

We get caught up between the sea and the sky
We get caught up between the sea and the sky
Give me that look in, that look in your eye
We live in black and white
We dream in color

We dream, we dream in color
And we live in black and white
We dream, we dream in color
And we live in black and white

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