Thursday, July 11, 2013

Song Meaning: Cult of Personality by Living Color

ARTIST: living color | ALBUM: VIVID | RELEASED: 1988
Living Color, as the name of the band suggests, has shown extensive interest in punk rock upon their inception in 1984 in New York City. "Cult of Personality" is one the most recognizable punk rock songs in the history of, not just rock music, but of all music.

Consisting of many references to historical political figures, political turmoil and corruption, the song explores how people of all walks of life perceive politics in the world. In fact, although the band in from the US, "Cult of Personality" paints a dark picture of politicians around the world, not just the ones in the US - which leads me to believe these kids must have done some extensive research on foreign leaders. That's not easy in 1980s given that there was no Wikipedia.

The song, needless to say, was a big mainstream hit, winning a Grammy in 1990, and putting the band on mainstream rock radio.
Analysis of lyrics:

We wanna talk right down to Earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand2 - Living Color was from New York where there was/is a large presence of African Americans. Thus making fun of their way of speaking was commonplace. So what Living Color is saying here is that if you want to reach-out to everybody, you'd have to leave racial bigotry behind, and speak in simple English.

Like Mussolini and Kennedy8 - these two leaders resemble two contrasting types of leaders, quite reminiscent to good vs. evil. 

Neon lights, a Nobel prize13 - this indicates smoke and mirrors, meaning big recognitions and bright lights don't necessarily reflect the inner quality of person.
I'm the smiling face on your tv - politicians like to come across as nice people, though they may not always be like so in real life.

Only you can set me free16 - "you" refers to people that elected politicians, and "me" is the politician himself. So this line means those who elected the politicians have to keep them accountable.

I exploit you, still you love me21 - this means people, at least in the US, vote for the party, not necessarily for the candidate. Case in point, the Bush Administration was atrocious, but the South still voted for in favor of the Republican party.

Like Joseph Stalin and Gandhi24 - once again showcasing two leaders with opposite personalities, but both are cults - one is good and other is evil.

When a leader speaks, that leader dies30 - when you are an elected leader, you have to be part of the system. You cannot change the system in favor of the people that ACTUALLY voted for you. This is the case with Pres. Obama, as ran on the message of change, but now he's the establishment. The rare ones who spoke against the system had to face dire consequences. For instance, Pres. Kennedy was vehemently against the Vietnam War, so he was shot by CIA. I think I did a nice job here. If you'd like to improve this, please free to leave a comment below. 
I think I did a pretty good job analyzing this song. If you'd like to add improvements, please feel free to leave a comment below. 


  1. And during the few moments that we have left
  2. We wanna talk right down to Earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand
  3. Look in my eyes, what do you see?
  4. The cult of personality
  5. I know your anger, I know your dreams
  6. I've been everything you want to be
  7. I'm the cult of personality
  8. Like Mussolini and Kennedy
  9. I'm the cult of personality
  10. The cult of personality
  11. The cult of personality

  12. Neon lights, a Nobel prize
  13. Than the mirror speaks, the reflection lies
  14. You won't have to follow me
  15. Only you can set me free

  16. I sell the things you need to be
  17. I'm the smiling face on your tv
  18. I'm the cult of personality
  19. I exploit you, still you love me
  20. I tell you one and one makes three
  21. I'm the cult of personality
  22. Like Joseph Stalin and Gandhi
  23. I'm the cult of personality
  24. The cult of personality
  25. The cult of personality

  26. Neon lights, a Nobel prize
  27. When a leader speaks, that leader dies
  28. You won't have to follow me
  29. Only you can set you free (?)

  30. You gave me fortune
  31. You gave me fame
  32. You gave me power in your god's name
  33. I'm every person you need to be
  34. I'm the cult of personality (I'm the cult of, I'm the cult of)
  35. I'm the cult of, I'm the cult of, I'm the cult of, I'm the cult of (I'm the cult of)
  36. I'm the cult of, I'm the cult of, I'm the cult of, I'm the cult of personality (I'm the cult of)
  37. Ask not what your country can do for you

  38. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/l/living+colour/cult+of+personality_20084475.html

9 comments:

  1. TY! I'm in need of a related text of politics for English and I chose this song, your analysis helps me a lot. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I still don't understand 'only you can set me free' but the rest makes sense

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It means you have to find the truth and think for yourself. Not just believe what someone or a politician or media tells you to believe.

      Delete
  3. Actually if you take 18&19 I sell the things you need to be. I'm the smiling face on your tv. It represents how the higher to be "Illuminati" decide what we will buy and believe and doing so thru commercials and media propaganda.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Actually if you take 18&19 I sell the things you need to be. I'm the smiling face on your tv. It represents how the higher to be "Illuminati" decide what we will buy and believe and doing so thru commercials and media propaganda

    ReplyDelete
  5. Actually if you take 18&19 I sell the things you need to be. I'm the smiling face on your tv. It represents how the higher to be "Illuminati" decide what we will buy and believe and doing so thru commercials and media propaganda.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your analysis Is totally your own opinion and not truth, come on people read these lyrics and figure it out on your own!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Come on people read the lyrics and figure it out what is meant, do not rely on someone else's opinion! Form your own.....this analysis is not objective! It's their own view. Do not rely on it

    ReplyDelete
  8. You're wrong about #2. That's from a Malcolm X speech.

    ReplyDelete

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