A melody sings just as profound a story as the written word speaks. Here are a few fictional characters paired with songs that I feel tell their stories, related by either emotion or physical experience. I tried not to reveal too much plot in case you haven’t read some of the books.
“Money” by Pink Floyd & Napoleon of Animal Farm by George Orwell
“Money” describes the greed that Napoleon learned from humans, but with some extra funk and a killer saxophone solo that’s dirtier than pigs.
In “No Surprises,” a bell chimes the main riff in thirds throughout the entire song. The simple melody is placed in thirds like a child’s lullaby, which creates an innocent, sweet mood that contrasts with the song’s lyrics of giving up by death. After gaining a normal intelligence, Charlie realized the cruelty he mistook for friendship and his childhood’s traumas. At the end of the book Charlie was just as isolated by his intelligence as he was beforehand. I felt Charlie’s sadness in his mental passage from cradle to grave in this song.
“Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd & Watney of The Martian by Andy Weir
Similarity: Space / Space
“Dark Necessities” by Red Hot Chili Peppers & the society of Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury
This song’s bass is so clean, almost like the sterile lives of Fahrenheit 451’s world. As for the message, there’s a dark side to the sanitized version of reality.
Imagine thick, saturated drums with gated reverb punctuated by jangling guitars. Drench whatever you thought of in synths, and that is what I would make the soundtrack to Eleanor and Park in movie format. Somehow, in my mind, the lushness of 80s music translates to Park’s falling head over heels for Eleanor.
“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman & Lennie and George Of Mice and Men by Ernest Hemingway
“Fast Car” carries hope of renewal and escape, like Lennie and George’s dreams of starting their own farm.
“Jeremy” by Pearl Jam & the Creature of Frankensteinby Mary Shelley
The bullied becomes the bully in both “Jeremy” and Frankenstein. I guess what goes around comes around, and it comes back a whole lot worse.
I hope that this article will inspire you to consider giving some new music a listen or new book a read. If this post inspired you to make your own character/song pairings, leave ’em in the comments!
If you are at all like me, you are obsessed with Taylor Swift’s new album, folklore. The melodies are wonderful, the lyrics are mesmerizing, and every time I listen, I feel all the emotions.
So, here is a list of books that correspond with songs on the album. Some have the same vibes, and others have similar content. Please be aware that some of these books deal with triggering topics; I’ve tried my best to list them under each recommendation (labeled TW).
I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend a book with the exact same title: The One by John Marrs. What if there was an app that could match you to your soulmate… with DNA? But what if this app went wrong?
This song is about a house, a strong-willed woman, and a judging society. I recommend Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Mexican Gothic is a 2020 release inspired by “The Yellow Wallpaper” (shout out to the sophomores reading it this year!).
If you want a series that will give you all of the feelings, I recommend The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. This series is part of the giant mega Shadowhunters universe, but you don’t need to read any of the other ones in order to read this one. The Infernal Devices is my favorite series of all time, so I had to recommend it at least once. Think of 1878 London… with demon hunters!
First off, I recommend Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness. JVN (the wonderful TV personality) details their experience as a child, being bullied for being feminine and gay, but how they turned their life around to be an absolute icon.
TW: sexual abuse, drug addiction, sex addiction, cheating, bullying, homophobia, death disordered eating, mental health struggles
Second, I have to recommend a similar book about coming to terms with one’s gender and sexuality which is Sissy by Jacob Tobia. In this touching memoir, they discuss coming out as nonbinary while living in a highly gendered world.
TW: homophobia, transphobia, bullying, mental health struggles, violence
Third, I’d like to recommend a book that you may have already read, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book deals with police brutality of Black people, which is especially relevant now, with the murders of Black people, the BLM protests, and the upcoming election.
For “mirrorball,” I was particularly inspired by one line:
“I’ll show you every version of yourself tonight.”
So, I picked The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. This novel details the lives of two twins who are Black, but white passing. One decides to live as a Black woman and the other decides to live as a white woman. We get to see the ramifications of these decisions as their lives and the lives of their children unfold.
TW: racism, colorism, domestic abuse, hate crimes, race-based violence
This recommendation is pretty simple: Life was better at age seven. As a little kid, your imagination can run wild, which is exactly what happens in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. If you read this in middle school, read it again. As a high schooler (or an adult), you will look at it with completely different eyes.
For “august,” I have a recommendation that fits the same emotions, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. This book is the most incredible retelling of the Trojan War, centered around a romance between Achilles and Patroclus, our narrator. Prepare to have your heart absolutely destroyed by the ending.
TW: murder, death, slavery, abduction, abandonment, torture, mention of rape, physical violence, human trafficking, self-harm, child abuse
For “illicit affairs,” I would recommend Lovely War by Julie Berry. This is a historical fiction set in World War 1, following a group of four people who are brought together by music and love. Narrated by the Greek gods, this story is sure to transport you back to the past.
Here, I’d recommend Middlegame by Seanan McGuire. The vibes of the song and the book are completely different: The song is a slower, reflective track, and the book is weird science fiction. However, I think that the content matches. Middlegame is a novel about a duo, Roger and Dodger who are linked by special powers.
This song truly screams Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Gone Girl is a thriller about Nick, and his wife Amy, who goes missing. I don’t think you should know anything else about the book beforehand; it will truly take you for the most wild ride.
Here, I’ll recommend Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This book starts off with the death of the daughter in a family, and leads readers down a path of uncovering all of the secrets of a “perfect” family.
TW: death, drowning, emotional abuse, sexism, sexual assault, violence, racism
For a book that gives you the same feeling as “peace,” I’d recommend Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. This story, at its heart, is one of friendship and acceptance, and will leave you feeling sad but comforted. Best part is that it centers around teens in high school who are making a podcast!
I would recommend Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust if you want similar vibes to “hoax.” This book is a retelling of some famous Persian myths and features some very interesting and compelling characters.
Both novels depict the life of someone famous who struggles under the limelight. Evelyn Hugo is a famous actress, and Daisy Jones is part of a sensational band. These character-driven stories will pull on your heartstrings in just the way that this entire album does.
If you take any of these recommendations, please let me know. Do you agree? Disagree? –Anika Fuloria ’21