In my as enior year of high school I took AP English literature. It was, all told, an amazing year of studying incredible books, learning a surprising amount about world history, and getting substantially better at writing. I still remember it fondly as an example of just what an english class can be at its best, However, that isn't to say it wasn't also a stressful year. Throughout the class, the specter of the AP test coming in May loomed over all of us, manifesting itself in constant in-class essays and out-of-class work. Whether by taking old AP tests or analyzing random Shakespearean sonnets, everyone was trying to cram studying for the test into any free hour of their busy schedules. Somehow, though, I managed to stumble upon a way to study that fit easily into my schedule, and was both fun and engaging.
The drive to school every day took about fifteen minutes, or about enough time for me to play three songs. Every morning I would pick one of those three songs and analyze it just as I would a poetry or prose passage given to me on the AP test. I would dive into the dizzying wordplay of Ludacris, try to unpack the convoluted meaning behind the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and work the latest pop songs over as academically as any poem we'd read in class. By the time I pulled into high school every morning I had simultaneously put in some practice for the AP English exam and made my morning commute far more entertaining.
I think there’s actually two pieces of advice here, though. On the one hand, I’d recommend this as a method of study for anyone in high school preparing for the passage analysis segments of the AP English Literature test. It's repetitive, easy, and engaging practice that can both prepare you for the test and make it seem less intimidating. On the other hand, pop culture is often so much more nuanced and deep than we believe at than it seems first glance. Never, in all my driving to school senior year, whether I was listening to rap or country or pop or rock, did I find a song that was just too simple to analyze. Every song was deep enough to study, deep enough to explore, deep enough to show me some nuance I hadn’t seen until I searched for it. There’s something inspiring and heartening in this, I think. If even pop music, of which the popular opinion is that it’s just a bunch of mindless songs by auto-tuned models, can show us that it’s more complex than we initially believe, then what doesn’t have some hidden depth to it?
With excitement and optimism,