Epic of the week 08: Misunderstood by Dream Theater


This week I am breaking the EOTW format by writing a full essay on a song that I don’t like. To be clear this song is from one of my favourite albums, by one of my favourite bands with some of their best musicianship but it goes places that don’t like.

First though I should cover what I do like. The lyrics, concerning guitarist John Petrucci’s unwanted feelings of frustration with being idolised, are neither hopelessly obscure nor painfully obvious.

How can I feel abandoned even when the world surrounds me
How can I bite the hand that feeds the strangers all around me
How can I know so many
Never really knowing anyone

If I seem superhuman
I have been
Misunderstood

Listening to this I feel sympathy for how exhausting it must be to reach the expectations of fans like myself but it is also clear that he does not hold a grudge against me. Had this song been written by somebody less mature it would easily have turned into self indulgent whinging and vitriol at the audience.

Through the first three and a half minutes these mixed feelings are expressed through extensive use of counter melodies rather than solely using chord progressions like most rock. This method allows the guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and singer to each be expressing a different emotion to each other in the same moment.

Then comes the chorus which replaces the unique timbres and elaborate counter melodies with the same guitar riffs played on every radio in the two-thouands. This might be a satisfying climax to other people but for me it sounds uncomfortably like Nickelback’s deliberately generic approach to writing and it continues into the following verses. The problem with this style is that it emphasises being easily “stuck” in the audiences head over being enjoyable whilst actually listening.

The guitar and keyboard solos some returns to non-standard composition but the damage is already done. After years of listening to this album I have not managed to decide whether I could enjoy the solos on their own. The composition is similar to the proceeding song that I enjoy much more but I strongly associate it with the chorus.

If you either disagree with me or can name a similar case please leave a comment below. Feel free to leave a comment about the change of format as well.

P.S.

Sorry for getting this out so late. I’ve been very busy this month but it will be back to businesses as usual next week.

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