Analyzing 13 the Musical
13 is a musical that hit the Broadway stage for a total of 105 performances from September 2008 to January 2009. Because of its short, but successful run, not many people know of the child-star-filled play. Nowadays, few connect 13 with the pop singer Ariana Grande; she began her acting career as “Charlotte” in the musical. Personally, I knew close to nothing about 13 before critically analyzing its album lyrics.
Beginning this process, my “text” was all of the song lyrics to every song on the album, 13. I had never heard the album prior to this, nor had I seen the actual musical, script or plot summary. I wanted to know more about what words are used in the lyrics and what that could tell me about the musical itself.
I started by creating a word cloud for my text, discovering what words were used most often. I found that “Kendra” was used the most, followed by “Evan.” This led me to assume that Kendra and Evan were two of the main characters in the musical and had a lot of singing parts, causing their names to appear often. I also thought that maybe there was a song about Kendra or Evan that caused the names to be used even more. Above is a graph showing how frequently the word “Kendra” came up in the various sections of the text. “Kendra” was most frequent in segment 6, which leads me to believe that it was a song with that name in it. The third most common word in the “text” was “turns.” I figured that since the musical is called 13, there must be lyrics that say “turns 13.” Many of the other common words are names as well, which makes sense considering the layout of the text is in script form. Maybe Kendra or Evan turn 13! Again, these are all educated guesses but I seemed to be on the right track.
Upon actually listening to the 13 album, I discovered that my predictions were somewhat right. There, in fact, is a song called “Hey Kendra” where the name is used quite a bit. Kendra is the love interest of the main character in the musical. Additionally, Evan is the main character of the musical, explaining why that name is used so often. The reason for this is that he sings many of the lines in the songs, causing his name to be used to many times. Also, the opening song of the album is called “13.” The chorus of the song has the lyrics “Just about to turn 13,” causing the third most common word to be “turns.” I noticed this right away because that line is quite repetitive throughout the whole album (not just that song).
This whole process of content analysis has opened my eyes to a new way of viewing content. I had no idea that this type of in depth research could lead you to discover so much about a form of media. Researching word content helped me figure out a lot about the plot of the musical itself without having any prior knowledge about it. I also found it very helpful to know when the specific words were used in the text itself. It was interesting because it led me to find that “Kendra” must have been used in a song because the frequency of it spiked at a certain time in the text. Above is some of the lyrics from the song “Hey Kendra” and you can see how many times the word “Kendra” is used just in a couple of lines.
On the other hand, content analysis fails to give certain information that could otherwise be obtained by just viewing the content. One of these components is the music. By listening to the album I found that the music and melody of the songs are a huge part of the plot. Through content analysis, I was unable to understand certain social interactions. However, if I had analyzed the script of 13, this problem would possibly be solved.
Overall, I found my first content analysis experience was very eye-opening. I did not expect to learn as much information as I did. It was surprising that by copying and pasting a piece of text, I could figure out some of the plot and characters of a musical that I have never seen. I would recommend content analysis to someone that would like to know more about a very long piece of text before actually reading it.