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So Trumped Up

So Trumped Up is a song about how social conversation has degenerated during the Trump Presidency, includes my song analysis to help you write better songs!
So Trumped Up, Trevor Dimoff Original Song and Analysis

Table of Contents

So Trumped Up: Song Breakdown and Analysis

So Trumped Up is a little different from most of my songs. Recently my songs have been social commentary, about life and society. This one is overtly political. 

The theme is how social dialogue and conversation has sunk to new lows as seen through the lens of the Trump Presidency. He didn’t start this trend, but he’s accelerated it. He redefined “truth,” popularized the phrase “fake news” and increased the divisions between people and ignored or increased the inequities in the United States. 

To oversimplify the political problem, it’s a conflict between cooperation and competition, between helping others and helping yourself. At the interpersonal level, it can be summarized as bad manners, being impolite and ignoring the needs of others.

Tragically, this is spilling over into other countries. It’s online in social media “discussions.” It’s in person between friends and strangers in public places. Nobody is completely immune, or untouched by it.

I wrote this song before the pandemic. It’s evolved since, and I added verses during the quarantine months. 

I’ve procrastinated releasing it for a variety of reasons (excuses), but the biggest reason is I expect it will offend some people who support President Trump and I’m avoiding a negative backlash that could result. Nobody wants to be trolled.

I’m releasing it now for a few reasons:

Forest Scene, "If your songs never leave your music cave are they really music?"

1. I hope that this song will soon be irrelevant, with upcoming elections in the United States there might soon be a new president. 

2. In Medieval times, an aristocrat or king was expected to provide superior hospitality to a bard, the songwriters of the time, otherwise they would become the victim of a mocking song. Songwriters and musicians have a tradition of social and political power that goes back centuries. I’m emulating them.

3. Blues and jazz musicians and composers reflected the political and social problems of their time, especially African American repression and marginalization. For example, “Strange Fruit” one of Billie Holiday’s biggest hits, was about lynchings of African Americans in the Southern United States. Folk singers of the 1950s and 1960s and Rock, Soul and Funk bands of the 1960s and early 1970s often wrote about the political turmoil of that era. 

4. More recently, Senator John Lewis, civil rights leader (1940-2020) said:

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”

“Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – John Lewis, June 2018

So, here’s how I’m speaking up and making “good trouble”…

After the video, there’s a detailed breakdown of the lyrics, melodies and chord progressions…

Video Introduction

The world is more divided than ever…either you believe that politics is about helping others or helping yourself. You believe in cooperation or competition at all costs. Respectful discussion is unwelcome. You’re with me or against me. My side or the wrong side. 

It didn’t start with him, but he’s intentionally made it worse by setting a bad example of immature and selfish behaviour. Instead of making America great he’s made America a joke in every other country. Any previous president would have resigned in disgrace over a single day’s worth of his antics. 

But he’s normalized this behaviour and people that hate his guts are acting just as poorly. 

I hope this song is irrelevant after the next election…. 

Because everything is so trumped up. 

So Trumped Up: The Story of the Song

A blues singer and friend of mine was looking for new songs to sing. She was preparing to perform in a blues competition and wanted to put some new material into her set. I spoke to her briefly and had her send me a few of her YouTube links. I wanted to get a better sense of her singing style and range. 

I started with “So Trumped Up” as the main hook and title. It’s a variation of the phrase “so f^&ed up!”

The first few verses came together pretty quickly. Three days later I had a rough demo together and sent it to her.

While she loved the song, there was a little problem… the blues competition was in the Southern United States, not exactly a wise song to sing in Trump country. While she was apologizing to me, I interrupted her and said “It’s cool, I wouldn’t sing the song in a state with open carry gun laws… I’d feel better for your safety if you didn’t sing it!” 

The moral of this story is: know all the details when you’re writing a song for an artist!

If you want to learn how to write songs, click here and enter your email address so I can send you: How to Write a Song Chorus… a straightforward explanation of how to write the lyrics, melody, chords and instrumental part to a song.

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So Trumped Up: Lyrics

Each line is 4 bars

Orange tyrant sets the tone with Twitter tantrums from his throne.

Who thought he could be left alone?

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Turn back the clock a century, sold our rights that once were free.

Who needs life or liberty?

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Stars and Stripes fly upside down, the ship of freedom ran aground.

Truth and justice can’t be found.

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Shout Chorus

So Trumped Up… So Trumped Up! 

I’m So Trumped Up… We’re So Trumped Up! 

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Corona spread across the globe, we stayed indoors, put life on hold.

He still thinks we’re good to go!

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Gassed Black Lives for a photo op, loves broken laws and racist cops.

Feels no need for change to make it stop.

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Narcissist and sociopath. Misogynist with a racist past.

Tax avoiding, golf course white trash.

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Shout Chorus

Bridge

Thinks the world dances to his demands, Even a fifth grader understands.

Makes up facts and spins his lies, It’s all fun and games ‘til people die… 

Shout Chorus

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So Trumped Up: Song Structure

The verses of So Trumped Up are a 12 bar blues structure in E minor. Every fourth verse is a shout chorus, an traditional blues device, where the title or a strong lyric hook is repeated with enough space for the band or the audience to shout it back. It serves the function of a chorus in a pop song, as a sing-along opportunity for the audience, but keeps the same chord progression as the verses of the blues song.

So Trumped Up: Chord Progressions

The original chord progression was a straight ahead A minor blues, with a bVI7 V7 turnaround. The key was too high for me to sing comfortably so I brought it down to E- to fit my voice. The bridge didn’t sit on the guitar as easily, but I found chord voicings that worked with a direct transposition of the original chord progression.

Blues Progression in E minor

E-    |E-    |E-    |E-    |

A-    |A-    |E-    |E-    |

C7    |B7   |E-    |E-    |

Blues Progression: Elaborated

E-    |G  E-|E-    |G  E-|

A-    |C  A-|E-    |G  E-|

C7    |B7    |E-    |G  E-|

Bridge Progression

B7   Bb7   |A7    Ab7   |G7   F#7 |F7         |

E-7  Eb-7 |D-7  Db-7 |C7            | C7        |B7        |B7        ||

I love chromatic progressions, especially chromatic downsteps, in a bridge. The strong motion feels unstable and contrasts with my usual chord progressions in other song sections. 

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So Trumped Up: Lyric Breakdown

Verse 1

Orange tyrant sets the tone 

with Twitter tantrums from his throne.

Who thought he could be left alone?

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

The orange tag is a result of cheap fake tans. The tyrant is my addition.

Twitter is his favourite tool, it bypasses the press and gives him an unedited platform to voice his opinions. In recent months Twitter and FaceBook have either blocked or tagged his posts as “misleading” or otherwise difficult to prove as fact.

I changed the original lyric “Twitter tantrum from his phone” to throne for the alliteration and the double meaning of throne, the seat of a monarch (an undemocratic position) and the place where I think his Twitter posts should be flushed.

I used to think President Trump was an incompetant fool who needed adult supervision. I was wrong, he acts the way he does on purpose, just as an abusive person gaslights their abused partner.

Verse 2

Turn back the clock a century, 

Sold our rights that once were free.

Who needs life or liberty?

President Trump doesn’t appear to respect or value women or people of colour. He would have felt at home a century ago when the right to vote was only allowed to white male citizens. He appears to value money over human rights.

The first democratic country to allow women to vote was New Zealand in 1893. The United States first allowed some women (over 30) to vote in 1918. In 1928, all women over 21 were finally allowed to vote in the United States. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragette

African Americans were only allowed to actually vote in 1960, 80 years after the legal abolition of slavery.

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/when-did-african-americans-get-the-right-to-vote.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_suffrage

The Declaration of Independence of the 13 United States of America, July 4, 1776 “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

Verse 3

Stars and Stripes fly upside down. 

Ship of freedom ran aground.

Truth and justice can’t be found.

A flag flying upside down is a sign of distress.

The ship of freedom, the United States is presently floundering.

The word “Truth” is distorted with President Trump’s goto expression “Fake News” to deny any press stories that cast him in an unfavourable light, regardless of the veracity of the story.

Justice is a two tiered system in the United States, with different experiences depending on a person’s racial heritage.

Shout Chorus

So Trumped Up… So Trumped Up. 

I’m So Trumped Up… We’re So Trumped Up. 

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

I’m trumped up, you’re trumped up, we’re all trumped up. It affects everyone, regardless of your political beliefs. It’s not confined to any political group or belief… we’re all suffering from it!

Verse 4

Corona spread across the globe, 

We stayed indoors, put life on hold.

He still thinks we’re good to go…

The CoronaVirus, COVID 19 pandemic was and still is denied by President Trump. He refused to wear a mask, and continues to mock those that wear them as a measure to reduce the viral spread. He mocked governors and states that legislated lock downs, and praised Republican governors that opened up their states before the testing indicated a viral level recommended by the Center for Disease Control. He’s still claiming that the United States is leading the world in 

Verse 5

Gassed Black Lives for a photo op, 

Loves broken laws and racist cops.

Feels no need for change to make it stop.

On June 1, 2020, President Trump ordered tear gas used on Black Lives Matter protesters outside the White House, so he could pose for photos outside St. John’s Church near the White House. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/us/politics/trump-st-johns-church-bible.html

In my opinion, President Trump completely fails to understand the racial problems plaguing the United States. His position that there is no systemic racism in the United States is the definition of “white privilege.” He denies the problem and denies that there is any need for change to address the problems he refuses to acknowledge.

Verse 6

Narcissist and sociopath. 

Misogynist with a racist past.

Tax avoiding, golf course white trash.

The first line was originally “narcissist or sociopath” as a question, implying I (the songwriter).

President Trump’s misogyny has been well documented in the press, from unwanted touching to more serious allegations. 

https://www.vox.com/identities/2016/10/7/13206174/trump-leaked-lewd-pussy-comments-women-rape-sexual-assault

President Trump is the first president since Gerald Ford not to voluntarily release his tax returns. Recent reporting from the New York Times about President Trump’s tax returns indicate he has lost more money than he’s made, and paid a surprisingly low amount of personal income tax.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_returns_of_Donald_Trump

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html

Bridge

Thinks the world dances to his demands, even a fifth grader understands…

He makes up facts and spins his lies. It’s all fun and games ‘til people die…. 

I wrote the bridge before the pandemic. It’s unfortunate how accurate these lyrics are….

Alternate Verses:

I wrote this song before the pandemic. The last three verses are more recent and replaced these three verses… they’re relevant but I felt the new verses made a stronger statement.

Feeds rape culture like it or not. Thinks his own kid is hot.

Who let this baby call the shots?

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

Nuclear codes in his little hands. White House supports the Ku Klux Klan.

Fueling hate is his master plan.

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

One day our kids will call this a joke. If the world doesn’t go up in smoke 

Who thought they didn’t have to vote?

So Trumped Up, the whole world feels corrupt.

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So Trumped Up: Strengths

This song summarizes some of the key problems during Trump’s Presidency. I found two challenges while writing this song: choosing which problems to write about, and how to describe them in a few words.

When I was planning the song, I quickly realized how easily any topic could fill several verses. To stay focused, I brainstormed every topic and incident I could think of and then looked for patterns and summarized them. Instead of writing about every problem, I chose some of the biggest and limited it to a verse each. For example, verse 1 is about President Trump’s obsession with Twitter. Verse 4 is the pandemic “response” from the White House.

The second challenge was summarizing problems in only a few words. This is always an issue with the limited time available in a popular song, but it was stronger with So Trumped Up because of the sensitivity of some of the topics. For example: Verse 5 is about the Black Lives Matter protests, a result of systemic racism due to the centuries of African American enslavement and the ongoing results that are still affecting African Americans and American society today. I feel that anyone familiar with recent events surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests would understand my points, without it being too simplistic. It’s necessary to assume your audience has at least some familiarity with the topic. You can’t explain everything little detail in a song, some things have to be left for your audience to fill in for themselves.

So Trumped Up: Weaknesses

It would be great if this song changed opinions. I don’t expect this song to sway anyone’s vote. I’m not a resident or a citizen of the United States, so I’m writing from the perspective of an observer, rather than someone in the middle of this situation.

The political climate in the United States is polarized… so many people are hearing only what they want to hear. The divide between two polarized sides continues to grow. It’s possible someone who hasn’t already decided might vote against President Trump, but it’s more likely that this song could only resonate with someone who has already decided to vote against President Trump. It might confirm someone’s opinion, but I doubt it has the power to change an opinion. I’d expect it would take more than a single popular song to change someone’s political opinion. Unless a song becomes the rallying cry for an entire movement, there is only so much a three minute song can accomplish.

So Trumped Up: Goals

Most of my recent songs are social commentary, observations and opinions of the world around me. Despite my misgivings about the competence of President Trump, the theme of the song is really the immature level of public conversation in the world. I wanted to keep the tone from getting too judgemental, so the theme wasn’t overshadowed by my opinion (and to leave some room left for the audience to personally interpret the lyrics). Except for the final verse, I managed to describe more than editorialize. I couldn’t hold it in for the last verse… I think I packed a song’s worth of judgement in that verse.

The first presidential debate of this election (Sept 29, 2020) was another new low, with the candidates interrupting each other and posturing… without saying anything new. During the commentary afterwards, one observer, a school principal, described it as similar to “watching two kindergarten students on the playground.” It’s already being called the “worst Presidential Debate ever.” Not what you want to hear about a debate for the “most powerful position in the world”….

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/worst-presidential-debate-ever

Leave a comment to help other songwriters:

Should songwriters voice their political and social observations in their songs or stick to less controversial topics? Why?

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Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.

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