Analysis: Repeated Motifs in 90’s-2010’s Music

A few weeks ago, while I was researching for my channel ORANGE article, I started thinking about the song “Forrest Gump.” I knew of at least two other songs which sang about Forrest at some point: “Doves in the Wind” by SZA and “All Day” by Kanye West. This got me thinking–how much crossover is there between lyrical/thematic motifs in mainstream music?

To find as many songs as I could with similar lyrics/titles, I used this website. The results made sense (of course musicians borrow from each others’ work), but they kind of surprised me anyways. Some of the most popular intertwined works are listed below. Enjoy.

 

Motif #1: “Forrest Gump”

In the 2010’s…

Forrest GumpFrank Ocean (2012). Song title “Forrest Gump”. Motif repeated throughout the song, which is told from the perspective of Forrest’s love interest, Jenny. Frank narrates Jenny’s crush on Forrest, with lyrics including “Forrest Gump, you run my mind, boy.”

Frank Ocean Performs "Forest Gump" His New Single Off of His Major Label Debut at the 2013 Grammy Awards Ceremony - Rap Basement

Doves in the WindSZA (2017). Motif pushes along the plot of the song. Lyrics include: “Forrest Gump had a lot going for him. Never without p***y. You know, Jenny almost gave it all up for him.” Similar to Frank Ocean’s usage of the motif, SZA focuses on Forrest’s appeal to Jenny.

Racks (Freestyle)Lil Wayne (2011). Motif appears briefly, as Lil Wayne instructs someone to run away, and fast. Lyrics: “Better run like Forrest Gump.” Simple usage of the Forrest motif, but definitely effective.

0 to 100/The Catch UpDrake (2015). Drake finds himself cheered on by his fans and spectators to his success. Lyrics: “Ugh, I run this s**t, they like “Go Forrest, run Forrest, run Forrest, go Forrest.” Good for him!

All DayKanye West (2015). Kanye references Forrest’s successful investments and his subsequent wealth with the lyrics: “Stupid n****s gettin’ money, Forrest Gump right now.” 

ReminiscingKodak Black (2017). The Forrest motif makes a brief appearance as Kodak Black describes himself running: “A young n***a, I jumped off the porch, run Forrest. I’ll lose it about that money, I’ll go dumb for it.”

Color MoneyRick Ross (2015). Rick Ross again uses the Forrest motif to emphasize running, with the lyrics: “So run Forrest, got some shooters and they dying too.” According to this Genius article, Rick Ross might actually be playing off of Drake’s “0 to 100/The Catch Up”, because the two had an alleged dispute earlier that year.

Rick Ross May Have Dissed Drake on "Color Money" Track — Full Lyrics Here
Courtesy of Mic.com

In the 2000’s…

Phat RabbitLudacris (2000). In this song, Ludacris uses Forrest Gump as a descriptor for how fast his lovers run away when he intimidates them. The lyrics state: “I can make a h*e get like Forrest Gump and just “run baby run“.

Hey Mama – Kanye West (2005). Kanye West’s original usage of the Forrest motif was actually in this 2005 track. In a tender moment, Kanye recalls his mom using one of the famous lines from the Forrest Gump film. He raps, “Forrest Gump mama said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates'”, describing a piece of advice his mother gave him.

Then Days Went By50 Cent (2009). 50 Cent uses the Forrest Gump motif as a threat to whoever he’s talking to to run. Using the iconic line from the movie, he raps, “then you can run, Forrest, run.

 

In the 1990’s…

Get Up Get DownCoolio (1995). One of the earliest usages of Forrest Gump in song lyrics. Coolio raps with pride, describing himself: “I get around like Gump“.

 

20 Classic Forrest Gump Quotes
Forrest Gump running in the movie, “Forrest Gump”

 

Motif #2: “Sunflower”

In the 2010’s…

Sunflower – Various Artists (2018). From the hit movie “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse,” this song gained popularity quickly. Post Malone and Swae Lee alternate singing about their love interest, which they call “sunflower.” The chorus goes: “You’re a sunflower, I think your love would be too much.

Sunflower, Vol. 6Harry Styles (2019). This song uses the word “sunflower” so many times. I counted 19, actually. In an incredibly poignant chorus, Harry Styles sings: “Sunflower, sunflower / Sunflower, sunflower.”

SunflowerRex Orange County (2020). A sunflower-themed classic in the indie pop genre. The music video is peppy, colorful, and fun, matching the lyrical and musical tone of the song.

SunflowerHeart (2010). No surprise here, another song using the “sunflower” motif to describe the singer’s lover. This one’s metaphor runs a little deeper than that of the past two songs, with the chorus stating: “Sunflower / Never steal your eyes away / Even when the seasons change / A little sun, a little rain.” Pretty cute actually!

FlavaRich Homie Quan, Young Thug, Birdman (2014). This song uses the sunflower motif in a different way, referencing sunflower seeds. In Rich Homie Quan’s verse, he raps: “Wanna give her my seed, no sunflower.” Clever, albeit somewhat profane.

Rich Gang, Rich Homie Quan - Flava ft. Young Thug, Birdman - YouTube
Thumbnail for the Flava music video

In the 2000’s…

I’d Like ThatXTC (2005). English New Wave band XTC sang about the sunflower’s height–singing “Really high, really high like a really high thing / Say, a sunflower.”

In Every SunflowerBell X1 (2004). Another band across the Atlantic from Coog Radio, Irish rock band Bell X1 sings about a lover. They’re forlorn, singing: “We’re still watching / Your rainbow through the shower / And we still see you / In every sunflower.”

 

In the 1990’s…

TragedyRZA (1999). Ah, yes. Another rap song using the sunflower motif as an innuendo. RZA raps, “A Life Savor, I’ll Jawbreak ya, Boston Bake ya / Then plant my sunflower seed on every square acre.

China Cat SunflowerGrateful Dead (1990). Originally released in 1969, the Grateful Dead re-released this song in their 1990 album Without a Net. After listening to the lyrics, it should come as no surprise that this song was inspired by an acid trip, as the Genius article for the song states. The song goes, “Look for a while at the china cat sunflower“–very trippy.

 

All songs and all musicians are just borrowing from and adding to this incredible universal artwork of music. Chord progressions get reused but new beats are layered in with them; artists sample 15-second voicemails, court recordings, audience recordings, etc. to blend into their original work; and tiny lyrical fragments get spliced into song after song, showing the connection all artists inherently have with each other–intentional or not.

With the incredible access to music everyone has thanks to the technology of the 21st century, artists’ works tend to sort of bleed into each other–mixing and swirling and pulling out pieces they like from other songs they’ve heard. All this to say, music is pretty freaking cool, and thanks to creators’ willingness to learn and borrow from each other, we get to see some pretty cool commonalities among the unique works.

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