Heroes, Mortals, and The Chainsmokers’ and Coldplay’s “Something Just Like This”

Essential Question

Who are the gods and superheroes referenced in “Something Just Like This,” and what are the connections between them?

Overview

On “Something Like This,” a 2017 collaboration between Coldplay and The Chainsmokers, vocalist Chris Martin compares himself in a self-deprecating manner to a host of Greek heroes, Roman gods and American superheroes before concluding, “I don’t see myself on that list.” The characters Martin mentions—Achilles, Hercules, Spider-man, Superman, and Batman—may seem disparate, originating thousands of years apart. However, when one considers why mortals are drawn to these characters and their stories, the distance between them narrows and similarities arise.

In this lesson, students use the lyrics to “Something Like This” as an opportunity to learn the stories of Achilles, Hercules, Wonder Woman and Superman. Students will explore similarities between these gods and superheroes, finally considering why mortals still need superhumans, thousands of years later.

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Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • The basic stories of the Roman and Greek gods Achilles and Heracles/Hercules
    • The origin story of Superman
    • The origin story of Wonder Woman, and the feminist ideals on which she was created
  2. Mastery Objective:
    • Students will be able to discuss select Roman and Greek mythological figures and American superheroes, and analyze the similarities between them through source readings.

Activities

Motivational Activity:

  1. Ask students:
    • Who do you think of when I say “superhero”? Why is this person a “superhero”?
    • Can you name a god or hero from Roman or Greek mythology? What is this person’s special strength? (Students who have read the Percy Jackson series are likely to have a surprising knowledge in this field.)
    • Do you think there are any similarities between modern superheroes and ancient mythological figures?

Procedure:

  1. Play students The Chainsmokers’ and Coldplay’s “Something Just Like This,” or show the music video. (Note: this link will open to the official video on Vevo).
  2. Display the image, “’Something Just Like This’ lyrics,” and ask:
    • What point do you think vocalist Chris Martin might be attempting to make by invoking the above characters? (Encourage students to recognize that Martin is casting himself as a “regular guy,” a theme he continues by later also invoking Superman.)
  3. Break students into groups for a pair and share activity. Give half of the groups Handout 1A – Heracles/Hercules and Wonder Woman, and the other groups Handout 1B – Achilles and Superman. Allow groups time to read the handouts and answer the questions, then have each 1A group partner with a 1B group to share what they’ve learned.

Summary Activity:

  1. Ask students:
    • Why do you think Chris Martin chose to reference superheroes and gods in these lyrics?
    • What similarities did you find between the characters on Handout 1A and 1B?
    • Overall, what purposes do you think gods and superheroes might serve for people? Why do you think that, thousands of years later, we still tell the stories of Achilles and Hercules? How do they make you feel?

Extension Activity:

  1. Write song lyrics that reference the lives of superheroes and ancient gods. How can you use a character that most people know to say something about yourself?

Standards

National Core Arts Standards

Creating

  • Anchor Standard #1: Generate and conceptualize: artistic ideas and work.

Responding

  • Anchor Standard #7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard #8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard #9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

Connecting

  • Anchor Standard #10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
  • Anchor Standard #11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.

Common Core State Standards

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading (K-12)

  • Reading 4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • Reading 6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening (K-12)

  • Speaking and Listening 1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language (K-12)

  • Language 4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

  • Theme 1: Culture
  • Theme 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Theme 4: Individual Development and Identity
  • Theme 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Theme 6: Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Theme 9: Global Connections

National Standards for Music Education

Core Music Standard: Responding

  • Select: Choose music appropriate for a specific purpose or context.
  • Analyze: Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
  • Interpret: Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’ and/or performers’ expressive intent.
  • Evaluate: Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.

Core Music Standard: Connecting

  • Connecting 11: Relate musical ideas and works to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.