Heroes and Mortals in “Something Just Like This”

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Essential Question

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

Overview

Perform “Something Just Like This” with your class using Modern Band Charts provided by Little Kids Rock. 

On “Something Just 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

Common Core State Standards

7471

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.

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.

Career Technical Education Standards (California Model) – Arts, Media and Entertainment Pathway Standards

Design, Visual and Media Arts (A)

  • A1.0 Demonstrate ability to reorganize and integrate visual art elements across digital media and design applications.
    A1.4 Select industry-specific works and analyze the intent of the work and the appropriate use of media.
    A1.5 Research and analyze the work of an artist or designer and how the artist’s distinctive style contributes to their industry production.
    A1.9 Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work. ia, and Entertainment |
    A3.0 Analyze and assess the impact of history and culture on the development of professional arts and media products.
    A3.2 Describe how the issues of time, place, and cultural influence and are reflected in a variety of artistic products.
    A3.3 Identify contemporary styles and discuss the diverse social, economic, and political developments reflected in art work in an industry setting.
    A3.4 Identify art in international industry and discuss ways in which the work reflects cultural perspective.
    A3.5 Analyze similarities and differences of purpose in art created in culturally diverse industry applications.
    A4.0 Analyze, assess, and identify effectiveness of artistic products based on elements of art, the principles of design, and professional industry standards.
    A4.2 Deconstruct how beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence commercial media (traditional and electronic).
    A4.5 Analyze and articulate how society influences the interpretation and effectiveness of an artistic product.
    A5.0 Identify essential industry competencies, explore commercial applications and develop a career specific personal plan.
    A5.3 Deconstruct works of art, identifying psychological content found in the symbols and images and their relationship to industry and society.
    A6.0 Analyze characteristics of subgenres (e.g., satire, parody, allegory, pastoral) that are used in poetry, prose, plays, novels, short stories, essays, and other basic genres.
    A6.1 Evaluate the ways in which irony, tone, mood, the author’s style, and the “sound” of language achieve specific rhetorical or aesthetic purposes or both.
    A6.2 Analyze the way in which authors through the centuries have used archetypes drawn from myth and tradition in literature, film, political speeches, and religious writings.
    A6.3 Debate the philosophical arguments presented in literary works to determine whether the authors’ positions have contributed to the quality of each work and the credibility of the characters (philosophical approach).

Performing Arts (B)

  • B2.0 Read, listen to, deconstruct, and analyze peer and professional music using the elements and terminology of music.
    B2.2 Describe how the elements of music are used.
    B2.6 Analyze and describe the use of musical elements in a given professional work that makes it unique, interesting, and expressive.
    B2.7 Demonstrate the different uses of form, both past and present, in a varied repertoire of music in commercial settings from diverse genres, styles, and professional applications.
    B5.0 Apply vocal and/or instrumental skill and knowledge to perform a varied repertoire of music appropriate to music industry application.
    B5.4 Employ a variety of music technology to record, integrate, or modify a live or recorded performance to produce a new artistic product.
    B5.7 Create melodic and rhythmic improvisations in a style or genre within a musical culture (gamelan, jazz, and mariachi).
    B8.0 Deconstruct the aesthetic values that drive professional performance and the artistic elements necessary for industry production.
    B8.1 Critique discipline-specific professional works using the language and terminology specific to the discipline.
    B8.2 Use selected criteria to compare, contrast, and assess various professional performance forms.