Information Undertow

Dada, 1998

What's an undertow? A water current that catches you unaware and drags you under. What do they mean by "information undertow"?

How does the songwriter feel "information undertow" has changed his life as a musician? What is he saying is the answer for him? Get back on the road, communicate directly with audiences.

List all the different media types he mentions in the song. How many of these do you "consume" in a day? How many of these gadgets do you have in your home?

What were his expectations when he "picked up a new toy" in verse two? What does he feel like instead? What is the latest "everyone-has-to-have-it" gadget? How is it supposed to change your life? Do we have unrealistic expectations for inanimate objects?

How happy are these "toys" making the songwriter? Why does he think we might be better off with our heads in the clouds? Do you agree?

What is the mood of this song? Is technology a reason for optimism?

How have these media and information technologies changed our lives? For better or for worse? Both? How helpful is all this information?

What might he suggest is the answer for others caught in the information undertow? What do you think is the answer?

"Information Undertow" performed by Dada on Dada, Universal City: MCA Records [MCAD-11804], © 1998. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


For more information on Dada, visit their official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

Dada album cover
Cover for Dada's self-titled album.

Named after the art movement, Dada was formed in the early nineties as a college-rock band by a trio from Southern California, including Joie Calio on bass guitar, Mike Gurley on guitar, and Phil Leavitt on drums. While their style is difficult to pinpoint, they are described simultaneously as progressive, alternative, pop, intellectual, and raw. Their lyrics are introspective and set to arrangements utilizing the latest in sound technology. They have been compared with Led Zeppelin in terms of creativity and innovation, while their music is clearly influenced by the Beatles' music of the late 1960s.

"Information Undertow" appeared on Dada's fourth album and its acoustic orientation makes it technologically tame compared with other songs. The lyrics, reminiscent of the Beatles' "Day in the Life," document the isolation that can occur in today's excessively connected society. Dada asks the question "Do people still wave lighters in the crowd?" alluding to the 1970s and 1980s reaction to quiet songs at rock concerts. Evident in this song are the rich vocal harmonies, more echoes of the Beatles that the group worked hard to perfect.

Compare this song to:

"Hello Ma Baby" (Unit 6):

What do these songs have in common? How do they differ? Why is "Hello Ma Baby" so much more optimistic than "Information Undertow"? Compare communication technologies of the turn of the twentieth century with today. What impact did each have on everyday life? Compare ads for each. What did they promise in the ads? What did they deliver?

Write about the difference between information, knowledge, and wisdom. What has to happen to turn information into something useful (i.e., knowledge)? Is useful information getting harder to come by? Why? Of the three, which is more valuable? Why?



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