NPR logo

Body Parts In Song: From Hands To Eyes

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94109631/94140642" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Body Parts In Song: From Hands To Eyes

Body Parts In Song: From Hands To Eyes

Body Parts In Song: From Hands To Eyes

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94109631/94140642" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The eye is the most widely mentioned body part in jazz music. Courtesy of Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg

Frank Zappa once sang, "What's the ugliest part of your body? / Some say your nose / Some say your toes... But I think it's your mind."

Zappa might not love your nose, your toes or your mind, but visual artists Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg see, and hear, the beauty in them. They've analyzed roughly 10,000 songs from many genres of music, and they've created a catalog titled Listen, which illustrates how the human form inspires, amuses or repulses musicians.

The eyes — blue eyes, brown eyes, sad eyes, angel eyes — are the most frequently crooned-about, in genres from R&B to heavy metal to electronica. Beautiful faces and loving arms also appear in country and jazz.

While putting together the Listen project, Viegas and Wattenberg found that gospel and the blues focus on the hands: either lifting them in praise or keeping them away from temptations of the flesh.

To hip-hop artists, the most tempting part of our flesh — when it comes to song lyrics, anyway — is the posterior.