Hotel California by The Eagles




Hotel California by The Eagles

The Eagles’ song, Hotel California, is the main feature song in the band’s album, which comprises the corresponding name. Released in the month of February in 1977, the song became one of the most popular tracks ever released in the rock epoch. The band’s members, Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, share the song’s writing credits. Accordingly, Henley features in the song’s initial recording as the lead vocalist with Joe Walsh and Don Felder concluding it with a section of an electric guitar interchange. Due to its extreme popularity, the song has undergone various interpretations from enthusiasts and critics equally. In addition, the song has faced analysis based on the themes it associates with the American society and the progressive pop culture scene. In order to decipher it considerably, it is imperative to analyze the song for a variety of aspects such as rhetorical devices, figurative speech and textual features. 

Overview of the Song

The song, “Hotel California”, provides a rhythmical description of the high life in California. Regardless of the different interpretations, the band describes the track as a reflection of the experience the band members faced after going through life in Los Angeles. Consequently, the Eagles describe it as a portrayal of their travesty from innocence to sophistication. According to Hoskyns (249), “Hotel California” provides a vivid illustration of life in Los Angeles as well its exhilarating and daunting sides. Nonetheless, the song provides a surrealistic account of a luxury hotel that becomes a dreadful place for a fatigued traveler. It seems inviting and alluring at first but actually turns out to be a prison for any person willing to enter its confines.



In order to emphasize on the content of the song, the artists utilized editorial concepts effectually. One of these concepts comprised the context. Normally, it is futile to read or write a text in nothingness. Based on this, it is imperative to provide the text in a given context. The context usually poses an effect on the text’s interpretation and connotations. Implicitly or overtly, the contextual connotation has already undergone inscription within the text. In this respect, the lyrics of the song provide a clear background. The context focuses on the pop culture of the 1970s. Accordingly, the context provides themes relating to the culture at that time such as hedonism, fame, self-destruction and voracity, which were popular in the music industry in the 1970s.


For the listener to comprehend the relationship between the song’s literal meaning and its interpretation, it is important the subtext. The subtext allows the listener to understand the link between the singer’s language, distinction and tone and the message of the text. Accordingly, the subtext articulates the objectives, agenda and voice of the singer. In the song, “Hotel California”, the subtext is evident based on the interpretation of the song. Accordingly, even though the singer expresses the song as a narrative, the themes interpreted throughout the track enable the addressee to understand the subject matter conveyed. In this respect, the author focuses on the allure of the American Dream in terms of greed, self-gratification and destruction, fame and success in California as well as its corresponding addiction.


In general, intertextuality implies the relationship between a text’s context and other different texts. Usually, this concept provides an illustration of the connection between the exposure to disparate texts based on the subtext and the context. In this song, the singer indicates influences from other works of art. For instance, the line, “So I called up the captain/’Please bring me my wine’/He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969’” , in the song highlights one of the most popular songs of the rising pop culture, Summer of 69, by Bryan Adams (A-Z Lyrics 4). Undeniably, by highlighting this song, the singer illustrated intertextuality by factoring in another song that he was exposed to as well as a song that ideally represented the pop culture in the 1970s.

Figurative Language

The use of figurative language is also evident in the song, “Hotel California”. One of these figures of speech comprises metaphors. Metaphors are usually allegorical devices that are applied to things that are illiterately applicable for creating a resemblance. In this respect, the lyrics of the respective song are surrealistic. Accordingly, they provide a narrative of a hotel that allows people to check out but not to leave. In this respect, the metaphor used in the song is the hotel (Hotel California). The singer uses this metaphor in order to suggest the tempting nature of life in California. The use of imagery is also evident in the song. Imagery involves the utilization of descriptive or vibrant language in order to supplement depth. In this case, one of the instances of imagery is evident where the singer states that, “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair” (A-Z Lyrics 1). This statement shows the artist’ use of descriptive language in order to describe the thrill of experience they faced as they went to California.

Rhetorical Devices

The song also applied a few rhetorical devices in order to connect with the audience. One of these devices comprises pathos. Pathos involves appealing to the emotions of the audience. Usually, this device is essential for coaxing the audience into agreeing with the speaker’s beliefs. In the song, the musician utilizes pathos in order to attract the audience. In this form, pathos in this song involves the use of figures of speech in order to appeal to the listeners. Accordingly, even though the singer may use vivid and expressive lingo, the main objective of such speech is to alter the perception of the listeners into agreeing with him. For instance, the lyrics provide a surrealistic story of a somnolent voyager checking into an opulent hotel. From this point onwards, the singer utilizes the hotel metaphorically in order to appeal to the audience into understanding the story from an interpreted perspective.

Another rhetorical device used by the musician comprises ethos. Ethos comprises the use of values and morals in order to predispose the character of the audience towards such customs. Conventionally, the influence of music to direct the values, mannerisms and sentiments of the listener comprised ethos. In this context, there is utilization of this rhetorical element in “Hotel California”. Accordingly, the interpretation of the song provides an illustration of the alluring temptations that arise from life in California. Based on this, the artist provides a narrative of the thrilling experience they had at the Hotel, however, realizing that the hotel was a rather daunting and nightmarish place, they decide to leave only to be restricted since those who check in, are not allowed to exit. From the narrative, the use of ethos is evident. This is because the artist focuses on appealing to the morals of the listener by a chilling tale of life in California.

In conclusion, “Hotel California” by The Eagles provides an account concerning the dark underbelly of the American Dream with respect to life in California. By providing a metaphorical response against destructive tendencies such as hedonism, voracity and self-destruction, the song aims at providing a moral compass to the listener based on the experiences of the singer. However, the song does not achieve a realizable objective since it is likely to undergo different forms of conjectures from critics and enthusiasts due to its lyrical content. Nonetheless, “Hotel California” is undeniably one of the best rock songs of the American pop culture.

Works Cited

A-Z Lyrics. “Eagles Lyrics: Hotel California.” AZ Lyrics, n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <>.

Hoskyns, Barney. Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. Print.

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