Saturday, 29 May 2010

Poetry vs Prolapse - what defines "good lyrics"?

Lyrics are traditionally a central part of the song. After all, how else do you know what the song is about? The title can sometimes be an indicator but its quintessentially the lyrics which are telling the story.

And just like music, there seem to be categorically "good" lyrics and definitively "bad" lyrics. Whats the difference between the two?

Its not often vocalised as much as the "good music vs bad music" argument, but its still argued sometimes. Then again, there's an onslaught of instrumental, ambient, textural and other kinds of music where lyrics are either unnecessary or overlooked. Dance music, for example, is one where the lyrics don't really need any meaning past the typical cliche; the music's prime purpose is to get people dancing in a club to the sub kicking out that bass drum hit on every beat.

But to others, lyrics mean a lot more. For example, whilst I will judge a song by its sound quality, harmonic movements, melodic structure, rhythm modulation and billions of other things, I don't generally mind what the singer is blabbering on about. My girlfriend on the other hand, absolutely loves a song with great lyrics, and doesn't particularly like music where the lyrics are intangible or complete nonsense.

A point that comes up amongst my friends is some of the Lyrics written by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson in particular. Myself, as a huge fanboy/worshipper, I love his lyrics. My friends point out that they're sometimes droll, overly descriptive and unimaginitive.

So who would be right in this argument? I have no idea. I know my side of the argument is slightly biased. But this is just an example.

For me, the question of whether a set of lyrics is tangibly "better" than another set is just as subjective as whether or not the music behind those lyrics is also "better".

This links back to my earlier post about the teen market but I feel its a relevant point: for all those Nu Metal, Emo, Punk and whatever bands, there's people scoffing at them. The bands are undeniably 'whining' about being in love, not being understood, being depressed, and so on. To many people, that seems silly.

Nevertheless, how do you think the adolescent audience, who are no doubt dealing with these issues, feels about those lyrics? It doesn't matter if their problems are petty or lacking persepective, those lyrics are going to resonate with them on a level that nothing else can. Its this human connection, established through the sound of a human voice and maintained through lyrical content which the listener can relate to, which makes music so successful.

So in summary, lyrics aren't necessarily good or bad at all. Its just that, like music, different lyrics are suited for different people. So no matter how awfully silly one set of lyrics in a song may seem to you, there's bound to be someone on the planet hearing the same song and holding onto every single word.

I don't know about you, but that's a wonderful thought, and it keeps me entranced by just how powerful music is as a force, regardless of what level people enjoy it on.

Keep loving music, no matter what they sing about

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