Music & Lyrics

Posted: December 9, 2008 in Fly-By-Night
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Whenever I listen to music, I focus on lyrics. The feel of a song is important – whether it tugs at me, what mood it evokes, how well it flows – but the relationship between that feel and the lyrics is paramount. Fundamentally, I’m both a words person and a poetry nerd, which means that not only am I unable to tolerate bad lyrics, I can’t block them out. This means, somewhat aggravatingly, that I end up learning the lyrics to Delta Goodrem songs purely through chance exposure, like skirting the perimeter of Chernobyl frequently enough to incur radiation poisoning. By contrast, my Long-Suffering Husband has the opposite reaction: being a musician, he finds it extremely difficult to listen to lyrics at all, simply because his attention diverts automatically to composition. This means that despite ‘hearing’ the same information, we process it so differently that neither one can register the source of the other’s interest.

Being word-oriented means I tend to gravitate towards individual songs rather than particular bands or artists: I’m not after melodic replication or common themes, but some kind of subjectively-approved symbiosis between music and lyrics. I don’t mind simplicity, brevity or repitition, provided they work – which, particularly in fast-paced songs like Moby’s Bodyrock – they often do. I’m also a sucker for dual interpretation, wherein the same lyrics express two ideas. My favourite (geeky) example of this comes courtesy of Joss Whedon and the Buffy musical, as Spike, a vampire, sings his love for Buffy: called Rest In Peace, the song weaves between typical love-ballad and specific references to the fact that the singer is undead. Similarly, I love lyrics that tell a story, a la Don MacLean’s American Pie and Vincent; these examples are classic poetry in their own right, while more recent songs, like Release by George, are very much in an abstract, e e cummings oeuvre (although I have to be in the right mood).

Like most people, the music I dance or exercise to is beat-heavy, if only because the necessity of volume tends to drown out the lyrics; a few of these songs I’ll listen to for pleasure, but generally, there’s a difference between music I play when I’m walking, cycling or cleaning the house, and what I prefer in the background. Otherwise, I tend to like soft music: songs like Love A Diamond (Tonic) and Mad World (Gary Jules), which I listened to compulsively through school, or new obsessions like Set Free (Katie Gray), Shipwrecked (Shane Alexander) and Fault Line (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), all of which I’ve gleaned from watching Bones and iTunesing appropriately (which is , coincidentally, a great way to find new artists).

Still, it’s interesting how different the addition of music makes, such that most lyrics, no matter how powerful when sung, would fall flat if anyone tried to read them as poetry; and yet some manage it. On that note, I’ll leave you with the lyrics of another Bones song I’ve taken a shine to – it’s my transcription, as there doesn’t seem to be one available online, but the song is readily downloadable. So:

Tears and Laughter

(Tall Tree 6ft Man)

No one’s going to come along and line your palms with gold,                        

And if they did, you would unfold;

And if they did, you’d be wrong to take it.

After all the tears and all the laughter,

Your happiness is a string of disasters –

Oh, what more could someone ask for?

No one’s going to say it’s wrong to set alight your soul,

But if they did, where would it go

With all your home in ashes?

After all the fear of showing ages,

On your face like the heavy scent of time

When time is all we’re after.

Step away, stay in the light,

Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.

After all the fear of showing ages,

On your face like the heavy scent of time

When time is all we’re after.

Still, on all the walls we have reminders

Of the times we left behind us,

Now all your words are silence.

Step away, stay in the light,

Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.

Comments
  1. thedaddio says:

    Well,
    That’s a lot, and you didn’t even draw a conclusion except that you have taken a shine to Tears & Laughter.

    But being a songwriter… who focuses more on lyrics… please take a listen to a recent song of mine called “Sunsets”. Never mind that you are a city girl or seem to be one to me.
    I love your post
    Phil

    Oh Sunsets can be found at http://www.youtube.com/plcoomer

  2. fozmeadows says:

    Thanks – I’ll be sure to check out the song. I am indeed a city girl, but I grew up next door to a national park, so hopefully that counts for something!

    And, yeah, I didn’t draw a conclusion. Possibly I’d been going to, but then it slipped away. Really, I just like what I like, which is a truism, but hey – blogging is fun. Thanks for commenting!🙂

  3. Emily says:

    Thank you so much!
    I was looking for the lyrics all over!😀

  4. fozmeadows says:

    So was I, originally – it’s why I posted them. Glad to help!

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