Monday, 28 March 2011

Do lyrics matter?

When someone lists "music" as one of their interests, what is it exactly that interests them? How many times have you heard the following conversation:

A: I really love music, you know, I couldn't live without it.

B: Yeah, me too, what's your favourite chord progression?

Probably not very often. "Music" for most people is not about rudiments and theory, but about glamorous people creating glamorous sounds. At the basic level, both the aged concert harpist and the wild teen drummer will agree that music is about making a good sound. So once you've got your melody, harmony and rhythm prioritised, where do the lyrics fit in?

Can you make a good song with rubbish lyrics? Apparently the answer is "yes", when swathes of young people buy a song with the chorus:
Something kinda oooh
Jumping on my tu-tu,
Something inside of me,
Wantin' part of you ooo
(Girls Aloud - Something Kinda Oooh)

Or what about a song with nonsensical lyrics? Well, the Beatles made it clear that was possible with (among many others):
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob
(The Beatles - I am the Walrus)

Many people also lament the increase in profanity, aggression and general filthiness that appears in popular music. Rihanna's recent top-ten single is called S&M. But I'm not going to get caught up in that particular discussion at the moment. What I'm asking is do music consumers and artists care about the lyrics they listen to/write?

Actually I think that yes, they do. A lot. Rap music has exploded across the Western world; a new form of expression which is all about writing good lyrics, and lots of them. Amongst the dross that gets churned out song writers are still striving to come up with new ways of putting across the same idea. For example:
Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we'll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
(Rihanna - Umbrella)

It might sound like pap to you, but the point is it's original.

As a final point, people must care about lyrics because why else are millions of people talking about the song Friday, which contains possibly the most feeble lyrics ever written. Here's just a sample:
Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today is Friday, Friday
We, we, we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwards
(Rebecca Black - Friday)

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