Lyrics that Stop Making Sense

After reading through ‘Successful Songwriting’ (see previous post here) I still have many mixed thoughts and reactions to it. In a way, it’s kind of opened up ‘Pandora’s Box’, because I’ve been listening to songs more critically than before.

For example, it goes through in detail concepts of ‘lyric framing’ and the VVTS -the voice, viewpoint, timeframe and setting. In conveying a singular idea or ‘happening’ in a song, it’s important for all these factors to be consistent and logical to the listener. If a song starts out in first person ‘I saw you the other day…’ and then in the bridge it’s suddenly third person ‘he saw her standing by the ocean…’ the listener feels disorientated.

So I was listening to one of my favourite bands the other day, The Divinyls, and I love a lot of their lyrics, but listening carefully I was picking up inconsistencies in the some of the lyrics. But does it really matter? Especially with rock n roll? I mean, a main ideal about rockn roll is rebelling against the establishment, finding your own freedom and voice -why should you go to a bloomin’ 6 week workshop on writing lyrics examining your ‘AABA’ and your ‘VVTS’… Punk even more so captures the independent spirit -get out of the classroom and into garage and just play and vent.

Now, even the author cites top-forty songs that were commercial hits but had woefully inconsistent lyrics… Yes, in one sense, lyrics don’t matter so much… if the beat’s good, the melody’s catchy… people like to tap along hearing it in the car… I mean, this goes for me as well -it’s the music I’ve been really interested in. I’m a guitarist -I’m really looking forward to the guitar solo…

But no, that’s all wrong! Lyrics do matter! Well, that’s the way I’m beginning to see things now. If the lyrics are consistent they can draw the listener in emotionally, allowing them to get more involved in the story -whether it’s the singer expressing a particular feeling or idea, or something with more of a story and plot-line. If the lyrics are inconsistent, then even though the music may be good, the lyrics, in a way, alienate the listener because of their vagueness.

Ever come into a conversation between two people half way through? If you don’t know the pretext, you don’t know what they’re talking about -so you feel ignorant and alienated. If they fill you in, then you can become involved…

The best pop songs will have the melody, the good mix AND the lyrics that draw you in and make you think. But don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned my indie/arty roots yet -I’ll talk about that a little later…


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