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9/16/2010

How not to write lyrics Part 2

 The Bends    15 Minutes

I realize now how very hard it is to write good lyrics. Over the last days or so, I made several attempts to write something that could be sung. It makes a huge difference if a text is meant to be read or sung, I tell you. And not just because it has to be rhythmically interesting in case it's the latter.

Obviously, the first thing I came up with was the crypic variante of writing. I am sure you know these types of lyrics. They don't tell you a storyline, but leave you overwhelmed with powerful and supposedly meaningful poetic key-words. It is supposed to sound abstract. The most important thing is that the writer remains detached, because most of the times the words stay impersonal, but you still can somewhat relate to it, if you choose to do so.

I'll give you an example:

Radiohead Fake Plastic Trees

Her green plastic watering can
For her fake Chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth
That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself

I know now that it's not only a question of form but also a question of content. So, what should the lyrics be about? The most common ones are about Love (Soul, R'n'B), Hate (Rap, Rock), all the mentioned above plus, one of the newer topics sung about is Fame (Pop). Like the Gaga does.

There are some good lyrics which just tell you interesting stories, bring in interesting points of view you can relate to. Take the next one for example.

Nik Kershaw Billy

Billy is a new man, at least when she's around, a model father or if
needed, he'll
be mother for a day.
He watches "Men Behaving Badly" though
he'll gladly switch it off if she's offended
he'll pretend it wasn't funny any way
He's got one face he keeps for his woman
And one for when he's out with the guys
Sally wants a true man (...)
But he's living out a lie (...)
And he reads Marie Claire at the Doctors just
in case there is something he should know (...)


Like Homer Simpson would put it: It's funny because it's true.

Even I can relate, and I'm a woman!

For me personally, these are the best kinds of lyrics, because they describe a certain scenario I find to be believable. Besides, if someone successfully manages to get you involved in his or her personal business without you getting annoyed but rather intrigued by the writer's and probably your own misery: that's the high art of writing lyrics. Way to go!

Radiohead, The Bends
Nik Kershaw, 15 minutes