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Grizzled Spellchecker
Joined: 05/09/00
Posts: 2,233
Grizzled Spellchecker
Joined: 05/09/00
Posts: 2,233
04/12/2004 1:56 pm
I've actually thought about this quite a bit, and more so with a new band where I have a new songwriting partner. In my old band, the bassist wrote all the songs, and basically 90% of his lyrics I thought were amazing, better than other lyrics that I hear every day on the radio.

Now, I'm working with this other guy, and it's different, since he writes more alt-rocky lyrics, even *shudder* emo.... So, while I do like some of his lyrics, I've been working on writing some of my own.

So, I've seen what I think are really good lyrics, and now I've seen what I think are.... not really good lyrics. I'd say that really good lyrics begin with a distinct message or focus, a theme that ties everything together.

I'd also say that they shouldn't be overly descriptive... well, actually, that's debatable. More specifically, I think they should not go into agonizing detail about feelings. Emotions are at the root of songs, and when you pick them apart lyrically, it cheapens them by defining them. It's best to leave interpretation to the audience by being more subtle or vague than your actual feelings are.

Good lyrics should work on different levels, too. Not just in-your-face, "I hate you, you broke up with me and now I'm depressed and miserable"-type lyrics, but ones where you can listen to the song a hundred times and then, finally, one day it hits you what the song is really about...

I saw an interesting method for writing lyrics in a Mick Jagger documentary (and I've written this here before). He carries a notebook around with him everywhere, and when the muse strikes, he writes his ideas down. He doesn't write down lyrics, though, he writes it as prose, or a free-flowing story (i.e. no rhyming). Then, when his guitarist or whoever (maybe even himself) comes up with some music, he flips through his book, picks a story that he thinks will fit, then makes up lyrics based on those thoughts.

Wow... long post. But, I still wanted to add the names of some lyricists who I consider great:

Bob Dylan
- Can be trippy, poetic, epic or emotional - all at once, or one at a time

- Except for some of the stuff off of Zooropa (Babyface... ugh), he has written some brilliant lyrics that don't sacrifice the "rock out" factor. Probably my favourite lyricist and singer.

Roger Waters
- If Bono isn't my favourite at any particular moment, it's because Roger Waters has taken over. I read the lyrics to "Meddle" (the album) before I ever heard any of the songs, and that's what made me buy the album. They were incredibly beautiful, they could stand as poetry without musical support.

The dude from Third Eye Blind
- I'm being serious here. My new bandmate turned me on to these guys (well, more so than before). His lyrics are more up-to-date than my other picks, and maybe even more *shudder* emo... but they work. I've only really heard the first album, though.
... and that's all I have to say about that.

[U]ALL[/U] generalizations are [U]WRONG[/U]