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Do lyrics matter?

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By: Sunil Noronha
Friday, March 17, 2006

I was asked to write a song for some one and I was asked specifically to write a "happy song". Well, I wrote the happiest song I could and I gave it. I was then told it was too sentimental. When I started writing songs, I began to differentiate between two kinds of songwriting. One in which you've got everything but the lyrics and that's all that's left to do-write the song.There I thought you can come up with the name of the boy, name of the girl, the place they used to live in, a few places they hang out at etc. and bang!-you have your song. Then there's the other kind in which you write the song out then you have the music part of it come in. I am a fan of songs of the second type.

Lyrics in a song .........what they are about and what they make you feel decide the mood of the song or you write them so as to accommodate such a tune. That's from where you get happy songs, sad songs, uplifting songs, depressing songs and song that cover every kind of mood that there is. They can be created out of nothing, written like short story-like the perfect missing link that can be twisted and turned according to how you want things to sound like. Either that or the sole purpose of the song is for those words to be sung with feeling all that they mean and will all that that they make you feel, to emote all that is in your heart concerning its subject.

When you walk into a room and you hear that song that you love and say, "Oh, I love this song. Turn up volume", you do so because of the way the song makes you feel, because of those lines in that song which connect to you so well. You wouldn't feel the same way if the song had no lyrics or if the song didn't have those particular lines in them.When you're watching a local band perform and they start with opening riff of their first song and the crowd goes wild....then the first lines are sung in unison, the band and the crowd. What if the song had no words at all?

Most famous guitarists have their famous solos and riffs remembered because they are played as a part of the song. Ritchie Blackmore wouldn't have played the opening riff and solo of Highway Star the way it was played if the lyric content was of a different nature so wouldn't Randy Rhoads in Crazy Train, Jimmy Hendrix in Voodoo Chile...the case is the same with every other song that you can recognize as well.No amount of complication and sophistication in the music can outbeat that aspect of a song. Lyrics establish most of the connection with a song.

So lyrics do matter but there are exceptions. I love Dire Straits and one of the most peaceful pieces of music of theirs has no lyrics-"Going Home" by Mark Knopfler. It just puts your soul at rest.Another favourite of mine is the intro riff in "Now I'm Here" but that list is short.

It is still a debatable topic but I believe that when we go about defining music, we would only limit it and hold it back. We should enjoy what music we do enjoy and let those who enjoy the rest do so in peace. I believe that if there is a point to be made in a song, nothing can do it like lyrics can. I firmly believe that music is more than just something that you find yourself comfortable with. It should be an eye opener also. A progression, riff, beat or solo cannot serve that purpose. That's the part of lyrics that people don't like very much. The point of a song when I write it is the lyrics.

Some of my favourite lines from some of my favourite songs:

"It's a sad man my friend living in his own skin who can't stand the company"
- Bruce Springsteen, Better Days
"There's got to be more to life than just try, try, try"
- Billy Joel,Half a Mile Away
"Sometimes you've got to be an S.O.B if you want to make a dream reality"
- Mark Knopfler, Boom Like That
"You don't get what you don't deserve when you are born in time"
- Bob Dylan, Born in Time.


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