Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Song Lyrics

I love music. I particularly enjoy rock, provided it has a good melody and is well sung. My favourite bands are Queen, Muse, Def Leppard, Magnum, AC/DC, ELO and Nickelback. You get the idea.

Lyrics make a huge difference to me in how much I like a track, or a band. Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but words really matter to me. A great song can be ruined by poor lyrics. (A very good friend of mine is extremely musically inclined - she can play any tune by ear - and similarly judges films by their soundtracks.)

I get that not every musician can also be a poet, but nothing makes me switch off the radio faster than hearing bad grammar in a song. Here are some examples I came across recently, two of which are on my iPod. But may not be for much longer.

  • "The female of the species is more deadlier than the male" (The Female of the Species, Space)
  • "The way the moonlight shined upon her hair" (All Summer Long, Kid Rock)
  • "I promise tonight not to do no harm" (Crossfire, Brandon Flowers)
And don't get me started on "I can't get no satisfaction."

To show the other side of the coin, here are some amazing, poetic and poignant lyrics which have real power on their own, even without the music, (and with it are just stunning). The song is Cruise Control by Def Leppard, and it's written from the point of view of a suicide bomber going on a mission:

I close my eyes, I bend in prayer
I train my mind to just not care,
And to my God I give my soul
I train my mind to cruise control.

I hear my God, He calls my name.
I must atone all mankind's shame.
And for my God I ring the bell.
I will condemn the infidel.

Daylight shines upon the hour of my faith,
I step in to the sun.
I shield my eyes from the glory of the morning
And blow it all to kingdom come.

Perfect meter (has to be for a song, of course) and perfectly rhymed apart from the rather desperate use of "bell" (unless there really is some significance to the use of a bell, of which I'm ignorant). Def Leppard are extremely good at lyrics, and that's one of the many reasons I like them so much. For them, the words of their songs are not just an afterthought, but a way to tell a meaningful story. I recommend their music. (There's no swearing or inappropriate content, in case you were worried.)

And finally, while I'm musing on song lyrics (speaking of which my second favourite band, Muse, are great at the actual music and amazingly powerful and promising titles, but not so good at following through on the lyrics) there's a particular Christmas carol lyric which drives me potty.

It's from "Silent Night", that lovely Austrian carol. In the current LDS hymnbook, and many other English collections, the third line in the third verse reads, "Radiant beams from thy holy face". This is, in fact, incorrect. It's also rather bizarre, conjuring up laser-beams of light emerging from the infant's skin like torchlight through a colander. The original English words were "Radiant beams thy holy face", which makes far more sense and suggests the Christ-child's beautiful smile. (I'm very tempted to go round the church with a marker pen doctoring all the hymn books, because it really irks me every Christmas.)

Are there any song lyrics which particularly irritate you? Or conversely, any which you think are as good as any poem?

1 comment:

Stephanie Black said...

Thanks a lot, Anna. Now I won't be able to sing Silent Night without thinking of that :)

There was a song on a CD of my daughter's that had a line something like "questions rain down like thunder." Er . . . rain down like thunder?

And Christy Moore sings an Irish rebel song with the phrase, "I wish I was back home in Derry." Here's this sorrowing, angry Irish rebel heading for Botany Bay and I'm mentally correcting his grammar, thinking no, no, I wish I WERE back home in Derry . . .