Najia, have you ever made a post about your favourite song lyrics? i've been trying to find one from you but i can't seem to. if not, consider this me asking - i love how thoughtful your posts on music are, and i've always wondered about lyrics. x
thank you for asking!! I could talk about music all day & this is a wonderful question to get, especially from you <3
lyrics in music are hugely important to me, both as a listener & as a poet and lyricist myself. a song can have a very appealing sonic texture, but if the lyrics are bad enough 2 make me wince a bit then it’s really unlistenable to me. lyrics are the point of music (that has lyrics) 2 me personally, both in how I listen to music and in how I write / perform it–I’ll often consider how the instrumentation plays off of the lyrics, rather than the other way around. lyrics are a significant portion of what pulls me into a song, lyrics are a significant portion of what I fall in love with. (though I do also have a lot of opinions about music & sonic texture on its own accord, & don’t even get me started on the vocals.) to a large extent my favourite music artists = my favourite lyricists, without too many exceptions (though Emilie Autumn is my favourite music artist for quite a few reasons even though I don’t think she’s a particularly gifted writer in any medium). anyways here’s a list!
- Sarah Slean–probably my favourite lyricist & certainly the first one that I think of when I think about excellent lyrics. the fact that she’s also a poet is very apparent in her song writing. you can tell that she’s consciously exulting in what she can do with language, the moods and the textures that she can create (alongside and in concert with the texture of the instrumentation). I think that in general, something about the music means that lyrics have to be a lot less “good” than poetry in order to be considered acceptable–stock expressions & wasted words aren’t objected to as much–but her writing doesn’t sound as though her attitude is “well this only has to be good enough for lyrics.” the imagery is conscious & dense & lovely without often falling into the trap of being tortured or oversaturated. sentimentalism is well-balanced with humour–it takes itself seriously, but not to the point of mawkishness.
- When Another Midnight (You can’t stop the moaning of the Earth / And the midnight crackling of my nerves!)
- Drastic Measures (I’m like the trees in the midnight parks / Oozing danger, igniting sparks)
- New Pair of Eyes (everything’s tender again / the veil fell apart in my hands)
- Shannon Wright–a lot of her her lyrics read like surrealist poetry, but there are moments of simplicity, clarity, and deep emotion. she flouts grammatical conventions & logical relations on purpose, hitting on something that’s often highly ambiguous and yet very specific in its imagery, & always surprising & original.
- Less Than A Moment (Is this the vigor / A vast decay? / This ugly state / I shall not answer / This nausea / I delve to slay)
- The Helm Around Us (This wire, this mane, this coronet / You hold me against my will)
- Floor Pile (You let go of my hand and acted like we never touched / Like some harbour a ship never brushed)
- Amanda Palmer–Amanda does a lot that’s consciously clever with her lyrics, including puns, wordplay, double- and triple-entendres, turning the last word in one line into the first word of the next. emotion is balanced with humour, with camp, with sarcasm. she’s an artist & a lyricist who is incredibly well-rounded imo, & her lyrics strike me for their depth & emotion as much as for their playfulness & artfulness. also please don’t tell me everything that Amanda Palmer has done wrong in her life because chances are I already know
- Want It Back (BANG ringy ring and you think you’re gonna get some / -thing you can bring to a party at your wake / not thinking of the thing that you give back when you take it) [warning for nudity in the music video]
- Ampersand (i have wasted years of my life / agonizing about the fires / i started when i thought that to be strong you must be flame-retardant)
- The Mouse and the Model (nothing is certain at this time of day / you could reverberate, you could decay)
- Charlotte Martin–there is something decidedly playful about much of Charlotte’s songwriting & instrumentation, and also something decidedly underlyingly strong. her lyrics are powerful, vulnerable, and imaginative, and they flow beautifully.
- Volcano (Who said this was logical? Probably me / Thought I was methodical with my gripped gloves)
- Drip (Jawbone clenched / A little drip drip drench / Some more attention, honey / Put your hand on my hand)
- Veins (The catacombs / And revolving doors inside of my brain)
- Fiona Apple–what can I even say. Fiona’s lyrics are gorgeous. they’re ecstatic. they’re defiant. they’re maudlin. they’re wild. they’re absurd. they’re sweet. they’re heavily relatable. emotion is always primary in her songwriting, and her phrasing and imagery all flows back to that in simple but often very clever ways. her writing contends with fragility and comes out stronger for it. her rhyming is frequently inventive & original, which is always an absolute delight to me as there are only so many times that I can hear “fly” rhymed with “sky.”
- Extraordinary Machine (I’m good at being uncomfortable, so / I can’t stop changing all the time) [& also something that I wrote about this song’s lyrics]
- Not About Love (The early cars already are / Drawing deep breaths past my door / And last night’s phrases, sick with lack of basis / Are still writhing on my floor)
- Better Version of Me (I make a fuss about a little thing / The rhyme is losing to the riddling / Where’s the turn?)
- PJ Harvey–PJ Harvey is adept at delivering lines that are very syntactically and lexically simple and yet have huge emotional impact due to the implications that they have within the logic that she’s crafted for each song. the imagery is generally sparing but always cutting.