How much do lyrics matter to you?

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I pay more attention to the phrasing, vocal inflection or vocal lines - basically the way the voice is being used, than I do to the actual lyrical content.

Obviously there are some artists whose lyrics are everything (The Dylan's et al) and there are others that you could spend a lifetime not knowing the words and you're missing nothing (The Chili Peppers' et al). So definitely some more than others, but for the most part I don't rely solely on "the words" to set the mood.....musicians have been doing a great job of creating mood for a hell of a long time now.

I've played in original bands where I haven't had a clue exactly what the lyrics were until we recorded and I could hear the playback clearly. I've never felt like I'm missing something for not knowing every word sung. Obviously I want to be involved enough to capture the vibe of the song, but much like I don't need to know every chord a guitarist is playing, I don't need to know every lyric either.
 

Hercules

Senior Member
Do lyrics make a big difference to you guys as well?
Not in the slightest - much prefer instrumental music.

Frank Zappa said something similar but bowed to the audience's desire to hear lyrics - at least he made them funny and worthy comments on the fool things in life.....
 

Coldhardsteel

Gold Member
Lady Gaga isn't the kind of artist I would refer when talking about profound or especially skillfully written lyrics. Repetition to the point of becoming an ear worm is a sign of filler, which is a symptom of a lack of things to say, which is the exact opposite of having lyrics. If you have nothing to say, why are you talking at all?

System Of A Down, being my favorite band of all time, obviously grabs me with everything they do, and the lyrics are no exception. They're not repetitive to the point of annoying, they're sensible, some are intriguingly cryptic, and they almost always have a point behind them that I can actually think about, granted it takes a bit of thought by itself to decipher them.
 

theindian

Senior Member
System Of A Down, being my favorite band of all time, obviously grabs me with everything they do, and the lyrics are no exception. They're not repetitive to the point of annoying, they're sensible, some are intriguingly cryptic, and they almost always have a point behind them that I can actually think about, granted it takes a bit of thought by itself to decipher them.
Agreed, SOAD is great! Some songs are more straightforward and easy to understand (Prison Song, Attack, BYOB) and others seem really random but I wonder if they have a deeper meaning (Vicinity of Obscenity, Chic n Stu)?

Edit: just googled Vicinity of Obscenity, that should have been so obvious to me lol!
 

wsabol

Gold Member
Wow. I'm surprised to find so many of you are so into lyrics. I could not be more opposite. I believe lyrics can only detract from a song if they are written badly, but almost never really add to it. I can appreciate good lyrics and when I take the time to look them up and read them without singing them with the music, I rather enjoy deciphering a meaning, if any. However, I can sing along to a song perfectly and have absolutely no idea what its about, or what the guy is saying.

The lyrical meaning is unimportant to me. One of my favorite genres is native to Spain. I don't speak a lick of spanish, but I love the modes, melodies, and arrangements used in this genre; they are amazing. Lyrics are there, but it doesn't matter to me if they were singing about love, death, or Lindsay Lohan, I'd love the songs just the same.

For me, lyrics are just a string of syllables. Meaningful or meaningless, it is no object. I listen to melodies, harmonies, and how the words/syllables fit/sound together. But most importantly how the music feels.

Iconic singer song writers, like Bob Dylan, didn't get famous on their lyrics alone. Its the whole song writing package that they are famous for. Chordal structure, melody, arrangement... this is the real meat behind a song, then the lyrics fall on top for the people that care.

I love Bob Dylan. I love James Taylor, Carole King, Bob Marley, John Lennon, all these singer song writers. But I also like John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Frank Zappa, Rush, The Who, Dream Theater, etc etc. I not here to say instrumental music is better, just that its all the same to me. Its all music. The instruments and vocals are just a means to an ends: emotional expression.

Lyrics are the reason for the music not the other way around.
So, I'd have to disagree. Emotion/passion is the reason for the music, nothing else. It doesn't matter to me that John Coltrane was a tenor player. He could have been a crooner for all I care, but the emotion and feeling he expressed through his music would have still been there. Thats why hes an epic musician. By the same token, Bob Dylan could have been a famous artist or a jazz musician.. it doesn't matter because his storytelling ability and passion for emotional expression would still have been there inside him, and because of that he still would become the same iconic figure he is today.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Wow I'm officially flabbergasted.

Expounding ignorance of something as a good thing is just backwards in my book. John Coltrane doesn't fit in this discussion, there's no lyrics there.
This discussion obviously centers around music w/ lyrics, free jazz doesn't figure into it.
Lyrics can ONLY detract from a song? Surely this is a joke. I can't believe you mean that. (Dance music exempted) If you can sing along perfectly to a song without understanding it's meaning, why are you proud of that? That makes me think unflattering things about you. Lyrics are just a string of syllables? Smokey Robinson would take exception there, and so do I. Do you feel the same about The Bard? Dylan didn't get famous on his lyrics alone? What was it then? His looks? His voice? His playing?
A big part of feeling music is realizing and understanding what's being said so you can reflect that in your drumming. The drummer/vocalist connection is something that is very intimate. if you don't care what's being said, you can't possibly be playing the song as thoughtfully as you could be. As a vocalist, wouldn't you want your drummer to understand what you are trying to express? Think of it from THAT perspective. Totally discounting the drummer/vocalist connection...what a monumental oversight. I'm sorry but this is the kind of attitude that gives drummers a bad name.

Please don't take this personal, think of it like we're on a debate team. We definitely have opposite views, which is OK. I respect your opinions as yours, but definitely can't agree with them.
 
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Big Foot

Silver Member
So, is it WHAT is being sung? or HOW it is sung?

Here's my hang up w/lyrics; for example, as much as I love The Stones, The Who, Springsteen etc. I just can't get into a 60 year old singing about teen angst - time to move on guys. Not all the tunes are that but the ones that are, well come on.

On the other hand. I was driving home with my 13 yr old daughter the other day and I had a Cat Stevens playlist playing and it was just so cool. We usually talk alot in the car but we both just sat and listened. Without realizing it we were tuned into WHAT he was singing and HOW he sang and how his voice and the music captivated us.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
It's both. It's what is being said (not song, right?) AND how it's being said.
For instance, 2 exact lines, delivered differently will have different meanings.

As a drummer, I play to the meaning, not necessarily the words. You can't know the meaning if you don't listen and understand the words, and more importantly, the delivery.

This doesn't mean I play to every single word in a song. That's re-diculous. Like during a shuffle, you just have to keep the shuffle feel going. However, when the opportunity presents itself to decorate a lyric with some little, musically clever idea, I want to be Johnny on the spot with it.
 

Big Foot

Silver Member
It's both. It's what is being said (not song, right?) AND how it's being said.
For instance, 2 exact lines, delivered differently will have different meanings.

As a drummer, I play to the meaning, not necessarily the words. You can't know the meaning if you don't listen and understand the words, and more importantly, the delivery.

This doesn't mean I play to every single word in a song. That's re-diculous. Like during a shuffle, you just have to keep the shuffle feel going. However, when the opportunity presents itself to decorate a lyric with some little, musically clever idea, I want to be Johnny on the spot with it.
Ok, but the meaning isn't often important to me. My wife plays Italian pop tunes and I have very little idea what the heck they're sayin' but I enjoy it anyway. And Latin stuff sung in spanish - no clue - but it grooves and I can get into it.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
When you listen to a song, you don't have any responsibility. However when you are drumming for a song then I feel it's slacking if you don't know what thoughts are being conveyed. Why is this considered unimportant?
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Wow. I'm surprised to find so many of you are so into lyrics. I could not be more opposite. I believe lyrics can only detract from a song if they are written badly, but almost never really add to it. .
Well, I'm surprised anyone could feel the way you do. So I guess we balance out!

But if it wasn't for the lyrics, my CD collection would be a fraction of the size it is.

Don't get me wrong, I like some instrumental music, and I like many instrumental passages, and I have plenty of music that has bad/cheesy lyrics too, I even have some stuff that is not in English (i.e. the only language I understand), but good lyrics are the reason I got into so many bands I hold dear to my heart.

I can not fathom how anyone can NOT be into lyrics. It's incomprehensible to me.
 

Big Foot

Silver Member
When you listen to a song, you don't have any responsibility. However when you are drumming for a song then I feel it's slacking if you don't know what thoughts are being conveyed. Why is this considered unimportant?
I get what you're saying. But by unimportant, not the best word I suppose, but rather not essential would be better.
But, if I can't see, feel, and hear the emotion coming out of the singer, regardless of what he's saying, then I don't know how I'd play the song - but that's just me.

I've played w/french singers (being from Montreal) and I didn't always understand the lyrics but I always understood the emotion put across. Maybe that's what I get from being around Latin based languages such as, French and Italian, were the emotions are out on the table.
 

wsabol

Gold Member
Wow I'm officially flabbergasted.

Expounding ignorance of something as a good thing is just backwards in my book. John Coltrane doesn't fit in this discussion, there's no lyrics there.
This discussion obviously centers around music w/ lyrics, free jazz doesn't figure into it.
Lyrics can ONLY detract from a song? Surely this is a joke. I can't believe you mean that. (Dance music exempted) If you can sing along perfectly to a song without understanding it's meaning, why are you proud of that? That makes me think unflattering things about you. Lyrics are just a string of syllables? Smokey Robinson would take exception there, and so do I. Do you feel the same about The Bard? Dylan didn't get famous on his lyrics alone? What was it then? His looks? His voice? His playing?
A big part of feeling music is realizing and understanding what's being said so you can reflect that in your drumming. The drummer/vocalist connection is something that is very intimate. if you don't care what's being said, you can't possibly be playing the song as thoughtfully as you could be. As a vocalist, wouldn't you want your drummer to understand what you are trying to express? Think of it from THAT perspective. Totally discounting the drummer/vocalist connection...what a monumental oversight. I'm sorry but this is the kind of attitude that gives drummers a bad name.

Please don't take this personal, think of it like we're on a debate team. We definitely have opposite views, which is OK. I respect your opinions as yours, but definitely can't agree with them.
The reasons I brought Coltrane into the conversation center around the fact that learning drums, saxophone, how to sing, or how to write songs is just a means to an end. Great artists, whatever their discipline of art, are great for the soul reason that they connect in an emotional/personal way to their audience. However that happens is up to them.

I view vocals as just another instrument in the band. What they sing is simply a collection of notes and sounds, just like every other instrument. If they believe in what they are singing enough to make an emotional connection with me by how that belief comes through in their performance, I'm hooked. It doesn't matter to me what they are singing about. Thats why you hear the expression, ...sings so well they could sing the phone book.

Its the same reason why we like the relatively simple in the pocket amazing grooves of Steve Gadd and Steve Jordan. Its not what they are playing, but how they are playing it, how it fits with everything else. We could probably teach a monkey to play the same notes as Gadd. But I bet anybody would prefer the Gadd version over any alternative, because Gadd is engaged in the groove and pushing some raw emotion and attitude out in his playing. I'd listen to Gadd play warm up exercises. It doesn't matter cause it feels so good.

Same with vocalists, I'd rather listen to Ray Charles sing baby words, then listen to somebody sing a poem about love lost that someone else wrote, because there is an emotional element to everything Ray Charles does.

I understand that singing your own lyrics almost guarantees an passionate performance, because their an personal element to the lyrics and therefore a personal element to the singing. However, the best vocalists can make other people's lyrics, and more to the point, ANY lyrics, whatever the subject, feel good and engage the audience with an emotional element through their note choice and the way they sing.

And yes, just friendly debate.
 

chaymus

Senior Member
I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one! I don't hear a single word in most cases until I've listened to the song so many times that I can ignore what's happening with the music. The only exception is when the vocals are "melded" to the music as such that they contribute directly to the melody or structure... I sometimes hear that; my theory is that my brain is kinda hearing it as part of the music instead of a person saying something.
Spot on, I hear the vocals just fine in terms of a sound that contributes to the song but not easily as English with a message. It's like a stop sign for me, I don't read STOP every time I come up to one, I just know it changes behavior.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
As a drummer, I play to the meaning, not necessarily the words. You can't know the meaning if you don't listen and understand the words, and more importantly, the delivery.
As a drummer, I play to the mood. I don't necessairly need lyrics to determine the mood. I find music is just as capable of drawing emotion as a lyric.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Larry and DED, your thoughts on this comment I mad earlier?

90% of lyrics concern matters of the groin ... oh, they masquerade as something meaningful but it's ultimately about the joys of being compelled by base instinct to find or keep a mate whom one deems best suited to propagating one's genes.

Then there are the hard luck tales about "the one that got away". I find it impossible to care unless there's a special lilt in the vocalist's delivery lol



I truly don't care about these little slices of Mills & Boon. A small % of songs have inspiring or interesting lyrics. They seem to be present so the vocalist has something to form consonants around other than scooby dooby shooby doo sh-bop sh-bop.

I agree with wsabol and PFOG - it's the moods and feelings that inspire music. Many, many bands write the music first and add lyrics as an afterthought. Maybe if more lyrics were meaningful or interesting and if singers performed with half-decent diction I'd be more into it.

Barrio wornomeek latooyo alunybowie awennisiyownukid agowkannanees

Bleagh.
 

Fabo

Member
I think that the lyrics are extremely important. Especially when they are really close to the person that wrote them. If it is something as insignificant as whatever trend is taking place then it does seem to detract from the song, but when it is a common belief or something of great meaning to the writers I think it shows through the music because each of them are capable of projecting that experience into the music.

IMO, everyone is going to see this differently I guess. Depth in lyrics isn't necessarily significant in every genre since maybe certain topics or whatever would not flow well with certain music.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I wasn't a big lyrics guy ever and now I find myself listening more and realize just how much I missed previously. But Kudos to Larrys responce. Bravo.
 

theindian

Senior Member
I'm with Larry on this one. Don't get me wrong, I love instrumental music too though.
The musical link between the singer and the drummer is something we don't really discuss much.

Playing a supporting role is the main job, but drums can also add emphasis, interpretation, or counterpoint to the vocal as much as melodic instruments. Having an understanding of a songs lyrics greatly enables me to do so. For the most part I do this in my own original music as opposed to covers.

In my early years of playing I was so into the music that I could care less about the lyrics.
Over the years I have tried to look at the whole as a piece of art, as opposed to singular parts. When I started singing it made me start to think about lyrics, I wanted to make sure I was cool with what I was saying.

Even though there are a lot of crap songs out there, the good ones are memorable and well worth it.

Its the subtle things that make great music.

Does anyone else think about this or compose drum parts with the lyrics in mind at certain times?
 
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