How much do lyrics matter to you?

DrumEatDrum

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
But see, those generally aren't the type of lyrics I listen to (with a few exceptions).

And that is where my comment lyrics can make or break a band IMHO comes from.
Dumb lyrics often mean I won't bother buying it.

For example, Rush has maybe 2 "love"songs in their entire catalog. Metallica? None.
 

Skulmoski

Gold Member
My wife loves to listen to singer song writers - a solo artist with a guitar; that's it. She loves the poetry involved in a good turned phrase.

Me, I don't listen to the lyrics. I listen to the drums and bass mostly, then other melody contributing instrumentation. I hear the lyrics, but don't fully absorb the words.

The exception to this seems to be Frank Zappa's lyrics. How can you not sit back and listen to the lyrics of "Truck Driver Divorce" or "Ms Pinky" or "Bobby Brown".

GJS
 

shadowlorde

Senior Member
i care more about the melody and range of the singer than the words they spew. if I really like the melody and listen to it enough i'll figure out the lyrics
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
But see, those generally aren't the type of lyrics I listen to (with a few exceptions).

And that is where my comment lyrics can make or break a band IMHO comes from.
Dumb lyrics often mean I won't bother buying it.

For example, Rush has maybe 2 "love"songs in their entire catalog. Metallica? None.
Whether I forgive dumb lyrics depends. It's okay with me if I really like the music. Prog bands were notorious for gauche, silly lyrics. Never worked out any Rush lyrics - can't make out the words :)
 

tml_fan_5@hotmail.com

Senior Member
The main reason i could not take Frank Zappa seriously was because of his lyrics. I do have some friends who are really into Zappa so I have been trying to get into him, but like i said, its hard for me. I would say lyrics are very important, from clever phrases thrown into Beatles songs, to the non-sensical poetic lyrics of Yes. Lyrics can be used to tell a story, make a piont, promote a cause, or they can be used to change your mood or pattern of thinking.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
To answer your question Pol, about 90% of lyrics having to do with matters of the groin, and that basically they don't hold any interest for you, I'm not sure how to respond. A little disappointed, like many of the responses here dissing lyrics. Yes you don't have to know the lyrics to craft a good drum part, you can go by the mood. I happen to think we can do better than that by matching the mood with the lyric. They aren't always in line w/ each other. You can definitely make a mood, but does it match the lyric? Like your "On Broadway" song, I felt it was too happy for the lyric. (JMO) You explained why you did it that way and I get that, but that doesn't change what I prefer to hear there.

I will concede that in a large percentage of songs, you really can't play to the lyrics much, for one reason or another. But there are enough songs out there where the lyrics are conveying a real message, or telling a great story, or verbalizing some kind of shared human emotion that you can really decorate as a drummer if you are understanding what's being said.

And if you don't listen to lyrics because a large percentage of songs you can't really play to them for one reason or another, when you do get a chance to really get inside a great lyric, you may blow it off out of habit. You can never convince me being less sensitive to a vital part of the song is a good thing.

The screamo death metal lyrics...I'm sorry but I can't decipher that stuff, the drumming can't be particularly sensitive to the lyrics in most songs in that genre IMO. That wouldn't work well anyway, metal drumming, to me, is supposed to be very aggressive and not sensitive (except perhaps in the slower power ballad type stuff).
So when Shadowlorde commented on how the singer "spews" words, initially I was a little let down that another drummer writes the lyrics off as not important...but then I remembered that his genre is metal. Metal has it's own rules it seems and my defense of lyrics doesn't really mean much to a metal drummer, because the drumming is so physically intense, and is largely disconnected from the singer. This is just my limited view of metal, I don't play or listen to it, so forgive me if I painted w/ too broad a stroke.

But for Blues, Motown, Rock, R&B, Country, Pop, Ballads and many other genres where the lyrics can be extremely important, that's where knowing the lyrics can make you a more "in tune" and thoughtful drummer/musician. This is the type of music I play so naturally I'm very lyric oriented.

The singer/drummer connection....Indian is right, it's not discussed nearly enough. It's part of our job description. Nothing pleases a singer like a drummer who is hanging on every syllable, and playing appropriately to them.

My advise to everyone is know your lyrics. Understand what emotions are being conveyed by the singer. Help the singer achieve their goals by being as one with the them. It can only help you play the song better, and it's not hard work, to read through a lyric sheet, or simply listen closely. You might even say...Huh...I never realized that the lyrics were so poignant! (or cool, or whatever)

OK I'll stop harping now.
 

worlds_first_drummist

Junior Member
I like lyrics that present the story well. It's true that poorly-written lyrics can depreciate a song's value. If part of a song is so badly written that I don't like the song as a whole, then I can't play my part in it.

As a drummer, the vocals are just as important to the song as any other instrument. I try to play in a manner that complements everyone else in the band. At times in the song, I may need to change my playing to emphasize/accent what's being sung and it's easier to do that when a singer conveys his/her ideas succinctly with good lyrics.

It's even better with wit, plays on words, hyperbole, et al.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Larry, don't be disappointed ... awwww :)

Just think about how many lyrics basically say "get up and dance", "I wanna get nasty with you", "boo hoo you left me" etc. They hit the spot if you are in that dancing / bonking / maudlin frame of mind at the time but to me it seems so formulaic at times, like a production line rather than a real slice of the human condition. Still, if the music is cool and - as you say - complementary to the vocal delivery and lyrics then it really can work, triteness and all.

This doesn't take away the well-made points you made about our relationship with the lyrics. Words are an element of a song like any other and when you're playing it's only logical to be aware of what's going on. It's like not being aware of the keyboardist or sax player - if you're not tuned in then you might miss the opportunity to really make things work great or you might play something that clashes.

Funny thing, working with lyrics. We play Wild Is the Wind and it's an example of a lurve song that's more poetic and evocative than trite.

Nina Simone version (jazzy and ambient - very late night jazz club scene) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiVDzTT4CbE

David Bowie version (more upbeat and dramatic) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiVDzTT4CbE

There's a part that goes "I hear the sound of mandolins" and, as a Zappa fan, I have a desperate urge to hear the pinking of a mandolin at that spot lol. Of course that's idiotic ... the idea is that the protagonist's lover's touch puts him/her into a wild reverie. So the theme here is intensity and abandon ... so I did a little dramatic roll :)

I dunno. It's tricky at times. At times it feels like it's best to play nothing at all and wait to see what compels you. If I do anything that's not quite right Glenn is pretty quick to let me know! That helps a lot.

Having said that, I'll be buggered if I can make out enough lyrics of many songs to understand the meaning and, as I say, when I eventually find out the words it's often an anti-climax. But it's been a looong time since I hung out at a bar, hoping to be picked up so that discounts me from relating to a lot of lyrics.
 

chuppo

Junior Member
Depends on the song, The Kids Aren't Alright is a good example of song where I can really relate to the lyrics and that gets me more interested in the song. A good example of music where I don't think about the lyrics too much would be the Scream Bloody Gore album, I'm not really interested in thinking about rotting corpses.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I dunno the general consensus here seems to be that, at best, the lyrics are equal to the other elements of a song. Again, I feel that the lyric is the reason for the song and that the music is there to support the lyric. Even if the lyrics were thought of after the music was recorded. So I put the lyrics easily as the most important element of the song. If you were the singer, you would likely agree. The lyric defines what emotion the song is trying to tap in too. Again, dance song lyrics like "give it to me baby baby" isn't what I'm referring to.

I said I'd stop harping and I didn't, I apologize.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Larry, don't be disappointed ... awwww :)

Just think about how many lyrics basically say "get up and dance", "I wanna get nasty with you", "boo hoo you left me" etc. They hit the spot if you are in that dancing / bonking / maudlin frame of mind at the time but to me it seems so formulaic at times, like a production line rather than a real slice of the human condition.
That's a broad stereo type there though.

Just because there are a lot of bad lyrics out there in dumb pop songs doesn't mean all lyrics are that way. Much like the "Rant on today's pop music" thread, you can't paint all music with such a broad stroke just because you have a lot of examples of crap.

There certainly are some bands that I just do not understand why they are so popular because every song does seem to be about the groin, but whatever, there are a lot of other bands out there that don't bog themselves down with such limited subject matter.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I dunno the general consensus here seems to be that, at best, the lyrics are equal to the other elements of a song. Again, I feel that the lyric is the reason for the song and that the music is there to support the lyric. Even if the lyrics were thought of after the music was recorded. So I put the lyrics easily as the most important element of the song. If you were the singer, you would likely agree. The lyric defines what emotion the song is trying to tap in too. Again, dance song lyrics like "give it to me baby baby" isn't what I'm referring to.

I said I'd stop harping and I didn't, I apologize.
Keep harping, Larry. It's a good debate :)

Thing is, a pretty high percentage of songs are written music first with the lyrics as an afterthought. It totally depends on both genre and modus operandi of the performers. I saw a Leonard Cohen concert play last year - now there the lyrics are paramount. This year I saw Grace Jones - in that gig the music, er ... no ... Grace was paramount :)

Let's take Led Zep, one of the most popular bands ever. I'd say the lyrics took a back seat to other elements. How about The Beatles? There I'd say it depended on the song - sometimes the lyrics were the biggest thing, like Eleanor Rigby but in other tracks like Helter Skelter, Come Together and A Day in the Life the lyrics were just one element.


That's a broad stereo type there though.

Just because there are a lot of bad lyrics out there in dumb pop songs doesn't mean all lyrics are that way. Much like the "Rant on today's pop music" thread, you can't paint all music with such a broad stroke just because you have a lot of examples of crap.

There certainly are some bands that I just do not understand why they are so popular because every song does seem to be about the groin, but whatever, there are a lot of other bands out there that don't bog themselves down with such limited subject matter.
DED, I said "many songs", not "all songs". Bear in mind, boy-meets-girl isn't the only way a lyric can be pretty ordinary. What about the Tolkien fad amongst prog groups in the 70s? Those words were like wallpaper. There's also a lot of very unsophisticated lay philosophy in lyrics. A lot of heavy rock lyrics are hilarious is their naivete and goofiness.

In the end, if the singer is garbling and mumbling the words then the issue is moot. There are tons of songs I enjoy where I'll be damned if I can make out what the singer is carrying on about!
 

Homeularis

Gold Member
Not huge on lyrics, although some of the really well written ones stand out.

I'm more of a groove and hook kinda dude.
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
There's also a lot of very unsophisticated lay philosophy in lyrics.
So that's what one of those philosophy degrees is for! I hate these amateur philosophers, I will listen to Philosophy Union members only! No logical thought allowed without a PU photocard ID, you may only say and think things you heard from other people!

When I first read this thread, I seem to recall I was listening to a song I had written called 'Dustbin'.
The lyrics are of paramount importance, for example:

"Don't need no bicycle
Don't need no sleigh
I just want a dustbin to ride in all day
I roll round and round
Down the motorway
I do not care what the police say"
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
So that's what one of those philosophy degrees is for! I hate these amateur philosophers, I will listen to Philosophy Union members only! No logical thought allowed without a PU photocard ID, you may only say and think things you heard from other people!

When I first read this thread, I seem to recall I was listening to a song I had written called 'Dustbin'.
The lyrics are of paramount importance, for example:

"Don't need no bicycle
Don't need no sleigh
I just want a dustbin to ride in all day
I roll round and round
Down the motorway
I do not care what the police say"
Sweet child in time you'll see the line
The line that's drawn between the good and the bad
See the blind man shooting at the world
Bullets flying taking toll
If you've been bad, Ooh Lord I bet you have
And you've not been hit by flying lead
You'd better close your eyes and Oooh bow your head
And wait for the ricochet

:)
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
That's just a series of confusing metaphors. I think that's the main problem with a lot of lyrics, they're either annoyingly direct and lacking in depth ("she's so loverly") or obfuscatory and confusing.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Agree.

It seems to me that if you've been bad then the blind man will start spray shooting and you have to duck ... and that was Ian Gillan's finest moment lol ... actually, I always enjoyed the song even if the lyrics are attempting to be vaguely philosophical, emphasis on "vaguely".

How about The Stones's Jumpin Jack Flash?

A wa bow
Onna crossfire herigain
Anna how
Onna mow anna drivin rain.

But it rocks!

Took me a while to know what he was on about, let alone working out why Jimi was excusing himself to "kiss this guy". With all the mondegreens around, there's a minority of songs that speak to me lyrically.
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
I guess the human voice, like other instruments, can express emotions even if you can't hear the words. This is true even if you're just having a conversation with someone. Words are only half of it, if that.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I think you just hit the nail on the head there. I don't see any formula. There are definitely times when the words used are vitally important and other times when the general impression matters most. Again, that goes for both music and talking.

I think speed of thought and perception make a big difference. For example, my nephew will play me a hip hop thing and I barely understand a single line and he picks it all up.

I struggle with a lot of modern movies too (all that mumbling for the sake of realism - I needed subtitles for Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz role in Apocalypse Now) ... maybe part of it is I'm just not good at picking up mumbly Americanese, yet much of the art played here is from the US. Also, all those in-house references lose me too.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
DED, I said "many songs", not "all songs". Bear in mind, boy-meets-girl isn't the only way a lyric can be pretty ordinary. What about the Tolkien fad amongst prog groups in the 70s? Those words were like wallpaper. There's also a lot of very unsophisticated lay philosophy in lyrics. A lot of heavy rock lyrics are hilarious is their naivete and goofiness.
Oohh....I do really really dislike Dungeon & Drangons and Lord of the Rings inspired lyrics.

I dig the concept of symphonic-metal, but so many of those bands turn me off because the lyrics are just stupid.
 
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