I love music. All kinds. I have favorites, of course, but I have been known to listen to some bluegrass and then turn around and listen to heavy metal. I love some types more than others. I can honestly say I’m not a huge fan of accordion music, although I saw a rock band last night whose lead singer played it. I admit that it put an interesting twist on it. I also am not thrilled with the really heavy metal that is mostly screaming, yet some days…it really seems appropriate. I’ve never understood people who are so anti-whole genres of music. Usually there’s some song or artist within an genre that is a draw for me and I certainly don’t love every artist or every song of a whole genre. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that people fall into different camps when it comes to listening to music: those who simply like the sound and pay little attention to actual lyrics and those who find the lyrics essential to the song overall. I’m in the second camp. I can hear a song that doesn’t necessarily grab me right away, but once I read the lyrics, it speaks to me differently. It’s as if the music itself makes more sense. Like the sound effects in movies–it enhances the story.
It really should be no surprise that lyrics draw me in. As I mentioned in a previous post, I love words. To me, songs are simply poetry set to music, and I even take that approach in classes I teach. I have my students bring in their favorite songs, and we read the lyrics as we would a poem. It’s always interesting to me and my students the different meanings we come up with when dissecting lyrics. I tell them that songs, especially, speak to us on an emotional level. Sometimes we put the meaning we want into what we hear. We personalize it to our own lives. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. As a writer myself, I love that. I want my poetry to be universal. Of course, I know the story behind what I’ve written; it has my own personal meaning. But I think all artists in every art form want their audience to be moved by the art, and the way to do that is to connect with people’s emotions.
The concert I went to last night was of one of my favorite bands, Stone Sour. While I love the sound, they’re a favorite mostly because I really appreciate the lyrics to their songs. So many of them tell stories, but not in a trite way. My description is intelligent rock music. I imagine some of their fan base need to consult a dictionary when looking up the lyrics. I had the opportunity to meet the band members (all amazingly gracious and down-to-earth guys off stage) and tell that to the lead singer, Corey Taylor. I won’t document his entire response which included some swearing, but in a nut shell, he thanked me. Apparently, it’s exactly their intent.
So today I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to hear a favorite band live and chat about such things as the importance of lyrics with the members, but even more thankful for music in general. I can’t imagine life without it.
I think you are right…some people hear only the sound and not the lyrics, and other people focus only on the lyrics. For me, it is best when they are both satisfying on their own yet enhance one another when they are together. (Sounds like a relationship between people, I know!)
Excellent observation, Paul!