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December 03, 2003


Dave Evans

Both are just as important...the tune prepares the mind and sets the stage for the lyrics. But I would have to agree that the lyrics are what holds it all together. When's the last time you got exicted about some instrumental piece?
You're taking steps that make you feel dizzy
Then you learn to like the way it feels.
You hurt yourself, you hurt your lover
Then you discover
What you thought was freedom is just greed.


Both in combination, and whether or not it has significant meaning in your life. A song that takes you back to a certain feeling (good or bad) or place, is hard to top as far as human emotions are concerned.

Come on baby, now throw me
a right to the chin
Don't you stare like
You never cared
I know you did
You just smiled
like a bank teller
blankly telling me
have a nice life

Ben Folds Five - Selfish, Cold, and Composed


I've been digging these lyrics a lot lately

Was it the end - the end that kept you up till the morning?
Was it the boy - the boy who stole your heart?
The summer goes on and then dies quick without much warning. All things ordinary.
Will you stay near my now? Don't leave this town until we've figured out,
Between the two of us, we're strong enough - I feel that in your touch.

- The Anniversary, "All Things Ordinary"


When she woke in the morning
She knew that her life had passed
her by
And she called out a warning
Don't ever let life pass you by

Warning-Incubus of the Morningview album


So, the question is, do the lyrics make the song, or does the song make the lyrics? Answer, it depends. Sometimes, we'll find a catchy tune while playing around, and add lyrics to fit with it, while other times, the lyrics come first and the music just backs it up. Compare Sarah Mclachlan's 'Adia' which obviously was lyrically inspired, to say, an R.E.M. song like 'Seven Chinese Brothers', which was actually re-recorded with a completely different set of lyrics on another album. So, you've got your music-as-music category, as well as your music-as-poetry as well. Nonetheless, it's pretty consistent that if you can't stand the tune, you're probably never going to give the lyrics a chance to have any meaning. By the same token, the tune can drastically change the tone of the lyrics. Take a local rock band, Five-Eight, for example: An entire album was dedicated to the suffering of the writer's friend who was diagnosed with cancer, yet some of the songs seem remarkably upbeat despite the use of arguably depressing lyrics. At this point, it almost becomes a paradox of lyrics versus tune, sort of taking depression and celebrating it. Several of their 'most-rockin' songs are titled 'Depressed all the time', 'Behead Myself', 'Never Look in My Eyes', etc. Examples like this lead me to the conclusion that the tune becomes more important than the lyrics themselves, as it can actually completely change the emotion the song evokes.


"I love you like a fat kid loves cake."

Short and sweet. I mean, come on, what else would a fat kid love?!


It has to be the lyrics. You can always set good lyrics to a better tune; it's much, much harder to set new lyrics to a great tune. Most people who do that end up writing hymns.

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