what happened to all the lyricists?

lyricism is dead.

or on its way out, anyway.

i thought about this last night while actually trying to write some lyrics (for a section of a book, though, not for an actual song) and struggled with getting out what i wanted to. i found myself falling into rhythmical and lyrical traps beat into my brain by the mainstream pop-wielding music industry. so i deleted everything i had and found a work-around until more inspired words strike my brain.

lyric writing has never been my strongest suit, not even back in college when i lived with a bunch of great musicians and was picking up tricks and tips from them. it’s hard, and i have a lot of respect for those who can do it well.

i think that’s why i actually enjoy (some) rap music. in my opinion, there’s much better lyric writing going on in your average rap/hip-hop song than any pop song. the grammar and spelling might not be great, but that’s beside the point. Tupac Shakur’s poetry is actually really, really good if you take the time to check it out.

songwriting is a tricky animal. either you make the lyrics all-important like in most folk music, at the risk of sacrificing a catchy tune people will actually hold on to and remember, or you sacrifice lyric quality to fit into a prearranged melody that meets all of the standards for a catchy song, like in most pop and rock music.

there are still good lyricists out there, i know there are. T Bone Burnett is one of them, Paul Hewson another, and Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam another one. but all in all, i see lyricism fading more and more in the world of music – which makes me sad.

not only are the words not as powerful or thought-provoking, but the messages they deliver are shallow and contrived, lacking in any real human substance. this is why i rarely listen to the radio.

i’m old-fashioned in that i still buy CDs. i figure that is a musical artist isn’t good enough to produce a whole album of mostly-good lyrics, then they’re not worth spending my money on.

so to those of you out there churning out the good lyrics, keep it up, and please – please take over the world. of music, that is.


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