How Important is a Lyric Anyway?!
November 21, 2011
Darren in Songwriting, Writing, content, lyrics, song, song writing

I am about to propose that lyrics are perhaps less important than one may first think. I’ll admit, I am playing devils advocate a little because we all know that lyrics are very important, but stick with me, I may have a point and it may throw up a nice debate!

The overwhelming majority of people will say that the lyrics are the most important part of a song. They’ll claim that the lyrics are the thing they like most about a given song, especially a ballad.

This afternoon I played devils advocate with my girlfriend who told me how she loves Stevie Wonders’ “Over Joyed”. I agree with her that the song is awesome, but I wanted to know why she likes the song so much. She told me that the lyrics are beautiful and explained that the lyrics are the primary reason she loves listening to the song.

I proposed that the lyrics play a tiny role in why she likes the song. I explained that if we took the lyrics and sung them in a grungy, upbeat punk way (which I know she dislikes) then the lyrics would carry no meaning and she would avoid listening to the song!

I went on to suggest that perhaps the vocal tune, chord progression and instrumentation were the key reasons why she likes the song, and that the lyrics were the “icing on the cake”.

From my own perspective, I know that there are many songs that have average lyrical content that I can listen to over and over, but I can think of no songs that I enjoy listening too which have great lyrics but a poor musical/melodic content!

An example of a song that has pretty basic lyrics but a great feel for example would be Lenny kravitz — Sugar” or Omar Lye-Fook — World Of You

I still haven’t opened my recording studio in Birmingham (UK) yet but we have plans on introducing a song writing workshop and networking group when we do. Topics like these are great for getting a discussion going and forcing writers to think more deeply about what makes a song attract and connect with listeners.

I must make my position known that I do believe lyrics are incredibly important. In fact, my “devils advocate” argument is somewhat invalid because we all know that a song is made from many parts and all those parts need to work in harmony. The greatest songs manage to have the best of all worlds, great lyrics, music and vocal melodies.

However, the fact remains (for me at least), I do prefer great music and vocal melodies over poor music and great lyrics. This leads me to conclude that the lyrical content is slightly less important than the music and vocal tune.

Is this conclusion controversial, short sighted or spot on? Let me know what you think and how you rank the overall importance of the lyric content in a song compared with other fundamental elements.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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