Jan 26, 2009

"This song is about..." Hold on , shut up!

As a fledging lyricist, I know that behind every lyric I write there is a special meaning. Whether the lyric deals with world hunger, American obesity, love, or heartbreak. That's the point of writing a song, conveying a meaning behind a specific thought, or maybe just trying to tell a story and doing it in a creative way. No matter how important or trivial the thought behind my lyric is, that thought can be interpreted in many different ways by the end listener.

For me, self-interpretation of song lyrics is one of the most interesting aspects of listening to other people's music. I get to put myself behind the words and in the shoes of the writer, imagining myself in countless situations that I've never encountered or reminding myself of all the hard or great times I've had throughout my life.

When I'm on the writing side, that special meaning is something that I usually like to keep to myself. I like leaving it open for people to make an interpretation of what I was trying to convey without having their ideas destroyed by another meaning, though important to me, but completely different from what might have been imagined by them.

For the most part, I like to let my songs speak for themselves. If I really need to sit there and explain the song in complete detail, did I really do my job? Probably not. If a person can't find a single thing that they can use from their experience to relate the song to themselves or something they feel strongly about, in my mind I failed.

I know not all artists are going to have the view point that is close to mine. I know their are a lot of songwriters out there that will tell you what the song is all about every time they play it. To them, it seems like it's just as important for them to explain what the song is about then for them to perform it.

But to be honest, 90% of the time I just don't want to hear it. If I wanted to hear the details of what a song was about I'd watch VH1's Storytellers or I'd seriously listen to the song and get the meaning that's important to me. When I'm standing there at a show and a lead singer insists on reading the novel that's he has carefully crafted to explain the meaning behind each song I just want to yell, "Shut up! Play the song already!"

There's nothing worse than falling in love with a song because of the personal meaning that is has for me and having it tainted by knowing that it's about the writer's love of pork. After that, that's all I can think about when I hear the words that before tugged the strings of my heart and had me floating in some dreamland that I couldn't quite capture on my own. It may not ruin the song, but it will forever be different in my mind.

I think I'm being picky. Way too picky. Or irrational. Whatever the word is, it sounds kind of stupid as I read back and think of my reasoning but it's just one of those things that's always bugged me and probably always will. It's also why you'll rarely get an explanation of what one of my songs is all about. There's the rare exception like my post "In The Mood For A Climate Change" back in November '08. But if you expect me to divulge, be ready to let me know what you think the song is about first or my lips are sealed, my friend.


Freeallcards said...

My partner is a composer, too. I've always used to think musicians can just write songs in the wink of an eye. I was wrong. :P

More power!

Frye said...

I'm sure there are plenty of professional songwriters that can whip out songs like they're nothing, I'm just not one of them at this point in my career. :-)

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