Saturday, March 13, 2010

Notes on Poetry and Lyrics

Poetry and lyrics... they have much in common, but there are also important differences between the two. Most of it stems from differences in delivery. Poetry must appeal to a reader while musical lyrics have to appeal to a listener. Some of the best rock songs have lyrics that are too simplistic to stand on their own as poems, but when these same words are sang by a talented vocalist in a musical framework, the impact and meaning of these same simple words can be greatly amplified. As an art form, music structures time, sculpting it into an expressive statement.

So the lyrics of great songs can fall along a broad continuum of poetic merit. Lyrics can sometimes can stand on their own as poetry but does not always mean that the more poetic the lyrics, the better the song. It's like comparing apples to oranges. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Mick Jagger said, “Bob Dylan one said, 'I could have written Satisfaction, but you couldn't have written Tambourine Man.' It's true, but I'd like to hear Bob Dylan sing, 'I can't get no satisfaction.'”

Compare the two songs... Satisfaction and Tambourine Man. Both are great songs, but Tambourine Man works better independently as poetry. But does that matter if the intent is to use words as lyrics? Artists like Mick Jagger understand that music can transform simple phrases into powerful anthems.

1 comment:

  1. Totally true! Some of the best songs would never stand alone as pure poetry...


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