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Nonsense lyrics?


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There was a recent topic about whether music or lyrics matter more. I think the success of Train's "Drops of Jupiter" and "am I standing still?" (sounds to me like Jewel) prove that the general public loves catchy music and doesn't care if the words literally make no sense. I've been a science and astronomy enthusiast since my youth. The idea of the metaphor for "Drops of Jupiter" (she's so far out exploring herself that she might as well be in outer space) is clever, but I'm put off by the failure to make the metaphor work. Would anyone who hadn't been to the midwest be so inept as to write a song comparing a love to Chicago, with its beautiful mountains and volcanic beaches? Why not spend an hour online or at a bookstore or library to actually learn something about the beauty of the planets before writing equally inane words about outer space? Besides being incredibly repetitive, "Am I standing still" also asks a question that makes no sense: "Was that you I saw pass me by, out of the corner of me eye?" makes OK sense, but then "*OR* am I standing still?" makes No sense: is she wondering whether she saw "you", or whether the apparent motion is deceptive because she's actually not moving? Hearing that song (and I hear it a LOT, the local gym's music service has it on heavy rotation: once every 10 minutes) makes me think of my high school English teacher explaining that a "glittering generality" has no subtance supporting it. The polished arrangements and production, especially the strings on "Drops of Jupiter", are first-rate, but am I only one who thinks the exceptionally weak lyrics make these songs come across as gilding a turd?
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Lyrics are a matter of taste...and surely some lyricists should have their poetic licenses revoked :D ... But seriously...listen to some of Jon Anderson's (Yes) lyrics. They make little sense, but, are lyrics really required to? I mean, would you rather hear someone depict a beautiful sunset in terms of pastel hues, and metaphors of which said hues remind the lyricist, or Rayleigh scattering equations of photons passing through atmospheric gases, etc...? The power of a thunderstorm and the menacing black roll cloud, or equations of atmospheric stability...vertical motion, etc...??? If someone chose to paint a picture of the Sears Tower in the middle of the Rockies it would be considered abstract or surrealistic...but certainly some realists would question the artist's sanity. No rights or wrongs, only personal taste... :D In my humble opinion, lyrics are painting a picture with words. It can be realistic or abstract...either way is valid.
"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Hey, Jewel is a poet so her words must be good. (excuse me while I throw up) I don't mind nonsense lyrics but when people start taking them seriously that's when I have a problem. I've never really liked Jewel so maybe I'm biased but personally I think that both Jewel and Alanis need to go back to grade 8 English class ... and pass the course this time. And for chrissake stop yer whining ladies! -- Rob
I have the mind of a criminal genius.....I keep it in the freezer next to mother.
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Tedster....you're the man....Jon Anderson is exactly the person I was gonna site as an example of lyrics which are vague at best but complement the music as an additional instrument. This was very prevalent in the earlier YES pieces were he has said a number of times that his voice was intentionally sung for that purpose but that only he knew of the true meaning behind the words. So, i'm not sure if it's really relative whether the listener derives meaning from lyrics if the end result; i.e the product, forms a positive image which is palatable to the ear.
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[quote]Originally posted by Dwarf: [b]Hey, Jewel is a poet so her words must be good. (excuse me while I throw up) I don't mind nonsense lyrics but when people start taking them seriously that's when I have a problem. I've never really liked Jewel so maybe I'm biased but personally I think that both Jewel and Alanis need to go back to grade 8 English class ... and pass the course this time. And for chrissake stop yer whining ladies! -- Rob[/b][/quote]I agree 100%...it's when these writers start to tout themselves as deep word wizards and actually believe it that it just becomes totally distasteful. I've had people tell me my lyrics move them...it's always in a different way than intended...a lot of my lyrics don't make any sense literally but somehow a point gets across. I don't even go as far as calling my self a lyricist let alone a poet...I put some words to the music I make, if I'm lucky they work. I'm mostly afraid they won't so I have a real hard time writing these days...I was more confident when I was a really young punk. I could care less if lyrics make sense as long as they paint some kind of picture...Jon Anderson's lyrics did that for me.
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A few thoughts... I have liked some of Jewel's lyrics. Sometimes even a line will touch you (not just Jewel's stuff, but anybody's). I don't think she is a great lyricist, but she has her moments. It also seems that it's the reviewers or the press corps that starts to say that the artist is "deep", not necessarily the artist. Like you, I get sick of the hype. And lastly, there are so many nonsense or semi-sense lyrics that [i]make[/i] the song. Love some of that ole psychedelic stuff. How about Hello Goodbye by those 4 British dudes... Tom

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Jewel? Jewel Ono? Never heard of her. Seriously though.... I've heard that "Standing Still" song a few times and every time it gets to the chorus, I think "Wow! This'd be a GREAT theme song for some must-see-T.V, piece of crap sitcom." Interesting, though, that while she's "standing still", I find myself quickly put in to motion to change the station.... as if I'd find something better elsewhere. I keep hoping. :) I am a Phat Platter "Fatty Issue"
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Mairzy doats and doezy doats And little lambsy-divey A kiddly divey doo Wooden shoe... (or whatever) "WHOOOAAAAA....DUUUUUUUDE...that's DEEEEP, MAN"... Boom shaka laka laka boom shaka laka laka... Some of the psychedelic stuff was the best, man... Listen to a song called "It's a Happening" by the Magic Mushrooms. It can be found on "Nuggets: Original Artyfacts of the Psychedelic '60s Vol. I" If you can listen with a straight face, it's a miracle. I personally like Jewel's song. Jewel's not too hard on the eyes either (Butthead voice: "He said 'hard-on'...heh...heheheh...heheheheh").
"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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I think the difference between Jon Anderson and Jewel is that Anderson accomplished his goal of epic word paintings that were never intended to be taken for a narrative. Another fine example of that kind of lyric is the Lyle Lovett/Robert Earle Keene gem "This Old Porch" which will put you smack dab in the middle of rural Texas without ever being "about" anything. The undisputed master of a similar genre of lyric writing is Paul McCartney who is more of the Gertrude Stein school of words for their sound as opposed to their meaning. Unfortunately for Jewel,Alanis,& Train,much of the time it sounds like we're hearing(at best)the second draft of their lyrics. They suffer from insufficient editing, rewriting,and a cogent understanding of what they're trying to say and how they want to say it. In other words they weren't trying to write nonsense...they just did. later, Mike
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mdpetrick, maybe the song already is the theme to a hit TV show we're both missing because that's when we have band practice. Tedster, I forget which member of Yes was interviewed about Jon Anderson's lyrics: "Do you understand what you're singing with songs he wrote?" The answer: "Don't worry about me, you should wonder if *jon* understands what he's singing about!" :-)
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Actually, Tedster, it's: 'Mares eat oats, and Does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.' So there. Eggman. ***** All this talk about lyrics and bashing Train on that one song seems just a bit overboard, as if the pirates haven't had a good looting and pillaging for a long while. Good Christ, people, the Train lyrics aren't THAT bad. There's an assload of different ways to sing about being dumped, about heartache, and 'Drops' is just one of them. Let up on 'em, already.
I've upped my standards; now, up yours.
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[quote]Originally posted by offramp@earthlink.net: [b]...the Train lyrics aren't THAT bad........ Let up on 'em, already.[/b][/quote]Will not. :D Actually,I'm a fan of theirs. They were by far the most entertaining and enjoyable act at the 3-day Riverstages music festival in Nashville last summer. Their singer is Mr. Personality. He connects with the audience in every way. They even did a dead-on cover of "Ramble On" that was better than I ever heard Zep do it. I also like both Jewel and Alanis. In fact,I have voted for all of these artists with my checkbook and not regretted it. The fact that I am critical of some of their lyrics is not bashing. It was instead being,errhh.....discriminating. I don't like [i]all[/i] of Lyle Lovett's lyrics and I don't listen to Yes for the lyrics. I do however listen to Jackson Browne, Jesse Winchester,Bob Dylan,Joni Mitchell, Lowell George,James Taylor,Nanci Griffith,Robert Earle Keene, Sheryl Crowe,& yes Lyle Lovett with an ear towards their lyric treatment. To ignore or deny the fact that other artists (even ones I like)don't rise to this level of lyric excellence would be to deny that it exists. later, Mike
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[quote]Originally posted by offramp@earthlink.net: [b]Actually, Tedster, it's: 'Mares eat oats, and Does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.' So there. Eggman. [/b][/quote]I am the eggman. They are the eggmen. I am the walrus...goo goo gajoob... Now [i]there[/i] are some nonsense lyrics. Lennon was heavily into the Lewis Carroll thing then. And what about Carroll...? "Twas brillig and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe"... I think everyone whoever took a high school or college composition class had to dissect that one and analyze..."What did Carroll mean by 'brillig' etc..."??
"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Offramp, I enjoy the other Train singles (haven't heard the whole album yet), and I did compliment the cool music. Not sure who else you've seen bashing the lyrics, but this is my only complaint about 'em. The thing is, "Drops" is so vague that you think it's about being dumped, and I think it's about relief that she came back and *didn't* dump him. For comparison: "And if I built this fortress around your heart, encircled you in trenches and barbed wire, then let me build a bridge - for I cannot fill this chasm - and let me set the battlements on fire." "If you love me in the light, love me in the shoadow; I'm afraid you must assume it's a house of many rooms. It's a house that's so unstable there are those who recommend, if they'd the strength and they were able, it ought to be condemned. I don't agree but I will warn you, at best you must assume I live in a house of many rooms." "If these walls could speak, they would tell you that I owe you more than I could ever pay. Here's someone who really loves you. Don't ever go away. That's what these walls would say." "I don't believe in destiny, or the guiding hand of fate. I don't believe in forever, but love has a mystical state. I don't believe in the stars or the planets, or angels watching from above. But I believe there's a ghost of a chance we can find someone to love, and make it last." While sipping your best soy latte, is there the slightest doubt exactly what these songs are expressing about love in consistent, clearly written metaphors? Fact is, any high school English teacher would've given the Train lyrics a C- as poetry, and any of the above would be A material.
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Rappers are responsible for some dreadful lyrics. For example: [i]Bitch niggaz better smarten up before I bring out the toast and touch you up Fuckin wit Ja you know you got allot of luck but nowa days you ain't gettin out as much what the fuck iz up baby boy you scared or what I Swiss nothin but the hot shit So I hear you wanna pop shit you don't know who you Fuckin wit let me show how lifes a Bitch I went through drug money hustlin every day to get a taste Through gun or blood money Killin niggaz back then for a small face[/i]
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The Beatles' "Come Together" and "Lucy In The Sky" have cool lyrics. Nto to mention "Across The Universe". Some of the Steely Dan stuff is pretty opaque. Suggestive, but you've really got to stretch your imagination to arrive at any sort of point.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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I enjoy clever lyrics or even attempts at clever lyrics. Mike Stype does a good jod, as does Gord from the Tragically hip. For me, i think i will follow the weird stuff to a certain point and try to understand it but since i really don't care what they are saying i give up at the first ligit oppurtunity. I agree with the post above,It is quite dissapointing when your knowlege of something goes way beyond the lyricists and they let you down.It's sort of the trouble with growing older. The beaty of the above mentioned lyricists is that they are very smart, for one, and the words they use are colorful, and they put words together in what i consider are artistic ways and just listening to them go by is a pleasure. That is just as important and as making sense to me, in fact ,i would choose the more important option on that one. :)
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I like the Train song. I don't care what it means - it's catchy as hell and I sing along to it in my car. That's what matters, right? I remember some other catchy nonsense stuff that Duran Duran did back around Rio. Catchy stuff - the lyrics were just another line of music. They were another groove, another hook. Anyways, I thought people who wanted lyrics with meaning listened to Country. :D
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Felix, you're right! And that was my point: well written MUSIC, with a great performance that's engineered with craftsmanship, matters so much more than awesome lyrics at getting a hit. (I sing along with the other songs I mentioned in my car, however.) To be fair, I have to admit that "Drops" has lyrics heads and shoulders above these: "Unskinny bop, bop, bop just blows me away." "Gimme just one more night, one more night, one more night, coz I haven't repeated the hook enough times yet." "I wanna rock with you all night, dance until the sunlight, rock wit'you all night, dance the night away." "We're right - yeah! We're free - yeah! We'll fight - yeah! You'll see - Yeah! We're not gonna take it anymore!"
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