Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Pub Plan and a Poll

I mentioned below that Betsy and I would be hosting a Kidlit Drink Night in conjunction with BEA, and those plans are now in place: Friday, May 29, starting at 8 p.m. at the Houndstooth Pub at 8th Ave. and 37th St. Come one, come all!

And a poll: On Friday, a friend and I fell into a conversation about song lyrics. My friend remarked that while she might fall in love with a tune, she never really pays attention to song lyrics. But for me the two are inextricably linked: I hardly ever remember melodies without words; I have to really pay attention to instrumental-only music in order to have some reaction to it; my favorite songs ("They Can't Take That Away from Me," "North Dakota," "I Love Every Little Thing About You," "The Babysitter's Here," "You Must Meet My Wife") all have genius lyrics as well; and I carry a stupid number of words set to music in my head -- especially pop songs of the 1990s, when I still listened to commercial radio regularly. (Also Baptist hymns.) I suspect the difference is that my friend, who is an enthusiastic amateur bassoonist, is much smarter about music than I am, but I don't know for sure. So I'm asking simply: Do you pay attention to/remember/care about lyrics in the music you love, or not? I look forward to seeing the response.


  1. The idea of a Kidlit drink night is so ironic. I'm still giggling a little bit.

  2. Absolutely! It's like you said, the two are linked. Sometimes, even if I don't particularly like the tune, I end up liking the song only because the lyrics are so marvellous. For instance, I was never particularly enamoured by music in the song Eleanor Rigby, but when I read the lyrics, I started liking the song a lot more.

  3. Bob Boylan of All Songs Considered somehow is not a lyrics man. I am - I think they're astoundingly important to a song. And, of course, I never, ever get them right without liner notes. Ever, ever, ever.

  4. Well, I hate dumb lyrics and appreciate interesting ones, but I admit I am more like your friend...if I hate the music, the words simply cannot make up for it. (FWIW I'm also more of an instrumentalist than singer.)

  5. I'm a little bit of both, but definitely a lyrics person--I need the music to catch my attention, but it's the lyrics that makes me fall in love with the song.

    Also, I noticed that under your favorite songs you listed The Babysitter's Here. I LOVE Dar Williams--a perfect example of wonderful music and gorgeous, wonderful lyrics. (Alleluia and Iowa are two of my all time favorites.)

  6. Usually I'm a lyrics person. I think that goes with being a reader/writer.

    I'm also a person who pays attention to the music when a movie is on. Darth Vader would not have been so menacing if John Williams hadn't assigned him such a theme.

    But being the contrary person I am, when I found out that there were lyrics to the beautiful movie theme from "Exodus", I refused to look at them. In my mind, the music is perfect the way it is.

    my .02
    Wanda in AL

  7. It depends. As a former band geek (now just a plain geek), a lot of the music I love have no lyrics. Rhapsody in lyrics...awesome music.

    But of songs that do have lyrics, it depends on what the lyrics say. For most of Dave Matthews songs, I don't even have a clue what the guy's talking about, but I love the music.

    Typically bad lyrics won't make me dislike a song, but bad music with great lyrics is a no go for me. The best songs are obviously the ones that pull off both.

  8. Musician friends of mine say the lyrics don't matter. They say it's all about chord structure and melody.

    There's instrumental music that I love. But if a song has lyrics, they are as much a part of the song as plot is part of the story.

    I guess it's like the way literary types (including a couple of my profs) say that plot doesn't matter. I disagree with them, too. Maybe characters are what stick in my mind, but plot helps me care about the characters and provides the means for characterization to shine.

    But then, I would like lyrics, after having written lyrics for about 120 songs with a musician friend.

  9. So...will there be Karaoke at the Kidlit Drink Night? And what's the age requirement to participate?

  10. Never gonna stop, give it up.
    Such a dirty mind. Always get it up for the touch
    of the younger kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Sharona...
    Somtimes the music is the hook, and the hook is so good, it doesn't matter how bad the lyrics are. But good lyrics are a plus.

    Contrast the lyrics of the Wildly popular "My Sharona" with "Summer in Highland Falls", a relatively unknown early work of Billy Joel.

    They say that these are not the best of times,
    But they're the only times I've ever known,
    And I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own.
    Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes,
    And I can only stand apart and sympathize.

    For we are always what our situations hand us...
    It's either sadness or euphoria.
    And so we argue and we compromise,
    And realize that nothing's ever changed,
    For all our mutual experience, our seperate conclusions are the same.

    Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity,
    Our reason co-exists with our insanity.
    And though we choose between reality and madness...
    It's either sadness or euphoria.

    How thooughtlessly we dissipate our energies
    Perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies.
    And so we'll stand upon the ledges of our lives,
    With our respective similarities...
    It's either sadness or euphoria.
    Guess which one I like more.

  11. A friend of mine recently sent me a meme which asked for my three favorite song lyrics. The exercise turned out to be quite difficult for me. Even though I absolutely consider myself a lyrics person, without the harmony the lyrics that I love most fell flat on the page. I wonder if it's just a function of the music I tend to like, or a something endemic to music in general. Perhaps successful songs have to give something up to the music in order to work? Any thoughts?

  12. For me, it depends on the song. If either the melody *or* lyrics are fantabulous, I will probably like (or at least remember) that song quite well. For example, I'm a big classical music geek and a fan of movie soundtracks....I think music that can stand alone can tell an emotional story without a single word. However, I'm also a huge fan of M.I.A. (Paper Planes, Galang) who writes politically charged rap. There's not much melody in her music (although what's there is kind of catchy), but her lyrics are so deep sometimes that I go online and research the history and politics behind the lines. :)

  13. The words count, a great deal, but the sound of the words counts for more, the words in harmony or in call and response, the echo of the words and the music, that's what breaks my heart, or makes me listen over and over.
    Richard and Teddy Thompson's "Persuasion" is my most played on my iPod, and while the lyrics are kind of interesting, it is what this father and son duo do with their voices that makes me shiver, and play the song over and over.

  14. Great lyrics will make me love a song I wouldn't normally like. For example, I normally don't go for hip hop, but if I hear a hip hop song with lyrics I can relate to, I'll love the song.

    Of course, all of my favorite songs are a combination of both: music I love with lyrics I love.

  15. Although I can be a sucker for a catchy tune, I think lyrics are VERY important. I love clever and meaningful songs. And on the flip side, dumb lyrics make me dislike songs. I am an amateur musician myself, and grew up with a father who was a professional musician, so I'd say I speak with about the same authority as your friend. It's a matter of preference above anything else.

  16. Okay, but first you have to come to Books of Wonder and see Tiger Beat rock out! May 29th 6 pm. We will, we will rock you! xo Libba

  17. I don't watch Desperate Housewives, but I always used to click on the "info" on the onscreen guide to get the Sondheim reference in the title. Except that I had to stop doing that when an episode titled "In a world where the kings are employers" had "Liasons" going through my head for three straight weeks.

  18. I must use this opportunity to plug my favorite composer. If you're looking at all for breathtaking, story-telling instrumental music, I highly recommend Ludovico Einaudi, especially his Divenire CD.

  19. Christina--I love Ludovico Einaudi! I think my favorites by him are Primavera and Nuvole Bianche. Fabulous composer. :)

  20. I think that you like "The Babysitter's Here" beacuse its lyrics has the Chejov principle... Show the leaves moving not the wolf.

    PS please excuse me for my english... it's not my first language.

  21. Totally and completely linked. For example, when I work on a picture book manuscript, I have to play the piano while I work. If I can't hear the 'music' of it, it doesn't work for me. I cannot LOVE an artist unless I LOVE both the music and the lyrics. Now I often hear and sing the wrong lyrics, suited to either what I think I hear or what I *want* to hear, but that's another topic.

  22. I've been writing some lyrics lately....
    This morning I wrote this before a storm rolled through and it had started thundering.
    come back home, come back home again
    love me now, and always be my friend
    I have to say, I just can't be the same
    anyway, come home and make it rain

    thunder your storm, they stay by me,
    where I'll be warm, and always free
    yes you can go, but first take my hand
    I love you so, so make it rain again
    and again and again

    oh come back home, come back home again
    love me now, and always be my friend
    I have to say, it just isn't the same
    anyway, so come home and make it rain

    thunder your storm, then stay by me
    where we'll be warm, and you can see
    and always know, just take my hand
    I love you so, please make it rain again
    and again and again
    and again

  23. should read "then" stay by me instead of 'they'....typo, lol