Other than romance, music may be the closest thing to real magic most people will ever experience. A song can lift us up or bring us down, inspire us, or maybe just help us fall to sleep at night. Music can be a very personal experience, or shared by thousands.
As a professional musician and songwriter, I find that my opinion often falls from the fray, as I neither adhere to, nor do I encourage reliance on a formulaic approach to lyrics. Instead, I prefer to concentrate on the essence of my song-craft with the understanding that the lyrics are an integral aspect.
Cryptic messages or entendres hidden within song lyrics are certainly nothing new. For centuries, many found this to be the safest way to express political or religious dissent. The Mother Goose Rhymes are a classic example. Some lyrics rely on the nonsensical turn of a phrase. A particular rhyme scheme should be guided by the muse, and little else.
Of course, each song should be approached individually. If your goal is to write a hit song, the rules begin to get slippery. Obviously, the lyrics for a dance number should reflect the spirit of the mood. One can’t be afraid to “get down and boogie oogie oogie” when that is what the song calls for. By the same token, one shouldn’t ignore the value behind lyrics like the overtly pedantic “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald“.
When writing for myself, I always write what I feel, and for me, the little twists and turns are all part of the puzzle. This of course, explains why you have probably never heard my records. Legendary record producer Tony Bongiovi likes to describe hit songs as “Cheeseburger Music”, easy to identify with, and easy to digest. The more twists and turns you throw in, the less your chance of connecting on a grand scale.
Still, where would we be without lyrics like “I am the Walrus” or “Gabba Gabba Hey” Both, although seriously stilted, represent delicious song-craft. There are no rules that can’t be broken. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
I am by no means suggesting you find a way to excuse bad ideas. Settling for less than your best will not bring lasting satisfaction. Push those lyrics hard, and then push them a little harder. Be brave and be diligent. Make those words count.
B. Thomas Cooper
Skate the Razor