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Lyrics
sword
tiger_spot
I'm a little odd about music. (I'm a little odd about a lot of things.) One of the ways I'm odd about it that I don't like songs the first time I hear them[1]. I can often tell that I'm going to like a song, but I usually don't really like it until I've heard it through a couple of times and gotten to know it a little better. When I get a new CD, I tend to listen through it once, then go back and repeat it several times, focusing on the songs I like best. When I get to liking a new song, I want to listen to it over and over and over, which drives other people in my vicinity completely nuts. I am very happy that (a) headphones and (b) digital media, which let me go "Again! Again!" without having to muck about with rewind buttons, exist.

So Friday before last, I spent pretty much the entire morning cycling between three new songs, with occasional excursions to the rest of the album (Land Dispute, by ThouShaltNot). The interesting thing about these three songs is that they happen to illustrate the three categories of lyrics that I like. Therefore, I shall tell you about them in excruciating detail!



Disclaimer: Lyrics without the music are generally awful. Lyrics are not poetry, they don't read like poetry, and with very few exceptions they completely fail at evoking any sort of emotion without their accompaniment. That said, I'm going to reproduce the lyrics here anyway so I can talk about them.

Furthermore, lyrics are not generally a major part of why I like a song. Certain sorts of harmony and chord changes are much, much more important (and much more difficult to talk about). However, I tend to prefer songs I can sing along with, and I need to not disapprove of the lyrics. (Lyrics I disapprove of usually (a) involve lots of cursing at things I don't think need to be cursed at or (b) are inappropriate emotional reactions to the situation described in the song[2].)

Lyrics I do approve of fall into three general categories:

1. Things That Are True If I Sing Them

These songs describe emotional reactions that are true for me. This includes songs that describe situations I haven't been in, if the emotional reaction in the song is an emotional reaction I expect I'd be likely to have. This example describes a situation I have been in, and it gets it just right (with the music; it's a bit overheated without, but that is what music is for). It's sappy, but I've had that feeling, so I like it despite the sappiness.

"Like Apple Trees"

Hiding something, love
You're hiding something behind your grin
So let me in before the rainy season starts again
Tell me something, love
Oh tell me anything
Reveal your hand
Show me what makes you glow like apple trees, like Tokyo

So please
Ask before this moment fades
Fast before I ask the same
'Cause if we don't, I think we know this room will burst
It will explode
Though every word is overload
Don't let this moment

Go ahead and speak until the world ends
Time has reversed
Now we are children and our eyes could swallow galaxies
Floating weightless, we are floating worldless
You walk a spiral across this buzzing sky
A language born of fire and butterflies

Ask before this moment fades
Fast before I ask the same
'Cause if we don't, I think we know this room will burst
It will explode
Though every word is overload
Don't let this moment go

Hiding something, love
You're hiding something behind your grin
So let me in because I'm hiding something too, and it's the same thing
I'm just like you
The world is new
And we'll be colliding with forever when you speak

And ask before this moment fades
Fast before I ask the same
'Cause if we don't, I think we know this room will burst
It will explode
Though every word is overload
Don't let this moment go


2. Things That Aren't True If I Sing Them, But I Approve Of Anyway

These describe emotional reactions that I don't have, but that I still feel are true and good and real. (That is, that someone feels this way, that it's a reasonable response to the situation[3], and that it's described accurately.) A good chunk of the songs in this category are, like this one, songs that have directionality pointed the wrong way. That is, in "Like Apple Trees" I can be "I" or I can be "you", and either way works out well and can be true. In this song, I am "you" (well, theoretically I could be "you", because I don't have a relationship like this[4]), but not "I" at all. (Also, songs about this particular topic with the directionality pointed the other way, such that I am "I", tend to make me nervous.) I also like that this song is (almost) entirely in metaphor, because I think like that.

"The Projectionist"

Sing me like a lullaby
And read me like a book
You can steal me in an art fraud heist
Just tuck me underneath your coat
And if you want to load me on the reel
And blare a blinding light through me
I'll be a silent film and you'll play the organ
To go with the pictures I show

But when can I feel my skin again
As more than between blood and air?
I am what you tell me I am
You make me an endless text
And you are my projectionist

Give me like a wartime speech
And fight me like a war
Invade me like the Middle East
Just bounce me off the satellites
But the picture's out of focus now
The blackout's all over town
So make me now a candle bright
And push me through the power lines

But when can I feel my skin again
As more than between blood and air?
I am what you tell me I am
You make me an endless text
And I am what you think of next
And you are my projectionist

Shine a light through me so you can see
Sing me in a different key
I'm your diary
Who's reading who now?
And who's in whose skin?
Turn on your TV
Broadcast me everywhere I want to be
I lift up a rock and find me there

But when can I feel my skin again
As more than between blood and air?
I am what you tell me I am
And you make me an endless text
And I am what you think of next
And you make me an endless text
And I am what you think of next
And you make me an endless text
And I am what you think of next
In the burning theatre I am blessed
For you are my projectionist


3. Nonsense

Nonsense songs don't have truth-values. Interestingly enough[5], strictly narrative songs count as nonsense. If a song is just describing something that happened, not taking an emotional position on it, then I don't really have anything to identify with or not. This particular song's lyrics are allusive nonsense, rather than straight-up nonsense, and there's one line that makes it clear that the song is in fact taking an emotional position on an event, so it's really somewhere between categories 2 and 3. But it took me a while to figure out that it wasn't actually complete nonsense, and it's not particularly clear what the event is, so it still makes a decent example of the Nonsense category. (The other song I like on this album[6] makes less sense, but I don't like the lyrics particularly. I don't dislike them, but they're not a positive influence the way these other three songs' lyrics are.)

"Let Your Silence Sing"

These leaves aren't as loud as I'd prefer
This machine doesn't love me enough
Tomorrow won't see last year occur
And is the sun too bright?
This wheel is not sufficiently square
Is there nothing else to breathe than air?
This ground is much too hard to tear tonight
You can't dance to this smell at all
This book just tastes like words
This house of cards will one day fall
And is the sea too wet?
These buzzing bees make too much honey
Why can't this holocaust be funny?
Your love for me won't earn you money, I bet

So I'll take the world on my own terms
I want disease but not the germs
I want the moon to cling to me
So let your silence sing to me
An endless endless symphony
Till all I lost instinctively returns

Your teardrops cannot change the wind
Your hands can't see the waves
The things I say can I not rescind?
Is every word a vow?
Why won't this house provide me rain?
Why can't this deafness hear me complain?
And why wasn't I told that love is pain till now?
I try to stave off your anger with feathers
And I try to sleep but the days bleed together
With a needle and thread I would hold back the weather
But the tide's coming in
And my courage was never brave enough
And my hunger never gave enough
And my abandonment never saved enough to start again

So I'll make the world on my own terms
Give me disease but not the germs
I need your moon to cling to me
So let your silence sing to me
An endless endless symphony
Till all I lost instinctively returns

These leaves cover up all I've become
This machine has long broken down
Tomorrow is gone, today is numb
And the sun's asleep
Your wheels have carved a street so wide
And you've missed the point but still denied
In hopes somehow that all your pride you'd keep





[1] There are exceptions. Most notably, I tend to evaluate songs with a nice strong verse-chorus structure pretty quickly, because by the time I get the end of the song, I've effectively heard it five or six times, which is enough repetitions to get a good sense of the song.

[2] e.g. "Every Breath You Take", which is a Creepy Stalker Song. See also next footnote.

[3] "You broke up with me so I'm really sad" is a reasonable response. "You broke up with me so I'm angry at you and confused about why you did it" is a reasonable response (The Crüxshadows, "Marylin, My Bitterness"). "You broke up with me; women do that a lot, I dunno why; all you bitches crazy" is not a reasonable response, even though some people do think that way, and neither is "You broke up with me, therefore I KEEL YOOOOU!" I might like a song narrated from the "women are crazy" perspective if it was funny or otherwise aware that the narrator's position is dumb, but not a song that honestly takes that position.

[4] Darn the luck. Although this particular relationship would be a bit much for me; I like my responsibility in smaller doses.

[5] Interesting enough for a LiveJournal post, anyway, which isn't very interesting at all. But if you're reading this far -- if you're reading the footnotes this far -- you are very dedicated. I applaud you. ::applause::

[6] "Oh Invisible"

There she goes into the sea
This is aging; this is love; this is free
There she goes, she's airtight
Oh invisible subway; oh invisible lights
Oh invisible tilting heart and mind
Oh invisible darling, your voice is breaking up
And out pours this night

There she goes into the sea
Where it moves like healing; where is tastes like mercury
But she'll get used to all the salt
If she's already hooked on the chemicals that call
Oh invisible bride where is your dress?
Oh invisible darling, your voice is tenderness
And out pours this night

Fast-forward through the coral
Though bones of highways white
Here history is illuminated
Each fragment's like a sunken liner where rust and silver wait for me
And I'm a wave butcher, cutting, chopping
Here I come into the sea

There you go into the sea
This is losing; this is love; this is me
There you go, it's airtight
Oh invisible ocean, oh invisible sky
Oh invisible swimming heart and mind
Oh invisible darling, your voice is still with me
And out pours this night

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(Deleted comment)
I've been liking instrumental stuff a lot more lately, because it's easier to listen to when I'm working. For instance, andres_s_p_b has some trance stuff that I'd never really listened to because it wasn't very interesting, but it actually makes pretty good background music while I'm fiddling around with words.

I don't take a long time to love songs (I love many songs immediately on first listen), but my response after that, listening to the songs I love over and over and over and over and over again with occasional excursions out into the rest of the album is quite similar. (Note that I'm doing that right now with the new Deerhoof album that I picked up yesterday.)

I'm often like that with finding people attractive, though -- I tend to be really attracted to people within certain very broad sorts of parameters who have unusual or notable characteristics that stick in my mind. I think a big part of my attraction profile is that those people are tagged more strongly in my brain, which is easier to do if they have some unusual characteristic. So I'll see someone and think they're kind of cute but I'll also recognize that, say, they're oddly cross-eyed, and I can tell that in two weeks *that's* going to be something that's going to push them from "kind of cute" into "I'm thinking about this person all the time".

On lyrics, I'm kind of like you only less so. I tend not to process lyrics a lot of the time. In a few exceptional circumstances I do really get into the lyrics of a song, but it's relatively rare. Outside of that, my primary desire is that I not object to the lyrics, and that's the most common reason I notice lyrics: because they tick me off. (Most common things in popular lyrics that irritate me: I've decided a priori that you will be mine, there's no sense in resisting; baby I wish you were hurting or in some way messed up so you'd have to come back to me; I'm horny, your status is irrelevant, let's have sex, can't you see *how* horny I am, I don't get why we're not having sex yet; I can tell that I did something really wrong because you left me but I want you to come back despite providing no evidence in these lyrics that I've changed or even know why you left in the first place; etc.

My general preference for lyrics tends to go:

1. No lyrics.
2. Nonsense sound language made up by the singer.
3. Lyrics in a language I don't understand (i.e. not in English).
4. Nonsense lyrics in English.
5. Lyrics in English that fall into one of your acceptability categories above.
6. Other.

I like to be able to sing along, so I'm not real fond of lyrics that are actual nonsense sounds, in a language I don't know (unless there's a translation -- it's a lot easier for me to memorize non-English lyrics if I know what they mean), or just mumbled so much I can't tell what they are (though I pick up lyrics much more quickly from reading them than from listening to the song in any case).

I also find your whole list of irritating popular lyrics profoundly annoying. Good summarizing. :)

[5] Yes, I read the footnotes that far. :)

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