Argument One: Fuck You, Nate (Music and Lyrics)

“I think that writing music is harder than writing lyrics. All you need to do to write lyrics is know how to rhyme. Also you are so handsome, Thomas, I bow before your might.” — Nate(paraphrased)

Yeah, Nate, I know. But aside from that bit about me being handsome, I disagree with him. I can’t argue that music or lyrics are harder to write since I can only write terrible versions of both. (And find it much easier to write music, but hey that’s me.)

This article, essay, thesis, this is me arguing back — specifically that “all you need to do to write lyrics is know how to rhyme.” This is part one of our argument fucker! I hope you reply in the comments so I can rebuttal again ’cause this is a great discussion/argument/whatever. Onward!

So first let’s deal with your claim that all you need to do to write lyrics is to have words rhyme. That’s imply not true. A lot of songs that rhyme are completely insufferable. A lot of beautiful songs do not have a single rhyme in them. Look at most of Counting Crow’s stuff. It’s not your typical rhyme scheme; it’s more poetic.

So my first proof is this song. King of Carrot Flowers Pt. II & III. I use it first just to establish that to write good lyrics one doesn’t have to rhyme at all. As you can see there are maybe three rhyming lines at all? And those are the ones in the end with “oh” and “go” and “I don’t know.” Here are the lyrics:

KING OF CARROT FLOWERS PT. II & III (Neutral Milk Hotel)
I love you, Jesus Christ
I love you Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ I love you
Yes I do

I love you Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ I love you
Yes I do

And on the lazy days
The dogs dissolve and drain away
The world it goes
And all awaits
The day we are awaiting

Up and over we go
Through the wave and undertow
I will float until I learn how to swim
Inside my mother in a garbage bin
Until I find myself again, again

Up and over we go
Mouths open wide and spitting still
And I will spit until I learn how to speak
Up through the doorway as the sideboards creak
With them ever proclaiming me, me, oh

Up and over we go
The weight, it sits on down and I don’t know
I will shout until they know what I mean
I mean the marriage of a dead dog sing
And a synthetic flying machine, machine
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Okay

See? It’s a beautiful, haunting fucking song. It’s gorgeous. You can listen to it here. Most of the lines do not rhyme. It’s a beautiful tone poem without music and with music it’s one of the best songs written in the last twenty or so years. (It was written in the late 90’s. It appeared on the fantastic In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, one of my all-time favorite albums. I listen to it, all the way through, at least once a month. More than that a lot.) If you want more examples, check out Joni Mitchel. Her lyrics have been published in book form because they’re so goddamn beautiful and poem like.

So moving on — gorgeous song, because of the lyrics, which do not rhyme? Yes.

So songs do not need to rhyme to be good? So that’s not all there needs to be to have good lyrics? I’m not even bothering to put up bad lyrics — you’ve heard Katy Perry, you’ve heard Black Eyed Peas — those are bad lyrics. So we’ve established that lyrics do not just need to “rhyme.” Good? Moving on.

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