Friday, February 1, 2013

Lyrics Part Deux

Welcome back to second installment of the new series I'm starting on lyrics! Last week, I compared Mutemath and Katy Perry and the depth of their lyrics and this week, I am going to explore the songwriting phenomenon of good songwriting versus good line writing.

Now, what exactly do I mean by that?

In essence, some songs are well written while others have one stand-out line with a bunch of meaningless lines. I do not, by any means, expect all artists to make every single line of every single song the most amazing things ever. I'm being realistic.

Do you remember a couple of years ago when "Airplanes" by B.O.B ft. Hayley Williams came out? Every single thirteen year old drama queen and her best friend would change their facebook status to "Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky/are like shooting stars/I could really use a wish right now." Yes, I admit that is a pretty creative line; I'm impressed. However, the rest of the song is just about B.O.B whining about trying to be discovered and gain notoriety and blah-blah-blah. It's crap. Especially compared to that one line.

That is a prime example of good line writing.

Next, let's look at an example of good songwriting, "But It's Better If You Do" By Panic! At The Disco. This band is known partially for the fact that all of their songs are freaking amazing and partially because their lyrics kick some major butt. Ryan Ross, who wrote this song and eventually left the band, is a relative lyric genius, maybe one of the great songwriters of the 2000's. Still, Brendon Urie filled his role after he left and is doing a brilliant job. I digress.

"Now I'm of consenting age to be forgetting you in a cabaret
Somewhere downtown where a burlesque queen may even ask my name
As she sheds her skin on stage
I'm seated and sweating to a dance song on the club's P.A.
The strip joint veteran sits two away
Smirking between dignified sips of his dignified peach and lime daiquiri

And isn't this exactly where you'd like me
I'm exactly where you'd like me, you know
Praying for love in a lap dance and paying in naivety
Oh, and isn't this exactly where you'd like me
I'm exactly where you'd like me, you know
Praying for love in a lap dance and paying in naivety

Oh, but I'm afraid that I
Well, I may of faked it
And I wouldn't be caught dead in this place."

Well, it may not take a genius to figure out that this song is about a guy trying to forget about a girl and looks for pleasure in a strip club. It's one of Panic's more risque songs and I was hesitant to use it on here, but it's one of my favorite songs in a lyrical sense. In this song, all of the lines pack a punch of some kind. It's narrative, telling a story of a guy's experience, not just physically and emotionally and mentally. All of lines contribute to the overall tone--regret, remorse, and contemplation. Where B.O.B's track switches between Hayley's wishful tone and his bragging, swaggering, tone, it just does not flow. It's one great line smushed in between the other bad lines. With Panic's, it's a bunch of fantastic lines all put together, so that the song flows, without any unnecessary dissonance. Dissonance is a strong literary device, but B.O.B's song just contradicts.

Another example of fine line-writing is the chorus of Britney Spears' "Gasoline."
"Spark and it's like gasoline
I start burning like a machine
My heart only runs on supreme
So hot, give me your gasoline"

 Terribly sexual in nature, it's honestly just another example of someone being crafty with euphemisms. Anyways, I still see it as "good" because it's rather creative. Not to say if Panic! came out with this song I'd call it good; I'd be pretty disappointed because I know they're better that that. But, this is Britney, the woman who sings about how toxic some dude is and how she's in love with criminals (my butt, you are). So, considering this is Britney (and I don't actually think she wrote this :D), it's passable.
So, this guy is making her cray-cray and she wants his "gasoline." Hmm, whatever could that be? :)

Well, that wraps it up for this week. Next week, I will talk about the use of repetition in lyrics and try to pick some less disturbing songs.

Until then,

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