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deaddolly's avatar

Are lyrics important to you? Do you have to like/understand them in order to love the song?

Asked by deaddolly (3406points) September 27th, 2008

Some of my favorite songs have really stupid lyrics, but I love them anyway. My daughter tells me she must like the lyrics. People love songs that I can’t make out any of the lyrics too. What do you think?

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44 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I am a word person so lyrics are very important to me. There are some songs that reduce me to tears no matter how many times I hear them. Others that make my heart swell with joy at the word picture they paint.

That said, music often moves me with no words at all.

deaddolly's avatar

Here’s an example of my favorite band and favorite song.

And I don’t know why…

amandaafoote's avatar

Lyrics are important to me, but i like other parts of music, and they are important as well. For a song to be a favorite of mine, i have to like the lyrics.

steelmarket's avatar

Sometimes the lyrics, although dumb in meaning, form a clever rhythm of their own, so that they are really more like another instrument in the song than an actual transfer of information. Some great examples that I can think of include:
the “Da Do Run Run” type songs of the 50s & 60s,
many Bobby McFerrin tunes, and
scat in many jazz songs.

arnbev959's avatar

I have to like the words for me to really consider the song great, (which is why I tend to gravitate toward songs without words,) but I can still appreciate a song whose lyrics I don’t particularly like.

deaddolly's avatar

@ steelmarket, I agree! Anyone remember the ‘bubble gun era?’ ‘Yummy ,yummy, yummy, I got love in my tummy’ was a top 40 hit.

AstroChuck's avatar

I love it when a great melody and great lyrics come together, but it isn’t essential to myself liking the song. One of the bands I really enjoy is the Electric Light Orchestra. Jeff Lynne is an amazing songwriter, but many of his lyrics leave much to be desired.
I guess what I’m saying is that the music part of a song comes first, then the words.

poofandmook's avatar

Lurve to Chuck for the Jeff Lynne reference.

That’s a hard question to answer… right now I’m stuck on a CD… a reunion CD from an old pop group… the lyrics are cheesy sometimes and when you think about the ages of the people singing them, it’s a tad bit cringe-worthy. But all the same, I am glued to this CD (well, I bought it digitally so I don’t have the actual disc. But for the sake of argument… CD) and the group who recorded it. But then one of my top 3 favorite artists of all time – Tom Petty – is a poet. His lyrics cheer me up, get me going, tug on my heartstrings.. you name the emotional reaction and he’s provoked it through his words. Then you have one of my other top 3 artists, The Beatles… their lyrics are all over the place. Some of it is nonsense, some of it is cheese, and some of it is downright soul-wrenching.

To sum up… I think for me, it’s the combination of the lyrics and the music as a whole that touches me. It would sort of be like looking at a painting and saying, “well I can’t like it unless there are a sufficient number of parts painted red” or something. You really have to take it in as a whole, I think, to appreciate it.

deaddolly's avatar

agreed. I hate most rap music, but I really like eminem’s lyrics.

But, some songs are just fun to like cause “they’ve got a good beat and you can dance to it”.

sndfreQ's avatar

@poof: NKOTB?!

poofandmook's avatar


I was four when I discovered and consequently fell in love with them! I think that buys me some slack, no?

deaddolly's avatar

I had to struggle through my daughter’s N’sync, and Backstreet Boys phase.
Then came her rap years—remember chaperoning a 5 hour rap concert for her and her gf. Snoop Dogg chanting: Smoke Weed, Get drunk and Fuck, was about as fun as it gets. Then came Hanson and finally Good Charlotte.

Rock and roll was here to stay! Now she likes ‘my music’. Course, I’m not the average mom…I love Marilyn Manson.

poofandmook's avatar

I need to note that when I was 8, I was the victim of attempted murder, and was shot in my left arm with a .22 rifle. NKOTB is probably the biggest factor in the amount of mental recovery I was able to achieve in the months and years that followed the incident.

I also need to note that my musical tastes range from Mozart, to Garth Brooks, to Marilyn Manson, to AFI, to Metallica, to Kenny G, to NKOTB, to Boy George, to trance/club/electronica/house. There’s something from every genre in my collection.

sndfreQ's avatar

@poof: as the hipsters (at one time) would say: “no shame in ‘yo game!”
actually their new single is pretty okay. Wow, did I just say that out loud?!

poofandmook's avatar

I wish I could lurve you more than once for that!!

googlybear's avatar

There are some songs that I love for the lyrics i.e. “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, “The Boxer” Simon and Garfunkel, etc. and those are the ones which are sentimental to me and I will continue to come back to over the years; whereas, some of the newer songs out there i.e. “Sexy Back” Justin Timberlake have something that I like about them (an awesome beat, interesting vocals, etc.) and I just like them for the way they sound but I will probably forget about them when the next one comes along…

qwertyGuy's avatar

Lyrics are very important to me.

wildflower's avatar

Lyrics can be important, but aren’t everything. Some songs I like because of the lyrics, others because of the melody, beat, energy, etc.

dalepetrie's avatar

Lyrics hold some importance to me, but it really depends. I guess I am immediately turned off by a song which has lyrics which are easily understood, but just trite, cliched and/or stupid. Conversely I am in awe of lyrics which are brilliant and deep. But lyrics can be very straightforward or they can be somewhat obtuse, perhaps what you would call somewhat “abstract”. I would have to say that Kurt Cobain was one of the most brilliant lyricists ever born…his stuff was deep and powerful. You mentioned Eminem…I’m not as adverse to rap as you, and I find him to be in a class by himself in terms of rap lyricists…he is not as abstract as Cobain, but he is one of the most clever at turning a phrase. Ludacris would be another rapper who falls into this category. I think in terms of turning a clever phrase, there are many musicians who fit this profile, and of them I am in awe….one great example would be Elvis Costello. Fiona Apple would be an example of someone who can cut through you with her words as well.

But then look at the Beatles. Here’s an example of a band which has turned more than it’s share of clever phrases, but which has also made some very deep yet abstract songs. However, if you look at the first half of their career, their lyrics were very simple and straightforward, and really didn’t say much. But as simple as She Loves You, or I Wanna Hold Your Hand may be, they are incredibly good songs, well structured…the lyrics may be simple, but they certainly aren’t trite or stupid. One great example that clearly shows that lyrics don’t have to be either all that clever or abstract or deep to be absolutely great would be AC/DC. They are the seminal rock and roll band…at their most clever they employ double entendre, but there’s nothing particularly clever about “She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the best damn woman that I ever seen.” But yet it works in their context…straight forward balls out rock and roll.

A great deal of heavier music, whether it be heavy metal or heavy rap does rely on fairly simple song structures and repetition of fairly simple lyrical sets. Whether it be “We will, we will rock you,” or “Oh my my, oh my my, y’all gonna make me lose my mind,” a lot of truly great music of many genres is particularly “amazing” or “insightful” in the lyrics department. You can look at some really heavy stuff, like Pantera…some of the most brilliant hardcore metal lyrics ever written, “been constantly so frustrated, I’ve moved mountains with less…when I channel my hate to productive, I don’t find it hard to impress.” That is heavy, hard hitting and conveys a message in a very clever manner. But just as heavy would be Coal Chamber repeating “big truck” over and over and over again.

And even Kurt Cobain who wrote, “and I am worst at what I do best, and for this gift I feel blessed” also wrote “wouldn’t you believe it, it’s just my luck….wouldn’t you believe it, it’s just my luck…wouldn’t you believe it, it’s just my luck…wouldn’t you believe it, it’s just my luck…NO RECESS. NO RECESS. NO RECESS,” and “Grandma take me home, grandma take me home, grandma take me home, grandma take me home….” You get the picture.

So you can look at Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” for an example of one of the most intricate and powerful sets of lyrics ever written, but remember that “We all live in a yellow submarine…yellow submarine…yellow submarine” is every bit as revered by rock historians. And sometimes, simplicity is better than being too convoluted. Though their lyrics can tend to be very simple and straightforward at times, one of my favorite bands is the White Stripes…and part of their appeal to me is the complete lack of pretense, almost like AC/DC in their commitment to straight forward rock and roll, but perhaps with a bit more to say. You can look at Slipknot…one of the heaviest bands out there, and their lyrics are like poetry. Or you can look at Korn, another great band, but their lyrics are simpler and more repetitive. My point is, different music moves me for different reasons. The common element for me is power…music needs to be powerful in some way to move me. The music can be powerful, as can the lyrics, the song structure, or certain elements, stripped down or convoluted, abstract or straight forward, repetitive or stream of consciousness, could be any number of things that gives the music it’s power, and a grindcore metal band playing at 120db can be no more powerful than a singer and a piano.

Now having said all that, I would like to digress…not surprised you’re into the Cramps, deaddolly. But I have to ask you, being you’re in fairly close proximity to Michigan and have an affinity for hardcore psychobilly, are you familiar with a band from the 80s out of Michigan called Elvis Hitler? They are best known for a mash up of the the Green Acres theme set to the music of Purple Haze (Green Haze) from their Hellbilly album. They’re a great psychobilly band that goes much further than say Reverend Horton Heat, and takes a slightly more “death metal” approach than the Cramps. My favorite of theirs was an album called Supersadomasochisticexpialidocious. It’s long out of print, but if you can find a copy, it’s worth it at just about any price. One of my favorite songs is called “Bury the Hatchet”, they lyrics to the best of my recollection go something like, “Bury the hatchet…right in your skull…carve it in half and use it for a bowl. Bury the hatchet…right in your head…and bury what’s left in the flower bed, yeah yeah yeah.” And funny you should mention bubblegum, because this album contains a cover of “Yummy Yummy Yummy”, only it’s the “Satan” remix, wherin throughout the song, a voice repeats “Satan…Satan…Satan.” I’m SURE you would dig these guys. They have 3 albums, all released I believe in the 80s, and I think they also changed their name and put out an album under that alternate name maybe in the early 90s as well.

So to get back to it, lyrics and music are important to me in that great lyrics can get to me in ways that little else can. But I don’t think the lyrics have to be particularly clever or insightful, they just have to not be offputtingly stupid, to have the workings of a great song, if the melody, rhythm or whatever you are basing the music on is good. One good example of this is all that SK8R punk music, you know all those boy bands masquerading as the next wave of punk…all those little twits that come around once a year for the Vans Warped tour…all your bands with numbers like 41 and 182 in their names. You know the bands I’m talking about…them and the Avril Lavignes and Pinks of the world…all the pop poseurs who think they’re punk but wouldn’t know Bad Religion if it bit them on the ass. All that crap is so generic, every song sounds exactly the same, the lyrics are just trite, a step above bubblegum if you want to be generous.

galileogirl's avatar

Lyrics can destroy a really kicky melody. “Waiting for the World to Change” is my most recent ARRGH!! song. The tune is infectious but the message is so stupid. And last year the played it about every 12 minutes on the lite rock station I listen to in my car.

A lot of ABBA music is like that, too

MacBean's avatar

Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day. There are some songs that I would listen to no matter what the lyrics are. There are other songs with lyrics so great that I listen to them even though the actual music bothers me a little. I don’t have examples off the top of my head, but I’m considering making a mix when I’ve got some free time to poke through my music library.

galileogirl's avatar

Of course the best lyric for those of us 60+ is “It’s all coming back to me now” which reminds you when it was not about closeness and comfort but instead crazy passion and pain.

there were moments of gold
and there flashes of light
there weere things i’d never do again
but then they’d always seemed right
there were nights of endless plaesure
it was more than any laws allow baby baby

The melody brings back the painful lows and the crashing exhausting highs…someone hand me a cigarette.

charliecompany34's avatar

i love steely dan. lyrics seem to be way out there, but the music is so cool.

shrubbery's avatar

I’m just gonna copy and paste my answer from the other question…

I love lyrics. I love the poetry and the stories and the meanings behind the words. I love how the artist can draw you in and make you feel like it’s you that is being sung about and you wonder if they had you in mind when they were writing it. Or how they can get you to understand a perspective you didn’t think of before, or walk a bit in someone else’s shoes, or raise your awareness to an issue.

But I also love instrumental. I listen to a lot of instrumental folk music and I love the way I can conjure up my own images and feelings and thoughts and interpretation without the artist intruding on my personal experience with their lyrics.

It really depends on the song and how I’m feeling at the time. Whether I want to be swept up in someone else’s story, or whether I want to contemplate about myself and my life, if I’m feeling happy or sad, or if I’m in a singing along mood :P

deaddolly's avatar

@dale…I will def look for Elvis Hitler, but no I never heard of them.
I agree, Cobain was a genius. I do like some of the ‘warped tour’ bands,
like 182…lol Some of their lyrics are brillliant. Listen again! And I really liked From First to Last, when they started out.

What about lyrics you can’t understand? Some speed/death metal stuff I like, but have no clue what they’re saying.

Great answer, dale. Thanks!

shrubbery's avatar

Oh yeah, deaddolly you reminded me of something, I listen to speed/death/thrash metal too and I really have no idea what they’re saying, but I still like it!

deaddolly's avatar

@shrubbery…me too. The lyrics probably say something about their asshole fans! lol

SuperMouse's avatar

I like listening to the lyrics, but really it depends on the song.

I love this song by Gorillaz, and the lyrics are mostly just silly. I like Bowling for Soup because of their goofy lyrics. Then of course there is Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs the world famous Wooly Bully, a song with lyrics that are still not fully deciphered forty years later, but a fabulous, timeless song nonetheless.

Then there are songs like The Scientist by Coldplay and The Luckiest by Ben Folds that for me, are all about the lyrics.

shrubbery's avatar

haha deaddolly check this out, I mean I know it’s taking a dig at Trivium (sorry if you like them) but it’s still pretty funny cause so many are like that

SuperMouse, great examples!

deaddolly's avatar

@shubbery—that was great and gave me my first laugh of the morning! Thank you!

shrubbery's avatar

haha not a problem at all, it’s funny that it is your first laugh of the morning and my last laugh of the night. goodnight! or good morning to you, have a good day.

deaddolly's avatar

nite-nite…sweet daymares!

El_Cadejo's avatar

As long as the lyrics arent fucktarded, it doesnt matter to me. I mean i like all kinds of music some has simplistic lyrics while other has very deep in thought lyrics and some has none at all. I do feel as though i can appreciate a song with really good lyrics or a deep message much more than the simplistic ones though.

dalepetrie's avatar

The lyrics don’t have to be completely understandable to me, to answer your question, but if they are COMPLETELY incomprehensible, that’s different. Like if it’s clear that “something” is being said, but maybe I can’t understand all the words, that’s not a deal breaker. There are MANY songs I loved and had to read what the lyrics were…Nirvana is a great example again, because I didn’t know exactly what was being said 100% of the times. Then there’s the “comprehension” issue…like maybe I hear all the words but don’t completely “get” the meaning…I actually like that, that’s an example of abstraction…again I can use Nirvana/Cobain.

What does turn me off is the really aggressive death metal where there really isn’t any “singing” as much as “growling”. Some bands like Cannibal Corpse for example…I like the sound of the music, but it just sounds like an inhuman growl…and that’s what they’re going for, fair enough, it just distracts for me.

deaddolly's avatar

@alepetrie Agreed, I’m not a fan of screamo. I’d love to see if some of their fans could recite their lyrics word for word.

buster's avatar

Cannibal Corpse is such better after you decipher the Cookie Monster singing style and get at the heart of there songs.

deaddolly's avatar

i guess I have to get past the screams in order to do that. I do like the way they look.

dalepetrie's avatar

Something about music has to grab me. It could be a brilliant lyric, but more often than not it’s something vague I guess, the “sound”. By that I mean the “overall” sound. Usually I hear a song the first time and it just grabs me or it doesn’t. It usually isn’t until after I’ve heard a song a few times and really dig it every time that I start to get too curious about the lyrics. So that’s why if the lyrics jump out at me over the sound, then they’d better be good lyrics. But usually it doesn’t work for me the other way around, like if I hear a song and really like the sound and decide “I like this song”, then when I get to the lyrics I’m usually not too disappointed, even if they are simple. Simple is different to me than stupid and trite. And usually if the lyrics are stupid and trite, that just tends to jump out at me and slap me in the face every bit as much as the sound.

I’ve got a couple Cannibal Corpse albums, and some other death metal like Incantation, EyeHateGod, stuff like that, and I just hear it and I like the aggressive sound, but the fact that it just sounds like a growl I guess for me puts it almost in the same class as instrumentals…for me there’s something missing if I don’t have words…it’s part of the sound, and whether there are no words or just no coherent, decipherable words, the music doesn’t end up doing anything for me in the long run.

AlbertKinng's avatar

Yes, I don’t follow an artist or a song if I don’t like what it says. period.

Beans4life's avatar

I am a musician myself, but lyrics aren’t very important to me i preffer to listen to the music and hear what it says to me

AlbertKinng's avatar

????? (o[0) ?????

chou199015's avatar

First time I listen to a song I listen to the instruments and if I enjoy how it makes me feel then I listen to it over and over again. However after a while the words stay in my head and that is when I try to understand the song…but I guess sometimes like in hip hop music…I can’t stand the words but the beat and rhythm is louder…that’s what sticks…so it goes both ways…

xjustxxclaudiax's avatar

I love songs with good lyrics, the music only makes it better..AND the most important thing to me is that I must be able to understand what they are singing…I seriously cannot stand screaming and what they call “Pig squeals”.......I wouldn’t like someone just screaming in my ear, let alone pay to hear it on purpose. Same goes with rap songs, rap too fast and I wont even try to understand it….its really hard to peacefully sing along to rap songs too….. Hmm..

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