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DominicX's avatar

How important is meaning in lyrics to you?

Asked by DominicX (28762points) August 9th, 2010

There’s a song by James Blunt called “I Really Want You”. The title seems to give away the meaning of the song and the chorus is pretty straightforward. But then in the verses we have:

Many prophets preach on bended knee
Many clerics wasted wine
Do the bloodied sheets on the cobbled streets mean
I have wasted time?

They say a million people bow and scrape
To an effigy of gold
I saw life begin and the ship we’re in
And history unfold.

These lyrics don’t seem to match with the rest of the song and I’m skeptical if they even had an intended meaning. But I still love the sound of these lyrics. The words are like art, even if there was no intended meaning.

Additionally, the song “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes with its mysterious lyrics about bloodied snow and little kids with severed heads and strawberries in the summertime was the subject of much discussion until the band revealed that the song had no intended meaning and it was more about harmony.

That didn’t bother me. A person can assign their own meaning and the sound of the words themselves are part of the art of the song. But what about you? Would you feel ripped off if you found out a supposedly “deep” song of yours had no intended meaning?

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18 Answers

momnipotence's avatar

I create my own meanings to songs….how they affect me. I like to hear the stories behind the songs and what caused the artists to create them but to me it’s what it means to me.

zophu's avatar

I prefer wordless music for day to day listening because it doesn’t get old as fast. But my favorite songs are distinguished by their lyrics.

DominicX's avatar

@zophu

I’m also an enormous fan of wordless music. I was actually thinking that because I got into classical music first and because it’s still my #1 favorite genre, lyrics may be less important to me in general.

Piper's avatar

Well, everybody says Owl City just makes up random lyrics that don’t meaning anything and Owl City is my favorite band. It’s just that his songs make me feel warm and happy unlike any other music. His music is truly great. I don’t care if he just makes up random lyrics, the lyrics are wonderful to listen to. :]

DominicX's avatar

@Piper

I love Owl City. :) And I don’t care if his lyrics had no intended meaning. It’s the same with the two songs I mentioned, the words themselves are a form of art and can be beautiful. This is why I enjoy foreign music in languages I don’t understand. The sound of the language is beautiful to me, I don’t need to know what the songs mean. Some people think I’m crazy for that. :P

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

The melody is what gets me first and then I learn the lyrics later.

zophu's avatar

Here is a Pandora Radio station I made with just wordless music if anyone’s interested. Some interesting music on there. Not really classical, not really techno. Not sure what genres my taste is in.

frdelrosario's avatar

“American Pie”, “Stairway to Heaven”, and almost every hit by America (“Horse with No Name”, “Ventura Highway”, “Sister Golden Hair”) were gibberish, yet I don’t think anyone who grew up with those songs minds.

TexasDude's avatar

I prefer songs to have meaningful lyrics, or at least poetic, imagery-filled lyrics if there is no concrete meaning.

That said, I absolutely hate overtly political songs.

DominicX's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard

Yeah, I don’t like that either. Preaching is for churches. Keep it out of cartoons and music. :)

TexasDude's avatar

@DominicX, yep, that’s pretty much how I feel about it.

Haleth's avatar

“Would you feel ripped off if you found out a supposedly “deep” song of yours had no intended meaning?”
Absolutely. I love to make things (writing and painting), and I enjoy literary criticism. Part of enjoying a work of art is appreciating the genius and hard work that went into it. If words have no intended meaning, then they might as well have been written by an infinite number of monkeys at typewriters. The end result is still enjoyable, but you lose the feeling of connection with the person who wrote the words. I like feeling that the person who wrote the song or book I like is more eloquent and intelligent than I am, and that I have something to learn from exposing myself to their work.

DominicX's avatar

@Haleth

Yeah, I definitely can see that side of it. When I first found out “White Winter Hymnal” had no intended meaning, I was a little disappointed. The lyrics are so mysterious and I love anything that’s mysterious and bizarre. For such a peaceful sounding song to have these odd images in it, I thought for sure it would have a very interesting meaning and I would wonder about what the lyricist was thinking when he wrote it.

Animal Collective is another band with some songs without an intended meaning. “Peacebone” being the main one. But because that song is so obviously gibberish, I don’t seem to mind it as much. It’s the ones that trick me that bother me more.

Disc2021's avatar

Music is a form of art and I think art is always open to ambiguity. There are several songs that mean several different things to several different people, but the artist didn’t intent any real meaning or most people take away something far different than what’s presented – that’s the beauty of it. One creation turns into many.

There are bands that I love specifically because their music tells a story, often stories that provoke a plethora of emotions and what not. Then there are bands (artist) that I specifically like the “life’s a blast” element to – your radio music; listening to “shots shots shots shots” before the bar with your friends, etc. It’s all music and as long as it serves it’s purpose, you’re getting what you paid for (or didn’t legally pay for…).

“Peacebone”. Weird song for a weird band.

The Shins “Chutes too Narrow”, “Oh, Introverted World” and “Wincing the Night Away” albums all remind me of a volunteer trip I went on down south with a friend, in a very odd type of way. Listening to any song from any of the albums almost makes me feel like I’m back there, or at least gives me a certain sense of Deja Vu. It’s amazing how powerful music really is…

Austinlad's avatar

Like others, I’m usually attracted to the music before the lyrics—although the words in some songs are so powerful they are what stick with me. But often, musicians merely shoehorn words to fit the music.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Sometimes artists just make shit up.
I think you can and should interpret it anyway you’d like…they’re not the boss of me! I’ll think what I want ;)

Cruiser's avatar

Not much at all. For me it is all about the melody…a good melody can be moving and emotive and stand on it’s own. Lyrics though are but a mere poem without good music behind it.

Winters's avatar

Most of the time art is created so that each individual can take away their own meaning from it. The artist behind the piece of work may or may not have had a reason, a meaning, behind the art, but its up to you to take away from it what you want.

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