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How Socially Responsible Does The Lyrics To A Song Have To Be?

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  • How Socially Responsible Does The Lyrics To A Song Have To Be?

    I recently finished recording a song I wrote initially for acoustic guitar and it has grown a bit beyond that. I wanted to get your oppinion about the lyrics. The search for some oppinions stems from a response I got from a friend of mine who listened to the song.

    My friend listened and commented that "this was a very nice sounding, well recorded song; The lyric has a nice flow and the use of metaphor and simile offered a very vivid picture of the subject." Then he said "but you better not try to market that song because you might get sued. Remember what happened to Judas Priest?"

    Now 2 things will have to happen for you to understand what he meant: 1. You have to listen to the song and 2. You have to read the lyric. Here's the lyric:

    Die Away Easy-by Archie McLeod III

    Sometimes it's hard
    And I feel like I wanna' give up
    And I'm down to the last drop of coffee
    In this big old coffe cup
    Called life..........

    And sometimes life just ain't fair
    People walking all around you
    Like you're not even there

    And I ain't never felt
    Like I really belonged
    Folks standing there listening but they never hear your song
    And the more you cry out, the more they run and hide
    They don't ever want to feel the pain and the hurt that you feel inside

    Chorus:

    That's why I wanna' lay down
    And die away easy
    The damage done and it's all that I can do.
    The fight ain't worth the battle and a change for me is due
    I wanna' die easy

    Verse 2

    Somewhere along the way
    I lost touch with myself
    Givin' way to the whims and the whines
    Of everybody else
    That I Love

    But sometimes that love is not returned
    Seems that after so long that's a lesson that I should have learned

    Chorus

    Verse 3

    You say I sound like a cowardly man
    Well maybe that's true
    You've got your oppinions
    (And I've got mine too)
    But I've got the power to control my destiny
    There ain't nothng you can do about it
    It's All up to me

    Chorus........

    Now as you read this, remember all things are not as they seem and as readers respond, I'll explain the lyric in more detail. The link is listed below to the song. Click on it and take a listen.

    The Link To "Die Away Easy"-Click On It

    My question? Do you think the lyric here is socially irresponsible or socially unacceptable? Do you think this lyric may cause someone to harm themself? This song came from a personal experience, yes but I don't want the listener to get the wrong impression or interpretation of the song. Comments?
    "Music is the voice of my soul.........."

  • #2
    Dude, how many people will ever realistically hear your song? And of those people, what do you think is the percentage that would actually listen to the lyrics? And of those people, what percentage is going to have such a high regard for you that they decide without other provocation to kill themselves?

    Maybe they'll do it right there at the open mic night.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by the.aw.hells
      Dude, how many people will ever realistically hear your song? And of those people, what do you think is the percentage that would actually listen to the lyrics? And of those people, what percentage is going to have such a high regard for you that they decide without other provocation to kill themselves?

      Maybe they'll do it right there at the open mic night.


      First of all, thanks for the reply. Secondly, what do you consider "realistic"?
      right now, my soundclick site "realistically" has had about 53,000 hit's (visits) since Nov. 2003 up to now. I'm not counting the 2002-2003 stats. Aside from being an educator by day, I am a performer who has a rather large regional following and I do a lot of studio work in the Carolinas, Virginia, and the DC area. That alone puts my music before a pretty large audience.
      Thirdly, Who would realistically listen to my lyrics? (Refer back to the 2nd point) I am beyond open mic nights so who knows and since people who plan to kill themselves usually don't need a lot of provocation, I still don't know whether or not I want any of my words to remotely a source of motivation for them at all.

      "Music is the voice of my soul.........."

      Comment


      • #4
        If you're going to make artistic decisions based on whether or not you might get sued over the "social responsibility" of your lyrics, then you're putting a leash on your creativity that will become progressively shorter as time goes on. You'll find yourself shying away from touchy subjects until there's very little left to sing about. If you believe in the artisitic vision of this lyric, then your question pretty much answers itself. If not, then maybe you're not being honest with yourself musically.

        Basically I think that once you've asked yourself if you are satisfied with the song and the answer has come back yes, then it's your duty as an artist to present it to the public and be prepared to defend your artistic vision if necessary. I don't mean be militant or anything, but just be willing to stand up for the quality of your work. If you can't do that, then maybe the song isn't that important to you.

        I fully understand where you're coming from with your question. There are certain subjects which just have not been addressed musically very often because they are so sensitive. This song strikes me as a rather effective and sensitive look at the subject. Good work.
        Never let it be said that I don't enjoy the occasional delusion of grandeur.


        http://www.soundclick.com/billheeter

        Comment


        • #5
          I definitely disagree with that guy above. Your song makes me want to kill myself.

          But seriously, you have captured so much of how I feel. Let's look at it line by line.

          Die Away Easy-by Archie McLeod III

          Sometimes it's hard

          (Yes. It needs to be. That's when I stroke it. Or are you talking about something else?)

          And I feel like I wanna' give up

          (But I don't. I mean, sure my arm is tired, but I didn't spend 15 minutes cutting off the circulation and numbing my hand for nothing.)

          And I'm down to the last drop of coffee
          In this big old coffe cup
          Called life..........

          (Good point! I can't even count all the people I know who think their lives are just one "big old coffee cup..." I hear it referred to that way all the time.)

          And sometimes life just ain't fair (Yup)

          People walking all around you
          Like you're not even there

          (How dare they not focus their attention on you? Don't they know how important you are?!?)

          And I ain't never felt
          Like I really belonged
          Folks standing there listening but they never hear your song

          (If they're way unlucky that is... Your song needs to be heard! You have something to say.)

          And the more you cry out, the more they run and hide
          They don't ever want to feel the pain and the hurt that you feel inside

          (And for good reason, too. You, my friend, are a tortured artist, and nobody nobody in their right mind would want to shoulder your burden.)

          Chorus:

          That's why I wanna' lay down
          And die away easy

          (Yeah. It would suck to go out in an interesting way. If that happened, you might have to feel something, and you already have enough feelings.)

          The damage done and it's all that I can do.

          (well, don't sell yourself short.)

          The fight ain't worth the battle and a change for me is due

          (Yeah, dude. You deserve it.)

          I wanna' die easy

          Verse 2

          Somewhere along the way
          I lost touch with myself

          (You don't call... you don't write... Do you even know if you're still there?)

          Givin' way to the whims and the whines
          Of everybody else
          That I Love

          (Why do you love them again? They're whiners. Not like you, though. You don't whine. You just take it like a man... whatever "it" is, I mean...)

          But sometimes that love is not returned
          Seems that after so long that's a lesson that I should have learned

          (Who cares? You'll show them! Their lives will suck when you're gone. They'll see.)

          Chorus

          Verse 3

          You say I sound like a cowardly man
          Well maybe that's true

          (Oh come on... Dying away easy? That's hard. Only someone brave could face a painless death at a convenient time.)

          You've got your oppinions
          (And I've got mine too)
          But I've got the power to control my destiny
          There ain't nothng you can do about it
          It's All up to me

          (You sound very effacatious. I wish I were so empowered. I would kill myself alot more often. Maybe this afternoon?)

          I can definitely see why you are concerned. "It" gets me down all the time too, especially when it's hard. And then with everybody standing there not even listening to my song, I wonder why I keep living this big old coffee cup in the first place. Shiesh....
          No seriously, E.A.D.

          Comment


          • #6
            I think your question is very valid and one that you must consider carefully. As a songwriter myself I would move forward cautiously if I had a song with a very one-sided presentation or treatment of a subject. Music is shared so your audience does and should determine to some extent the content of your songs. People have shown that they are not capable of separating the ideas in one song from the ideas of another. If you write one song saying life stinks, and another song saying life is great . . . any time an artist does this, fans cite confusion and bitterness toward the songwriter. I guess they aren't able to understand the idea of a song capturing a feeling--they only understand a song as representing the average feelings of an artist.

            That said, I personally don't find your song potentially damaging or harmful, but I am not suicidal, so who knows.
            Check out a video, social media, and news aggregator site for the 2012 presidential election at www.electionwatch.tv.

            Comment


            • #7
              This also reminds me of the aftershocks of the Columbine tragedy. Marilyn Manson was blamed for this tragedy by many people and groups who believed he somehow played a part in the tragedy merely by writing dark songs.

              I may be the only one to say this, but as a songwriter you can't just say "I wrote this song and it's about something in my life so don't take it so seriously" -- you have to expect that people will take your song seriously. If they resonate with the song at all, no matter what it's content, they will use it as justification of the way they feel, regardless even of misinterpretation.
              Check out a video, social media, and news aggregator site for the 2012 presidential election at www.electionwatch.tv.

              Comment


              • #8
                I used to wrestle with the very questions you are as far as lyric writing, J.O.S.

                But ultimately, here's what you have to ask yourself:
                Are you writing to reach a mass audience?
                Are you writing to express feelings and ideas that can't be expressed in any other outlet?

                If your answer is number one, then you pretty much limit yourself to writing "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, moon, june, spoon" kind of thing, because it's a proven fact that radio and mass media (with a few notable exceptions) steer clear of a song that has any other kind of subject line.

                If your answer is number two, then write what you feel. Let whoever happens to hear it hang whatever shingle on it they will. History is littered with songs who's meaning was misinterpreted. ("Every Breath You Take" for example)

                Worry about whether it's the socially responsible thing to do AFTER the record deal. Right now, you have only one responsibility...to express yourself.
                Originally posted by THB

                I always comfort myself with the knowledge that if anyone in the audience could do better they probably would be, and ****************, if you can't laugh at yourself there will always be someone there to pick up the slack.

                Originally posted by squealie

                I would personally, like to find the assgobbler that invented the pipe-shaking car radio, and beat him to death with a stack of DMX cds. Do these ****************wits realize that the baby is sleeping?

                Swirls before pine.

                Comment


                • #9
                  How socially responsible do you want it to be?
                  check it out: easy edit flash templates
                  www.thedailysearch.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Seriously though... If I were you, I would worry about the quality of the song before I worried about social responsibility issues. Your song probably has some meaning to you because you wrote it and because you are the one that is possibly experiencing this deep psychological pain, but for everyone else (read: me), the lyrics are basically just hackneyed drivel. You haven't put a single meaningful image or detail in the song (unless you count the coffee cup, and I don't). It just goes on for verses, whining about some unnamed malady, and then you let everyone know that you wish you were dead but that you're too big a ******************** to kill yourself in any way that hurts.

                    Here's a suggestion: rewrite the song with some interesting content. Hell, you are probably cheating yourself out of about three or four good songs if you keep this one.

                    First, you could write about whatever it is that's actually causing you the heretofore unnamed pain. People are basically voyeurs and emotional vampires anyhow. They like tabloid headlines, and they like whatever it is that's making your life suck. So write that one first.

                    Second, write a song about all the ways you think up to kill yourself and the pros and cons to each. Treat it lightly and give the song an upbeat melody and nice, happy, major chords. The irony will bleed through, and people will like you for admitting that you have thought about packing it in. Everyone has. For example, I thought about jumping out my office window just yesterday morning, but I had too much work to do and it wasn't a convenient time. Plus, I would likely land atop my car, thereby decreasing the value of my estate.

                    Third, write a song about all the things you would do if you didn't have to worry about fitting in. I can only assume from the words of your song that you feel like a complete misfit. So, who would you date if you weren
                    No seriously, E.A.D.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      From the comments I've read by others in this thread, there seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding regarding the entire concept of social responsibility. There is a basic difference between standing up in a theater and yelling fire, and making a movie about standing up in a theater and yelling fire. One is the wrong thing to do, while the other is attempting to show artistically that this would be the wrong thing to do. Writing a song about depression and suicidal feelings IS socially responsible if your song makes the listeners think about the subject matter. That is ultimately the entire reason for the existence of creative endeavors...to make the audience think and feel certain things...and if you have made an artistic statement on a subject, then it is socially responsible to place it before the public so that it's relative value can be determined by society. Unfortunately, in today's world there are far too many who either can't or won't take the time to think about such creative endeavors, and then when something bad happens they respond with knee jerk reactions like blaming songs, or movies, or whatever art form they can latch onto for causing the aforementioned bad thing to happen instead of understanding that art in any form can't "make" someone do something.

                      Artists, musicians, and writers have been dealing with these kinds of dilemnas for as long as mankind has created art. If you feel you can make a relavent contribution to the societal discourse with a song, then not letting the world have the opportunity to listen does society a disservice. That's been the way of the artist throughout history, and for the most part it still is today, in spite of the rather large segment of society that seems to think that blame for anything bad that happens should be placed squarely at the feet of whoever they can point a finger at other than themselves.
                      Never let it be said that I don't enjoy the occasional delusion of grandeur.


                      http://www.soundclick.com/billheeter

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by billsworld
                        From the comments I've read by others in this thread, there seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding regarding the entire concept of social responsibility. There is a basic difference between standing up in a theater and yelling fire, and making a movie about standing up in a theater and yelling fire. One is the wrong thing to do, while the other is attempting to show artistically that this would be the wrong thing to do. Writing a song about depression and suicidal feelings IS socially responsible if your song makes the listeners think about the subject matter. That is ultimately the entire reason for the existence of creative endeavors...to make the audience think and feel certain things...and if you have made an artistic statement on a subject, then it is socially responsible to place it before the public so that it's relative value can be determined by society.


                        Thanks alot professor. I'm sure everyone is well versed in all the reasons we write and create. And when you next appropriate the mental work of Oliver Wendell Holmes, I think it would be appropriate to mention his name.

                        My whole point is that it is silly to worry about nebulous and time-worn "social responsibility" issues when you haven't even written lyrics worth repeating. Songwriting, as part of the oral tradition, serves a useful purpose. It is a way of expressing emotion, true, but it is also a way of telling stories and relating experiences. Every topic under the sun has already been discussed in song, and you will never write anything original unless you inject something uniquely yours into the format. A history, a characterization of an interesting person, an experience you had when you were on drugs -- it could be anything. Without it, however, you have not provided the listener with anything worth their time. Everyone has problems, and unless yours are particularly interesting and you are willing to tell about them in a meaningful way, then no one wants to hear you complain. So, no one will listen, and all your concern about social responsibility is just a bunch of wanking. First write somehting worth listening to, and then worry about whether you are being responsible.

                        That is why I have not treated the social responsibility issue directly in my prior posts -- not because of some perceived misunderstanding.

                        Otherwise, I think you are quite right about the stuff you said.
                        No seriously, E.A.D.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          First of all, let me thank you guys for the responses thus far. (Some more than others) I truly believe as many have said here that in essence a song is an artistic expression and that being said, should be shared. My little ditty, as with so many other songs by greater and lesser writers shares a personal spin of situations that affect us at the moment and very true, many times these words might help someone not feel so alone-that someone else is feeling what they are feeling or even as with many blues songs; paint a picture that makes your situation seem better-an uplift so to speak. But I don't live in a fantasy land. In our society, you can and will be sued for even *my* song (if you are basing on masses of people listening-there are exactly 3100 persons on SoundClick alone that have heard it already since October 26) if they feel they can afix blame somehow to you. And even though no one that I am aware of has been successfully sued for liability in the use of a lyric as such, herein lies the fact that they "have" been sued. Legal representation cost money at any level.

                          EAD, you seem such the synic here. Your in-your-face approach almost completely mask the point of this post. You in essence speak from the issue that *you* feel no one will listen to this song from a mass-media perspective and "no one would even want to hear this drivel that says nothing new." I am probably amongst the many listener who also feel like a number of our young contemporaries say absolutely nothing in song that any rational, intelligent life form would want to hear either and I have not heard and absolutely "new idea" in 40 years! MTV, VH-1, BET, etc. don't play new anything. It's all recycled ideas with a different back beat or instrumentation to present an illusion of newness. I love for example the "sound" of the bands "Jet" and "The Darkness" but their music speaks nothing new at all. On the contrary, their music is the 70's at it's best. EAD, I think that you should be more cognetive of the fact that your points are your points and not even those of 10 % of todays society and most people survive and thrive on familiarity- we are all most comfortable with "familiar" please do not discount ones song writing abilities, subject matter or mass appeal by your personal oppinions. You made some mighty bold prententious oppinions based on your personal feelings; not popular oppinion.
                          "Music is the voice of my soul.........."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yes, I am cynical.

                            That said, I think you can add something new to the canon. You just need to explore a little deeper to do so. We all necessarily have a unique perspective because our experiences are different. That is what you have to offer -- your perspective based on your unique experiences. If you leave the experiences out, however, you are just stating an unjustified opinion. In your case, the opinion is whiny, and therefore not palatable.

                            I think your lyrics are a very surface level treatment of a serious subject, and I think you could do much better. You just need to work harder and be more honest.

                            As for getting sued, you are smoking crack if you are worried about that. Yes, someone might sue you. No, they cannot win. You can beat them very cheaply, have the Court award you the costs and expenses of your trouble (which the other party should have to pay for filing a frivolous claim), and counterclaim for malicious prosecution. You'll come out ahead financially, and the press you can leverage off of a lawsuit like that would be priceless.

                            No Court would allow a jury to find that your song is the proximate cause of another person's suicide, and you will not be liable in tort or otherwise.

                            Back to the point at hand...Your song contains no interesting content. You just piss and moan without adding any justification for your feelings. That is not an opinion. That is a fact, and it is a true fact unless you want to say that "no one listening to your song" is your whole justification for wanting to die away easy. If so, I think that is pretty weak.

                            I encourage you to dig deeper and rewrite. Come back with something more visceral, and I will be excited for you.

                            P.S. I have not been able to access the recording of your song. Every time I click on the link, the server is down... or something.
                            No seriously, E.A.D.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              EAD I think you have a point that the lyrics could be stronger. They could. But it's also unfortunately true that only the writers care. Some songs connect with audiences despite their simplicity and unoriginality.

                              JoyOfSax take it for what it's worth. Your song could be better but stay true to yourself as a writer as you proceed in making it better. Early on when I was getting my creative writing degree I often felt like I was merely making my works more like the professors'. This was frustrating until I realized that the professors had valid advice, and that I could live up to that advice while remaining true to what I was trying to say. Once I achieved that balance my writing was much sharper and I could do more with less.

                              On the other side of that, when I started writing songs I made them very simple because IME people don't really seem to want to engage with a topic in a song. Also, the more vague your lyrics are the wider the audience is going to be who will connect to them. Someone above mentioned "Every Breath You Take," a threat song written from the point of view of a stalker, but which apparently has lyrics vague enough to be mistaken for a romantic love song.
                              Check out a video, social media, and news aggregator site for the 2012 presidential election at www.electionwatch.tv.

                              Comment



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