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Do lyrics have to make sense for the song to be a hit?

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For instance, Come Together by The Beatles from Abbey Road makes no sense, but the song was very popular

on radio and still is one of John Lennon's coolest songs.

 

What are some songs that are/were popular with lyrics that make no sense?

 

Shoot me

 

Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly

He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller

He got hair down to his knee

Got to be a joker he just do what he please

 

He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football

He got monkey finger, he shoot coca-cola

He say "I know you, you know me"

One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

Come together right now over me

 

He bag production, he got walrus gumboot

He got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker

He got feet down below his knee

Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease

Come together right now over me

 

[Right!

Come, oh, come, come, come.]

 

He roller-coaster, he got early warning

He got muddy water, he one mojo filter

He say "One and one and one is three"

Got to be good-looking cos he's so hard to see

Come together right now over me

 

Oh

Come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah oh

Come together

Yeah come together

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No, but then you are missing out on a powerful element of songwriting. If you write lyrics that are smart and clever, while still being quite clear to the listener it can really emphasize the emotions and imagery of the song.

 

You don't always need to have the whole thing be completely clear, but the right line in the right place can still make a song much better even if the rest of it doesn't have the same immediacy.

 

IMHO I feel lyrics that are too complicated or nonsensical lyrically just don't make the emotional impact that clearly decipherable lyrics do. That is why most hits do make sense, even if a lot of them have modestly simple lyrics. :)

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no. lots of english songs become hits in countries that don't speak english, and i don't speak latin, but i like ave maria. then there are songs with lyrics that are incomprehensible in their native language.

that being said, come together makes sense to me.

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I prefer lyrics that make little or no sense. I like lyrics in other languages for similar reasons. If I can't understand it, then it's as though the vocals just blend in as another instrument. When I listen to music, I want to think about melodies, harmonies and rhythm. If I want to complicate things with words, I'll read a book.

 

Just kidding...I don't actually read:)

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Similarly with poetry--the message is typically lost on me because I get lost in the rhythm. If a lyrics or stanza stands out, it is because it is either brilliant or stupid.

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Not really, just needs a good melody/flow. Although meaningful/understandable lyrics will make it much better.

 

"come together" sounds like something someone would write if they were high on 30 different drugs at once lmao

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He roller-coaster, he got early warning

He got muddy water, he one mojo filter

He say "One and one and one is three"

Got to be good-looking cos he's so hard to see

Come together right now over me


Oh

Come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah come together

Yeah oh

Come together

Yeah come together

 

 

^^^Those lyrics^^^ make sense. In an artistic capacity they absolutely leave a very clear impression of some very vague images. And some very crystal clear images as well. The meaning, if there is one in the conventional sense, is secondary to the impression.

 

But, to some degree, that's the way a literal song works too. The words leave an impression. It might be starkly literal like "School's OUT... FOR... SUMMER!" or it might be splatters of Pollockesque image-word-phrases like:

 

He got feet down below his knee

Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease

 

Hold you in his arm(s)... chair? That's pretty cool. Leaves an impression on me. One that wouldn't be possible in a literal lyric. Considering he shoots coca-cola I can actaully see his arms. Cah-reepy. So...

 

...does it make sense? Well, maybe not. Did he have a vision he was trying to get through to you and me... absolutely. Can't you see that guy?

 

He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football

He got monkey finger, he shoot coca-cola

 

^^^ That guy^^^ the above phrase conjured in my mind used to scare the hell out of me as kid. But in a good way. Creepy Crumb-like 60's Sunset Hipster Jamesdeaniewithlonghiar Junkie Loser Handsome Svengali Seer Dude. Keep On Truckin' You Spinal Cracker. Over me. CRACK! Right through to my jaw.

 

Scary. Makes sense to me. No?

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I think sometimes an artist, myself included will do scratch lyrics just to get a melody and rhythm/meter and phasing going, then switch them out later. Some leave them in on occasion, which is what Come Together feels like to me. Anthony Keidis does it a lot in RHCP too.

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I think sometimes an artist, myself included will do scratch lyrics just to get a melody and rhythm/meter and phasing going, then switch them out later. Some leave them in on occasion, which is what Come Together feels like to me. Anthony Keidis does it a lot in RHCP too.

 

I think he might have left them in cause he looked at his splattered wall and said, "That's... pretty freakin' cool."

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I think he might have left them in cause he looked at his splattered wall and said, "That's... pretty freakin' cool."

 

Agreed!

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Talk about lyrics not making sense, listen to John Lennon in this Beatle song about Yoko when he makes up words I have never heard.

 

The lyric begins at 1:59 into the song.

 

[YOUTUBE]LzDShu2FOhY[/YOUTUBE]

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Of course the song Come Together makes perfect sense when you know what the song is about and how clear John Lennon thought about issues.

 

Timothy Leary the guy in the 60's that told people to "Turn on, tune in, drop out", was running for Governor of California. His campaign slogan was "Come Together", he asked John Lennon to write him a campaign song. Lennon wrote Come Together, but never got around to offering it to Leary.

 

I think John was inspired by Leary's use of LSD for the lyrics for the song.

 

Now it makes sense :lol:

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I prefer lyrics that make little or no sense. I like lyrics in other languages for similar reasons. If I can't understand it, then it's as though the vocals just blend in as another instrument. When I listen to music, I want to think about melodies, harmonies and rhythm. If I want to complicate things with words, I'll read a book.


Just kidding...I don't actually read:)

I prefer lyrics in a foreign language to those in my own that don't make sense.

 

I have to say, if I think a writer is just stringing together nonsense -- and I have that feeling more than a little -- I feel cheated, like the guy/gal just doesn't care enough to put in the effort.

 

 

That said, I don't think the meaning has to come out and hit you over the head.

 

There are a lot of cryptic lyrics out there that can be fun, interesting, and thought-provoking to take apart and try to make sense of.

 

But if you do that and you start getting the feeling that you're just being pulled along by the lyrical equivalent of a conversa-bot, who needs that?

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Plus, back in the day, we invented meanings for the lyrics. The whole Paul-is-dead thing. So, the lyrics held together in a weird storyline way and we made our own sense of it. And that sense was an integral part or the song's great popularity.

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But the listener has to feel like there's actually a message or story of some kind there, I think, or he/she probably won't put in any effort at all.

 

Who wants to waste time with a puzzle if he really thinks there's actually no answer to the puzzle or that it makes no sense? That just feels insulting.

 

 

Granted, I think there is a small subsection of listeners who simply don't care about lyrics and don't pay any attention to them. But they're a minority, even if not necessarily a negligible one, and the fact that they don't seem to care about lyrics one way or the other seems to suggest that folks who do write songs where the lyrics matter can simply ignore those for whom they don't.

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I'm still of the mind that "making sense" is a moving target. Does Come Together make sense? Even with the Leary explanation it doesn't in the traditional way. But does it move you? Engage you?

 

Absolutely.

 

Does it take you somewhere like a great work of art? Yes. Job done. Like Byrne said, Stop Making Sense. That works too...

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The only thing that moved me about the song was the riff... and I thought it was kind of cheezy.

 

And I had a big appetite for psychedelia. (Big Pete Brown fan. But when you read Pete Brown's decidedly out there lyrics for Cream, you certainly get the sense that they're about something, no matter how aggressively arty the construction may be.)

 

 

I loved the Beatles work in the Rubber Soul period but, with few exceptions, I didn't have much use for their later work. From Sgt Pepper's on it seems more and more marred by sloppiness and laziness.

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I prefer lyrics in a foreign language to those in my own that don't make sense.


I have to say, if I think a writer is just stringing together nonsense -- and I have that feeling more than a little -- I feel cheated, like the guy/gal just doesn't care enough to put in the effort.



That said, I don't think the meaning has to come out and hit you over the head.


There are a lot of cryptic lyrics out there that can be
fun, interesting, and thought-provoking
to take apart and try to make sense of.


But if you do that and you start getting the feeling that you're just being pulled along by the lyrical equivalent of a conversa-bot, who needs that?

I like this. In particular the part I added bold to. But I like the rest of it, too.

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I prefer lyrics in a foreign language to those in my own that don't make sense.


I have to say, if I think a writer is just stringing together nonsense -- and I have that feeling more than a little -- I feel cheated, like the guy/gal just doesn't care enough to put in the effort.

Partially because I do not believe that "transparent" meanings or correct interpretations are possible, I exploit vagueness/ambiguity in my lyrics, and they're often more or less nonsensical. I'm also a big fan of absurdism, so that's another motivation. I do not see my job in writing lyrics like that as less work than if I were to write more conventional lyrics . . . although I also do not see "more work" as being indicative of aesthetic quality. I look at it as an awareness of providing "meaning potentials", rather than the illusion of transparently transferring some specific meaning.

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Allow me to modify (retract?) my statement. I typically prefer lyrics whose meaning does not immediately jump out at me. It can be because the lyrics are cryptic or because I cannot make out all the words without effort. If I cannot make out the words or meaning easily, I count it as a blessing and continue enjoying the music.

 

There are still some musicians whose lyrics I love, and that adds to the experience of listening. But many otherwise great bands have been ruined, in my opinion, by bad lyrics. Maybe individual lines were good (and I will sometimes hold onto those), but the song as a whole was about something so trite that I couldn't listen to it anymore.

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Partially because I do not believe that "transparent" meanings or correct interpretations are possible, I exploit vagueness/ambiguity in my lyrics, and they're often more or less nonsensical.
I'm also a big fan of absurdism
, so that's another motivation. I do not see my job in writing lyrics like that as less work than if I were to write more conventional lyrics . . . although I also do not see "more work" as being indicative of aesthetic quality. I look at it as an awareness of providing "meaning potentials", rather than the illusion of transparently transferring some specific meaning.

 

When I studied/practiced creative writing (primarily short fiction) in college, I went for absurdism. Don Barthelme was a big influence. I need to try to work this into my lyrics. Absurd situations and images with a meaning, but one that's open to interpretation...damn that's tasty! Observation over inference (or perception over judgment)...gorgeous!

 

This conversation is making me hungry.

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Absurdism and surrealism, of course, are not just writing whatever comes to the top of one's pointy little head.

 

I was a big Barthelme fan, too. I think it's worth noting that I never once felt like he was just spewing out nonsense and figuring that was good enough. (Now, In His Own Write... That one does stretch one's patience, no matter how much we may have loved Lennon -- or Lear.)

 

It's like Joyce... it might strike some folks as nonsense but it's pretty clear that a huge amount of work went into the intricate interconnections that interlace and unify what might at first just seem absurdist ramblings.

 

What bugs me are folks who read a few paragraphs of Joyce and say, I could do that!

 

No. No you couldn't.

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