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

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

 

Hey, I'm sensitive about the point on my head! But otherwise, I agree with this. I am quite partial to Don B's story, The School. What I like most is that it takes some effort to pull meaning out of it, but even if you don't get the meaning, the images and the rhythm of the story are enjoyable in and of themselves. "And the trees all died." "It wouldn

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What do you mean by "make sense"? Lyrics certainly don't have to read like prose or follow the normal rules of grammar. Sometimes the words are just images, snapshots. And even when they are in a foreign language or nonsense words, they still need to make musical sense and rhythmic sense.

 

What it really comes down to is that we, as listeners, are free to decipher the words of a song any way we want, and the vaguer the words, the more latitude we have to interpret in our own way. Who, we must ask ourselves, really did put the bop in the bop she-bop? Furthermore, who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong?

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I don't think anyone knows the answers to those not-so-undying questions any more today than they did when people might have some clue what the hell you're talking about. :D

 

One of the songs I really hated when I was a kid growing up was "Mairzy Doats." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mairzy_Doats...

 

It (presumably) grew out of the double talk fad of the 40's (itself a presumed successor to the earlier pig latin fad)...

 

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey

A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?

[...]

If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,

Sing "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy."

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Hey, I'm sensitive about the point on my head! But otherwise, I agree with this. I am quite partial to Don B's story, The School. What I like most is that it takes some effort to pull meaning out of it, but even if you don't get the meaning, the images and the rhythm of the story are enjoyable in and of themselves. "And the trees all died." "It wouldn

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One of the songs I really hated when I was a kid growing up was "Mairzy Doats."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mairzy_Doats
...


It (presumably) grew out of the double talk fad of the 40's (itself a presumed successor to the earlier pig latin fad)...

My friend's sister teaches choir in a local HS. She had them perform that at a concert. All the parents in the audience smiled when they started. All the students in the audience had a WTF look on their faces, until the end. Then most of them laughed.

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the lyrics need to either be really eloquent and elegant, or bizarre enough to evoke interesting mental visuals.

 

So they need to make sense either in a poignantly clear-cut way or they need to connect ideas that have never been connected before.

 

But yeah of course they need to make sense. Do you listen to foreign (that you don't know a word of) language songs and get a lot out of them? I don't.

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Funny, just this morning Soul Coughing's "Super Bon Bon" came on the radio and I thought to myself, "Great senseless song. Now, is that good songwriting?"

 

And then I came here and found you all wondering the same thing.

 

It is the music and beat, but I think you get something extra when you get a poem, literature, thrown in as a bonus. The real soul is when the emotion of the music and the story are completely in sync.

 

But sometimes the whimsy is great too. :)

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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

 

It's all symbolism....

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Well now that makes perfect sense. It's a tragic story about someone with a belly-ache, and it seems the lime and coconut prescribed by the doctor was not helping. She called the doctor in the morning, as suggested, and was told to try the lime and coconut again and call in the morning. So she did this again and received the same response from the doctor the next day. WHEN WILL IT END?

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My friend's sister teaches choir in a local HS. She had them perform that at a concert. All the parents in the audience smiled when they started. All the students in the audience had a WTF look on their faces, until the end. Then most of them laughed.

Are you sure it wasn't the grandparents that were smiling? Or maybe the great-grandparents.

 

Or maybe there was some 80s show that resurrected it or something.

 

I thought my generation in the early 50s was the last set of kids to be submitted to that, then only ~10 year old song.

 

That's scary.

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the lyrics need to either be really eloquent and elegant, or bizarre enough to evoke interesting mental visuals.


So they need to make sense either in a poignantly clear-cut way or they need to connect ideas that have never been connected before.


But yeah of course they need to make sense. Do you listen to foreign (that you don't know a word of) language songs and get a lot out of them? I don't.

I think the point, for me, is that I have to be able to convince myself that the lyrics mean something to the person singing.

 

Or just sound really cool and be really catchy. I make special dispensation for that. ;)

 

 

I have, actually, often listened to a fair amount of music in other languages, but, no, I often don't feel like I get as much as I could if I knew the language.

 

Of course, sometimes it works against your sense of it... like when you bond with some song in some obscure language, it really moves you emotionally, you figure it's really deep, and then, later, you find out it's about doing the family laundry on stones by the riverside. (Not that you couldn't write something really profound about that, mind you. But I think you get what I mean.)

 

 

There are some writers where the literal meaning seems tantalizing, but almost ever out of reach -- those I rather like. Stuff like Marc Bolan or Kurt Kobain... there's an inner logic and self-contained quality to many of their better songs that teases and coaxes but always seems to hold back, as well. It's a dynamic tension that can be intoxicating. But if the listener -- or this listener, anyhow -- feels like he's being conned, that spell is broken instantly.

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Are you sure it wasn't the
grandparents
that were smiling? Or maybe the great-grandparents.


Or maybe there was some 80s show that resurrected it or something.


I thought my generation in the early 50s was the last set of kids to be submitted to that, then only ~10 year old song.


That's scary.

There was a crusty old choir instructor who used to include it in choir concerts at least every other year, until she retired about 10 years ago. So any alumni from the HS has heard it.

 

And yes. That is scary. :eek:

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Stuff doesn't have to make sense to be a hit.

 

Loser by Beck was intentionally nonsensical. Some mentioned Cobain earlier... his lyric writing didn't make sense in any normal fashion. Leonard Cohen's "Take This Waltz" was actually a translation of a poem by Federico Garc

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I think there's a big gap between self-indulgent word salad as lyrics and something like "Loser." And the Lorca take-off from Cohen? My gosh, I wish my tech writing teacher in college had been half that coherent and on point.

 

Huge difference between the kind of verbal cubism of "Loser" and some of the stuff I've seen. Of course, maybe some of that stuff did mean something, but I can read or hear "Loser" and get the message without jumping through any intellectual hoops. Ditto the Cohen song. (Though not all his songs -- or Beck's for that matter -- are nearly so message-friendly. ;) )

 

 

If you tell me that what looks like word salad to me means something to you -- who am I to say it doesn't?

 

But that doesn't mean that I'm going to have infinite patience teasing out meaning from it.

 

For me to make the effort to peel apart a hidden meaning, I'm going to need to be intrigued, drawn in. Guys like Beck or Cohen -- maybe even Cobain -- are good at giving you the hooks that get you intrigued.

 

But to a lot of folks, I think, it just looks like nonsense -- and so they feel like that gives them license to write nonsense.

 

It's kind of like those suburban abstract expressionists who figured they could just throw paint at a canvas and become world famous artists...

 

 

BTW, I was watching an Ironside re-run on Hulu the other night and I think I may have spotted a couple of Beck's grandpa, Al Hansen's works in the modern art collection of a 'murder victim' in the show. Also possibly some Kienholz, but I think it was another one of the Fluxus related guys, actually. I think LACMA used to loan out some of its then-new modern art collection for TV shows and such.

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I love how Paul screws up the lip syncing at 1:30
:lol:

Well, not at all sure that would be the original soundtrack, as it would have been more likely to have been made and distributed originally with a mono soundtrack.

 

Don't forget, stereo was still a total afterthought, even as late as Sgt Pepper's, where the key Beatles all stuck around for the arduous mono mixes -- and then they left the stereo mixes to George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick.

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Well now that makes perfect sense. It's a tragic story about someone with a belly-ache, and it seems the lime and coconut prescribed by the doctor was not helping. She called the doctor in the morning, as suggested, and was told to try the lime and coconut again and call in the morning. So she did this again and received the same response from the doctor the next day. WHEN WILL IT END?

Like Sisyphus and the rock. Or Prometheus' liver. Or something.

 

 

 

Hmm... I think I'll start an existentialist gospel band called Sisyphus & The Rock...

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