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The Great Cliche Challenge of 2009


Elias Graves

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Hard to top John Prine's

 

"Chased a rainbow down a one-way street, dead-end."

 

Cliche rhymes:

 

dream

seem

dance

romance

moon

tune

swoon

 

Cliche phrases:

 

shattered dreams

road to nowhere

chasing rainbows

dead-end street

 

I'll give it a try:

 

Our romance was a dance

down a road to nowhere,

Leaving our shattered dreams behind,

dying in the dust.

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It is hard. Cliches are so heavily used because they work well. They just get too many miles on them.


EG

 

Cliches are so heavily used because writers are lazy. They are only effective on lazy readers. :cop:

 

You know when folks say, "I hate to say this, because it's so cliche -- [insert cliche]." They say that because using cliches is a mark of shame. I wonder where Dante would put them in the Inferno: in the fifth circle with the slothful or in the eighth circle with the thieves? :idk:

 

I need to know, for I need to do proper penance.

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Hard to top John Prine's


"Chased a rainbow down a one-way street, dead-end."


Cliche rhymes:


dream

seem

dance

romance

moon

tune

swoon


Cliche phrases:


shattered dreams

road to nowhere

chasing rainbows

dead-end street


I'll give it a try:



Our romance was a dance

down a road to nowhere,

Leaving our shattered dreams behind,

dying in the dust.

 

 

 

John Prine can turn a phrase.

 

EG

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." They say that because using cliches is a mark of shame. I wonder where Dante would put them in the Inferno: in the fifth circle with the slothful or in the eighth circle with the thieves?
:idk:

I need to know, for I need to do proper penance.

 

:cop::cool::lol::lol::lol:

 

Oh, man, you are on tonight, brother.

 

EG

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Set you free...


Set me free


Love will set you free...or


If you love her then set her free


Seems I see "set you free" all the time.


IDK how to change it. Just don't use it.

 

I have a pet notation I put in the margins of my notebooks: WWP=Well Worn Phrase.

 

A constant reminder to myself to avoid the accursed cliche. I avoid them like the plague. :facepalm:

 

I avoid them at all costs :facepalm::facepalm:

 

 

Oh, God help me.

 

EG

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Cliches are the connective tissue that bind my songs into the great history of song.


I treat each one as a precious gift from the generations of songwriters and minstrels who came before me...

 

 

You make a valid point. There are many what I refer to as "traditional phrases." Those can add value and the connection of which you wrote. I use those in my songs as well. I use them purposefully and judiciously.

 

The purpose really of this thread is to caution ourselves as writers to avoid the laziness against which Chris is cautioning us.

 

I attempt to draw a distinction between using "I don't know but I been told" because I want that line there as connective tissue (great line by the way) and carelessly using "my heart was beating like a drum."

 

If I read us all correctly, it seems we are in agreement on those points.

 

EG

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I have a pet notation I put in the margins of my notebooks: WWP=Well Worn Phrase.


A constant reminder to myself to avoid the accursed cliche. I avoid them like the plague.
:facepalm:

I avoid them at all costs
:facepalm:
:facepalm:



Oh, God help me.


EG

 

I'm trying to paint pictures with my lyrics now... not much room for cliches there which is nice, because I avoid them too. "set you free" was mentioned earlier.... yeah... it's a really cliche cliche.

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You make a valid point. There are many what I refer to as "traditional phrases." Those can add value and the connection of which you wrote. I use those in my songs as well. I use them purposefully and judiciously.


The purpose really of this thread is to caution ourselves as writers to avoid the laziness against which Chris is cautioning us.


I attempt to draw a distinction between using "I don't know but I been told" because I want that line there as connective tissue (great line by the way) and carelessly using "my heart was beating like a drum."


If I read us all correctly, it seems we are in agreement on those points.


EG

 

 

Oh, yeah.

 

I had the tip of my tongue firmly in my cheek when I was writing that... not to say that it's not also true, in many ways...

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Oh, yeah.


I had the tip of my tongue firmly in my cheek when I was writing that... not to say that it's not also
true
, in many ways...

 

How bizarre. I didn't sense the tongue in cheek aspect of your post at all. It rang very true to me. I think the point that I took from your post is that there is a distinct difference between the laziness of using cliches simply beacuse they work and giving due respect to the traditions of songwriters past. I am certainly not averse to using a well worn phrase IF it is there for a purpose and to illustrate a connection to tradition. I do, however, have a strict limit of doing that only once per song. I feel I can get away with that. Any more and it's laziness.

 

Anbody else want to rewrite a cliche? Come on, step up :facepalm:

 

EG

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I'm not sure if you'll be able to always tell if the writer is being a lazy or trying to connect to tradition. One can connect to tradition by writing a love song; one can connect with cliches by using cliches verbatim. When you connect with tradition, you enter a conversation; when you connect with cliches, you eavesdrop and plagiarize. A cliche coxcomb can always claim ex post facto that he was connecting with tradition. A revisionist approach will keep the conscious clear.

 

You can use cliches as much as you wish and attempt to justify that use, but there are no solid justifications for resorting to cliches. We can only ask for forgiveness when committing such grievous errors against creativity.

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Let me elaborate my take a little better. I don't disagree with you a bit. In fact, that's why I posted this to begin with; to attempt to bring this isue to the forefront. I hear/read so many songs that are simply riddled with cliches that I really don't even know where to begin to criticize a piece of work. It's difficult to tell someone that every second line of their song has to go because it's like they just took a big bucket of cliches and dumped them on the table. One wants to be honest i an assessment, however, the truth sometimes hurts. I've been arond long enough to recognize my own shortcomings and I never take it personally when someone tells me "That doesn't work. Change it." Others don't have skin quite so thick.

 

The point I was trying, poorly, is to state is that there are certain phrasings in lyric that are standard usage, though not cliche. One of these phrases might be the aforementioned "I don't know but I been told," or others. They are standard, classic phrases that, if used correctly, can have an impact on a song. I don't believe I've ever used that particular line, though I did use a variant "Like I been told" (without the "I don't know" portion) as a kitschy bit in a blues tune.

 

To me a cliche is "my tears fell like rain" or "out of the clear blue sky." I agree that phrases such as those are an immediate death sentence for a song. Many an otherwise good song is heaped on the pile of garbage by me simply because of "rolling thunder" or the like.

 

It's a fine linebetween the two distinctions, but worth noting. Sometimes it works, others not. In my own song Jerry Mac that I believe you have heard, I used the line "Old Jerry Mac was a railroading son of a gun." I think in the context of that song, the line works as a signal to the listener of what's to come. The use of an idiomaic expession such as that can impart volumes in one phrase that might otherwise take seeral lines to accomplish because it is such a familiar and loaded phrase.

 

Gosh I missed you guys. This is fun.

 

EG

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As far as (Simile) Cliches and John Prine go...

 

It's a Big Ol' Goofy World - John Prine

 

Up in the morning

Work like a dog

Is better than sitting

Like a bump on a log

Mind all your manners

Be quiet as a mouse

Some day you'll own a home

That's as big as a house

 

I know a fella

He eats like a horse

Knocks his old balls

Round the old golf course

You oughta see his wife

She's a cute little dish

She smokes like a chimney

And drinks like a fish

 

There's a big old goofy man

Dancing with a big old goofy girl

Ooh baby

It's a big old goofy world

 

Now elvis had a woman

With a head like a rock

I wished I had a woman

That made my knees knock

She'd sing like an angel

And eat like a bird

And if I wrote a song

She'd know ever single word

 

Kiss a little baby

Give the world a smile

If you take an inch

Give 'em back a mile

Cause if you lie like a rug

And you don't give a damn

You're never gonna be

As happy as a clam

 

So I'm sitting in a hotel

Trying to write a song

My head is just as empty

As the day is long

Why it's clear as a bell

I should have gone to school

I'd be wise as an owl

Stead of stubborn as a mule.

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As far as (Simile) Cliches and John Prine go...


It's a Big Ol' Goofy World - John Prine


Up in the morning

Work like a dog

Is better than sitting

Like a bump on a log

Mind all your manners

Be quiet as a mouse

Some day you'll own a home

That's as big as a house


I know a fella

He eats like a horse

Knocks his old balls

Round the old golf course

You oughta see his wife

She's a cute little dish

She smokes like a chimney

And drinks like a fish


There's a big old goofy man

Dancing with a big old goofy girl

Ooh baby

It's a big old goofy world


Now elvis had a woman

With a head like a rock

I wished I had a woman

That made my knees knock

She'd sing like an angel

And eat like a bird

And if I wrote a song

She'd know ever single word


Kiss a little baby

Give the world a smile

If you take an inch

Give 'em back a mile

Cause if you lie like a rug

And you don't give a damn

You're never gonna be

As happy as a clam


So I'm sitting in a hotel

Trying to write a song

My head is just as empty

As the day is long

Why it's clear as a bell

I should have gone to school

I'd be wise as an owl

Stead of stubborn as a mule.

 

 

That about covers it.

 

EG

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