The Trouble With Lyrics

I'll tell you what really troubles me these days, Pop music lyrics. 

 In the past, I might have listened to a slew of popular songs and shown you guys how they're all ripped off from songs that preceded them, a neat little parlor trick indeed. But when I sat down recently and listened to a cross-section of current chart toppers, I was kinda shocked. 

 Some lyrical samples-

  •  Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
  • 'Cause when I leave for the night, I ain't coming back

 What the F is this? Is this supposed to be empowering to young women? You start your morning drinking and you stay out all night?

 How does that support your self-esteem? 

 BTW, there's nothing in the rest of this lyric that tells me why she has to behave this way. Did she have a bad childhood? Is she from an alcoholic family? Is she mentally handicapped? We'll never know.

 In the rest of the lyric, she talks about partying, guys trying to grab her "junk" and so on.

 What troubles me most, is there's really no consciousness to it. If popular music reflects the consciousness of our society, then according to Kesha, currently our society basically wants to get drunk, party and have potential romantic partners grab our genitalia. 

 Now don't let me mislead you into thinking I'm some kind of prude, uptight neocon. I like to have a good time too, and I'm no stranger to copping a feel in the name of "love". Here's the problem. If that's all we're doing, then it's just base and lacking in anything substantive. 

 Another example-

  • Lets' make a team 
  • Make 'em say my name 
  • Lovin' the extreme 
  • Now are you game? 

 I'm guessing this lyric was written in, oh... 45 seconds?? So what's the message here? That sex with multiple partners is RAD?? Let's see, you're an impressionable young girl, and Britney's telling you to have three ways. Great. Guys will love that for sure. 

 And the rest of the lyric doesn't add any more dimension. Among other things, it says "living in sin is the new thing" (it's not), and also gives potential instructions on how you might proceed with said three way. Again, the problem for me isn't the idea itself, it's the way it's presented. 

 BTW, the only time the word "love" is ever mentioned, is in reference to counting. As in, "everybody loves counting". Other than that, it's devoid of it.

 What if instead, the lyric was about true polyamory? What if it was about someone, who after years of soul searching, came to the brave conclusion that they love more than one person, and have courageously decided to buck the social moorings of society to be true to themselves? Now thatwould be an interesting lyric!

 Here's one that surprised me a bit-

  • You would not believe your eyes
  • If ten million fireflies
  • Lit up the world as I fell asleep

  • 'Cause they'd fill the open air
  • And leave teardrops everywhere
  • You'd think me rude
  • But I would just stand and stare

 This one isn't that offensive. There's some nice imagery, and the lyric hints at something deeper than just the literal meaning. There's also some mystery there, giving the listener the opportunity to find their own meaning in it as well. You see, it has layers. You can enjoy the literal meaning, and you can also glean something deeper from the subtext if you choose. There's self reflection. Overall, it's just a little more conscious than the other examples in my opinion. The production (although well executed), is a little too synthetic for my taste. I have no idea if this artist has any bona fide musical skills. Does that matter? To me it does, because a generation of musical artists that can't really sing or play an instrument is a troubling notion. You may disagree. Does the track feel good? Pretty good to me actually. As I've stated before, if the production is synthetic as anartistic choice, then it's justified, and to me this is the case.

 Lastly, I mustn't exclude this enlightened chestnut-

  •  Work it, I'm a free bitch, baby

 Okay Lady Gaga, I think I get it. Woman are free bitches, is that it?

 Honestly, this one's a little tougher for me to criticize, because I think Lady Gaga is actually talented. I'm disappointed she didn't try harder. The rest of this lyric basically takes the idea of a bad relationship being desirable, and whips it into a froth. Now, I understand better than most that when you're used to being mistreated, you learn to spin it into something appealing. And there's enough sadists and masochists in the world that will relate to that idea as well. But once the whole "bitch" thing starts happening, I lose interest because it's a lazy, unimaginative lyrical choice. And, whether they know it or not, people (especially woman) are hearing a female role model reiterate that they are "free bitches". Is that how you like to think of yourselves, ladies?

 So what is being sold these days? To me, it's very clear. Woman are drunk, partying, free bitches that want to have threesomes. Wow. How evolved. You've really come a long way, babies...

 Seriously, my heart goes out to you Gen-Y kids. Your role models are selling you one dimensional, low brow ideals. It's no wonder you can't hold a conversation longer than five minutes, or have internal meltdowns when you have no cell reception or wifi signal. You're hooked on the junk, and you don't know what to do with yourselves when your supply gets cut off and you're not being instructed to act like idiots. It's not your fault!

 On a personal level, I'm disappointed in some of my peers that produce this stuff. I've known more than a few of you guys for years, and fellas, YOU have a responsibility to help these impressionable ingenues reach their higher ground as Stevie so eloquently instructed us to do all those years ago. Remember?? So what gives? Why aren't YOU trying harder?? Is it fear? Laziness? Greed? What??

 Now I know there are those of you out there who might read this and say "Wait! There are great young artists! There are great, conscious lyrics being written!" While this may be the case, I'm addressing the most popular songs in America. That's why they call it Pop Music after all. Because these are the songs that reach the most people, make the most money, and as a consequence, get recreated again and again for better or um... Worse.

 So... What am I proposing? 

 All you young artists, all you music makers, lyric writers, poets etc... CHANGE IT. It's entirely in your hands, whether you know it or not. 

 Know this; your role models can only sell you what you buy. Currently, a-lot of you are buying vapid, lazy, uncreative music. If you stop buying it, THEY WILL HAVE TO CHANGE IT. 

 Why not make it just a little more challenging for them? Make them have to think a little more about the things they're singing when they open their mouths. 

 Why, you ask? Because this is YOUR world, and one day you might feel more than just a little ill when you realize you've been fed a steady diet of musical junk food, and you're suffering from spiritual starvation and malnourishment. 

 And just an aside: To the young ladies who's lyrics I've quoted... Consider how it will feel to sing these songs when you're 35 or 45 or 55 years old. What will it feel like when your kids ask you what you meant when you sang these songs? Upon reflection, you may feel more than just a little uncomfortable. But hey, it'll be okay. You'll just drink your Jack, party, and have another three way. 'Cause you're all just a bunch of free bitches anyhow, right?

Leave a comment

Add comment