Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Cliche's"

Songwriting, songwriters, etc

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by Casey H » Wed May 03, 2006 6:30 am

Quote:Here's a verse lyric that might have been too abstract for an unknown to get forwarded.He said I was in my early forties (who is "he")with a lot of life before me when a moment came that stopped me on a dime (what happened, what was the moment?)and I spent most of the next days (who spent of the next days - first or second person?)looking at the x-rays Talking bout the options and talking bout sweet time (awkward juxtaposition between first and second person)I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end how's it hit you when you get that kinda news man what'd you do What's going on in the above scenario? The "common" wisdom is: if you have to explain, or can't answer the red ink, then the song doesn't have the legs to clear the high bar. Right from the first line, this lyric enters from left field. Abstract? Maybe, maybe not - it depends on the musical attraction of the delivery/melody. Obviously millions of people were able to "get it." But...luckily, a song is more than the sum of it's parts. When it is interpreted/sung to music, something magic can and often does happen. It's then we all get to go...sky diving, rocky mountain climbing... BCI dont find those lyrics too abstract at all. They paint a picture of someone getting bad news from the doc. Maybe a minor pronoun or tense fix needed, but not too abstract. Casey

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by bc » Wed May 03, 2006 8:24 am

>>BCI dont find those lyrics too abstract at all. They paint a picture of someone getting bad news from the doc. Maybe a minor pronoun or tense fix needed, but not too abstract. Casey<<I don't find them too abstract either Casey. But I was recently queried by a pretty good song writer to "explain the song." Who was the first person talking to/about etc... Try it. Ask someone to explain "exactly" what's happening in the song. I think you'll get some interestingly abstract answers. One man's abstract is one person's gender bias bc

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics "Too Abstract", "Cliche

Post by Casey H » Wed May 03, 2006 4:07 pm

Hey allJust to clarify, I was not talking about TAXI specifically regarding feedback on "Susie In My Eyes" lyrics. I think it was an NSAI reviewer that gave me a ration of criticism saying "you can have Susie in your mind, your heart, etc... but your eyes???" I am not totally discounting the input (maybe they do have a point) but it is fairly typical of professional reviewers.The industry is what it is. As others said, you can't blame TAXI or a music publisher if they can only take what they can sell. If everyone wants vanilla ice cream, strawberry won't cut it.Someone had posted on another thread that TAXI only wants clones of current acts. It's more than TAXI. In film and TV, the reason there are opportunities for folks like us is: Productions often don't want to pay the hefty price of using a well known hit song. So they look for songs with similar sound which they can get at a very low price. Once again, it's a matter of what is in demand. More laterCaseyPS Thanks to those who responded regarding the line "Susie in my Eyes"... I welcome comments both pro and con...

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by ernstinen » Wed May 03, 2006 6:12 pm

Quote:Someone had posted on another thread that TAXI only wants clones of current acts. That's also true in other genres. I was rejected in an "orchestral" listing awhile ago, and my pieces have been performed in Washington, D.C., and L.A., and have been recorded by the Bulgarian Symphony and the Kiev Philharmonic.I wrote TAXI that they should have these listings for "sounds like old-fashioned classical music" rather than a listing for current classical music.Sorry, that really pissed me off. No vision on their part.Ern

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by 53mph » Wed May 03, 2006 8:36 pm

Hey Don,I didn't mean to offend in any way and I didn't mean to put words into your mouth. What I was trying to get into perspective is are we discussing the idea of song writing from a songwriters point of view or from an A&R persons/Taxi screeners point of view?I know quite a few people who work in A&R and I can tell you, they are not trained songwriters who are going to lose a nights sleep over a lyric being too abstract. They look for memorable lyrics, strong choruses and style. Taxi screeners are looking from the point of view of fulfilling a clients brief and a songwriter will look at a song from the point of view of an artist.Which point of view are we looking at it from?That will change drastically how this thread continues.I think the point of view of the adverage listener is very different from that of the songwriter or screener. Their job is to look at a song from the point of view of their craft, the same way a painter will often go up close to a canvas to see how the brush strokes are made whilst the adverage viewer will stand back to take in the image.I studied fine art. I never studied song writing so I'd like to make a comparison between the world of art and music.A serious artist studies their craft. They are all absorbed in the world of their art and often the process is mastered after many years of trial and error. They have a vast knowledge of all the artist that came before them and usually a knowledge of the contemporary world of art.The gallery owner is often not a trained artist and is looking for art that will get an audience or sell. They often have a vast knowledge of the contemporary art world but less knowledge of the past.The average viewer is untrained in art or art history.I believe this is often the same for music except that A&R are usually musicians with a greater knowledge of contemporary music in their chosen field.The artist will know that if they do a certain technique they will get a certain result.The gallery owner sees the result with less interest in the technique.The average viewer will see the whole picture with less interest in the detail or the technique.If I was to have a conversation with one of my friends on art it would pretty soon get into technique. I could not have this type of conversation with a gallery owner or the average viewer.I'm not slating either, I'm just saying that they each have their own agenda.Often the artists gets too involved in the technique and misses the big picture. Sometimes the gallery owner gets too interested in the money and less in the art. Sometimes the averages viewer doesn't give a toss for either of these things but likes the pretty colours.For this reason it's impossible to say that one thing will work in the real world whilst another thing won't.For example. Is Bob Dylan a great song writer or a great poet?Often his structures and flow are awkward and too full of abstract thought and images. Some of David Bowies early Ziggy songs make no sense. "Hot Dog Bouncing Frog" was a huge hit but is a piece of s**t. Tell me what makes sense in the real world?Do you remember a song called "Tazan Boy". No? Well it was a number 1 hit. The main chorus went "ah, ah, ah ,ah ,ah..."I may be slipping into the realms of the absurd here but my point is that your original post brought up the topic 'what works in the real world versus what gets accepted by Taxi' and you invited input from Taxi screeners. That's like asking the gallery owners advice on which shade of blue to use. Don't get me wrong. I love this thread from the point of view of the artist sharing ideas. My input on the subject of abstract ideas.Bob Dylan:"In the museums infinity goes up on trial"This line was voted by a famous Dj as one of the best lines in contemporary lyrics because he remembered hearing it for the first time and being both intrigued and confused by it. He admits he doesn't understand what it means.Being a trained artist I know that it refers to a period of art in America called Abstract Expressionism (Jackson Pollock, Rothko, Robert Motherwell) where artists were trying to capture raw emotion but also a sense of the infinte in painting. Rothkos canvas' tried to suggest a plain of space that extended back into an infinte floating frame whilst Barnet Newman wanted to suggest the idea of lines that stretched infinitly into space.This is probably the most famous American movement and was certainly something an artist (musician and painter) such as Dylan would know about. Now tell me, after my reading of that line, is it an abstract lyric?Sometimes I feel this is often the case. A line that may make sense to the writer because they have a story in their head to back it up, gets lost on the viewer.I love a songwriter called Ben Kweller and sometimes listings appear asking for songs in the style of Ben Kweller, but tell me what this is all about:Butterflies are passive agressive and leave their problems on the shelf,But they're beautiful.And they realise that nothings real but the kids who kid themselves,And the beautiful,What is beautiful?That's the chorus. The song is fantastic and the music is able to carry the nonsense convincingly. But is it great song writing?Ben Kweller is often tipped as one of the great modern songwriters. Go figure. This post is already wayyyyy too long.Sorry ya'll.

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by Casey H » Thu May 04, 2006 12:49 am

Ah, DaveI love being quoted... LOL It is interesting that the very thing that annoys many of us is the thing that makes opportunities for us to get placements.I wish I could create better clones!! One of my problems is my tracks don't really have a strong "sounds-like" component. Casey

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Re: Thoughts

Post by bc » Thu May 04, 2006 9:49 am

I hear ya Don. Lightfoot's prose prolly fulfills the technical interpretation of abstract. However, for me songs like "Pussywillows, Cat-tails" are not in the least abstract. I've lived/experienced (in real and dream time) every syllable of that song. Every image painted is a familiar scene. For city folk I'm sure it's "out there." For me it's home turf. best,bc

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by og » Thu May 04, 2006 2:12 pm

"Comin' clean is just another state of mind". This is a great thread, and some of my friends have compared my music with GL's (I have some really supportive friends!). I'd love to post a monster riff here, but I gotta sleep sometime--maybe this weekend. Thanks to all you for saying things I've been thinking. I may be nuts, but I'm not alone!

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Re: Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by 53mph » Thu May 04, 2006 10:24 pm

He may not be everyones cup of tea but the more I listen to Ron Sexsmith the more I admire his lyrical prowess. He's able to make songs flow effortlessly whilst at the same time add unique takes on old cliches. In the album Retreiver almost every song is a gem. For example.Hard BargainI'm a bit run down but I'm okI just feel like calling it a dayBut you send me back to the startYou drive a hard bargainEach time I'm heading for nowhereDoomed and determined to go thereIt seems I never get farCos you drive a hard bargainHow's a guy supposed to failWith someone like you aroundI've tried and triedTo no availYou just can't seem to let me downYou drive a hard bargainThroughout he uses phrasal verbs and idioms but not once do they feel forced or out of place. Just the opening lines. 'run down' 'feel like calling it a day' 'you drive a hard bargain'. Are cliched expressions used in everyday conversation but together they capture the writers state of mind and then the simple line 'how's a guy suppossed to fail with someone like you around' puts a unique slant on the song and lifts it from being simply about self pity.Great use of language.This line from Not about to lose.Just like an oak I'll take my standBut like a willow I can bendWhat a fantastic use of two images. If he'd used only one of these lines it would be weak but together they make a dyptich that is both poetic and expressive.And though For the Driver may not be my favourite song it is such a well written song that expresses exactly what it wants to say that I'd like to include it here.I feel for the driverIn the aftermathOf a child who chased a ball across his pathFor the ones involvedAnd the most unloved I feelI feel for the driverI feel for the soldier In the throes of warSent off to settle someone else's scoreFor the ones involvedAnd the most unloved I feelI feel for the soldierEvery story has two sidesEvery coin two facesI feel for the one who hidesAnd for the one who chasesI feel for the LadyIn the crimson lightWith demand on the leftAnd judgment on the rightWhere the lonely onesAre the most unloved I feelI feel for the lonelyI feel for the soldierI feel for the driverI find his use of idioms like "every coin has two faces", or juxtaposition of lines such as "demand on the left and judgement on the right" are so well used that I wonder if he has a dictionary of popular idioms and expressions always at hand (I have several for teaching purposes which I should get round to using). The content may not be to everyones taste but a song connects with some and not with others.I personally grew up in a small country village in England then moved to a bigger town, finally to London, then the Italian Alps and now I live in central Italy. I've moved so many times in my life that I've lost count, and the one place I miss is London; so songs about "country roads" and "whistle blasts" don't connect with me.And that brings me to the problem with trying to pin down the allusive perfect lyric. It can never connect with everyone because (I believe) a lyric releases a memory or expresses ideas that the listener already holds or feels which can never be universal for everyone. As nice as I find Gordon Lightfoots lyrics I don't connect with them, but that is no fault of the lyric.Don, You said you were interested to know what the adverage listener thought of lyrics. Well, here's something interesting for you.Music channel VH1 ran a poll to find the most popular lyric of all time. Here were the results.1. U2 - One. "One life, with each other, sisters, brothers." 2. The Smiths - How Soon is Now? "So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die." 3. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit. "I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now, entertain us." 4. Bob Marley - Redemption Song. "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds, have no fear for atomic energy, 'cause none of them can stop the time." 5. Coldplay - Yellow. "Look at the stars, look how they shine for you." Hmmmmmm!

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Thoughts on Lyrics Being "Too Abstract", "Cliche

Post by Casey H » Fri May 05, 2006 1:01 am

One of the things that makes a great song is when the lyric can say the most and evoke the most feeling with the fewest words. Less is often more.There are so many good examples but my coffee hasn't kicked in yet... I'm sure many of you have excellent ones to mention, especially from the great songwriters of all time.Yes, I am an old fart, but "Walk Away Renee" by the Left Banke always comes to my mind. If you grew up in a city (like I did- Brooklyn, NY), you may appreciate the feeling this evokes:Your name and mine inside a heart upon a wallStill finds a way to haunt me though they're so smallI don't know if this one is as universal as others, but the imagery for me is phenomenal.And (all kidding aside) one of the things that makes "Fire and Rain" a great song is how much feeling is invoked in what is not really a lot of words.Well, off to get more coffee... CaSey

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