Importance of lyrics

Songwriting, songwriters, etc

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mrbassman
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Importance of lyrics

Post by mrbassman » Sun Oct 30, 2005 4:26 am

How important are lyrics?I know that native English speakers like Americans, Canadians, Irish or Bristish people are not being faced with this problem but a new trend started a few years ago in continental Europe - especially in the German speaking countries.I heard from several record companies: "Why do you write your songs in English? Why don't you write in German? People will understand the meaning of your songs better"Well, I could find a few reasons against this. For example "Rammstein" - being a German industrial rock band with German lyrics - is hugely famous in Southern America and other regions of the world. Or Norwegian band "Kaizers Orchestra" is a rising star in Europe although nobody here - except Norwegians - do understand their lyrics.Isn't it true that melody is being recognised and remembered more often than words? In Pat and Pete Luboff's book "88 songwriting wrongs and how to right them" I foung the following:"A really good song is still a good song without the words..."So, what should I do?Should I stick to my native language, avoid spelling and grammar mistakes and have a slightly better chance of being successful with my music?Or should I write in English which is being understood everywhere and face a harsh competition with a huge number of other songwriters writing in this language, but maybe address a larger market?Ask yourself this question: how many great hit songs with absolutely nonsense lyrics do you know?Well, I could instantly name a dozen...I'd like to know what other songwriters/lyricists do think about that and I'm anxious to read your answers.Best regards, Chris

gongchime
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Re: Importance of lyrics

Post by gongchime » Mon Oct 31, 2005 6:06 pm

I was just reading an article about the demise of Madonna's career and they were basically saying that people on the margin of America can move into the center stage. Even Asian boy bands are making some money in America now. But you can't start in the mainstream as Madonna did with Lucky Star then move to the margins identifying with gays, bondage, sex slaves etc... All those teeny bopper girls kept up with her into Material Girl but didn't follow the freaky line she adopted after that at all, therefore they dropped Madonna like a bad habit. Another example is Jon Secada. He became huge with a little help from Gloria Estefan until he started putting out Spanish versions of his music on only his second or third releases. Hard core people in the main stream said, "Oh, you're REALLY a foreigner. I can't be identified with you or I'll be ostricized." and so stopped listening and buying. Maybe the best thing to do is keep your markets separate. Mostly don't sing in English to Germans even if they can understand it a little because you want them to completely identify with you. I've heard almost no music sung in German reach the American mass market except for perhaps some metal bands who had very extreme images and music. If you're not currently reaching the American mass market then it's a no brainer. Do what they seem to want in your country.The Korean bands that are popular in Korea throw English words in here and there and songs get very popular which have incorrect grammar because no one really cares about grammar except academicians who couldn't get laid if they tried. There's a sexy girl name Yi Hyo Ri whose song is called "Just One Ten Minute." It basically means she wants to have ten minutes of quick sex with her boyfriend. It's all in Korean except for that sentence in the Chorus. Of course Americans would never say I want just "one" ten minute. It's not conversational or correct grammar at all but it hardly seemed to matter. It was the #1 song on the charts over here for a long time. She made a lot of money and now she's doing movies and commercials and game shows. We would say "Just ten minutes" dropping the word "one" but it didn't fit the rhythm of the groove so they thought they could add the word "one" before the word "ten" which a native English speaker would never do. I still like the song anyway. Doesn't much detract fromt he song at all, in fact it's kind of charming but I'm a xenophile (a lover of foreigners) figuratively and literally. Maybe other foreigners feel differently but Koreans are the one's primarily shelling out the money and who need to be pleased. Who is your market right now? One guy at a record label holding you back? Give the man what he wants?Gongchime

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Re: Importance of lyrics

Post by aprildawn » Tue Nov 01, 2005 7:42 am

It is my opinion, that the importance of the lyrics in a song, is largely affected by the type or genre of the song. For instance, if I am hopping around the room jamming to some "They Might Be Giants," I don't necessarily need or care to understand the lyrics. They could be sputtering utter nonsense, or making a bold political statement that is way above my head, and I like the tune just the same. Same goes for most of the metal and rock that I listen to. I also have several cds of bands with names I can't pronounce, who sing lyrics I don't understand, and I really enjoy listening to them, because they have an upbeat dance kind of rhythm. When I'm in a country music sort of mood, though, I find that the lyrics are way more important to me. I like the songs that have stories that make me think, or that I can identify with. So I guess, I would say, you should make the language decision on a song by song basis. If your listeners NEED the lyrics of that particular song in order to FEEL the correct emotion or response that you are trying to convey, then I believe you should sing in the language of your listeners. Otherwise, I would say just jam in whatever language you think sounds the best. I will say this, though, the "foreign" songs that I like the best do throw me a bone with an English line or two. I think I like knowing the topic of the song. It keeps me from feeling guilty that I might be grooving to something that I totally disagree with, or that might be offensive to anyone who happens to walk by while I'm blasting it. (Sort of an assurance that I'm not rocking to some sort of I hate anyone who is not like me song.)

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Re: Importance of lyrics

Post by hookstownbrown » Wed Nov 09, 2005 5:58 pm

It's an unfortunate paradox. You alienate one group when you embrace another. You target one market at the risk of losing or sacrificing your opportunies in another market. It is one hard choice, for sure. Which market should I choose to compete in...

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Re: Importance of lyrics

Post by darkmage » Wed Dec 21, 2005 1:39 am

Hi,In response to a few things already spoken about and i think it has merit mentioning it in this topic, my personal opinion regarding the language choice is, be selective and conservative about it. You have the potential to capture more than one market with different languages, so I see it as a bonus.If you release the wrong language to the wrong market, I agree you're doomed to failure, but if you put say, one song on an album in your native language and the rest in English, for an album released to Western countries, that's fair enough and the Westerners can see your talent and go "Hey he speaks ....... as well!"If you choose to re-record it if you release one in your native country, put one English speaking song on there as well to say, "Yes guys I speak English as well" .Honestly, if the song writing, hooks, etc. are good, you'll sell. I think with the advent of the internet, a lot of the racial barriers are a lot lower than they used to be.Chris Cornell (formerly SoundGarden lead singer) sings a lot of the time in French to give you an idea.He was very successful with SoundGarden and then went on to produce a solo album.He did it quite well as he only put 1 French-spoken song in there to show he could do something a bit different.Anyway, thats what i reckon.If you plan what you do carefully and do everything in moderation, I think having a second language is more of a bonus than a difficulty as it expands your potential target market.DarkMage

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