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

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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 Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by donwilliams » Wed May 03, 2006 10:25 am

Hi Ed, you wrote:"My first observation is that phrases such as "She's my lost companion. She's my dreaming tree" are not abstractions but metaphors. I've never heard of anyone faulting a lyric for using metaphors, unless that was ALL it contained (I suppose)."I realize that, lol. But I've never had a critique use the word "metaphor". I HAVE had screeners complain that some wording is too "abstract" and it invariably has to do with a metaphor, a simile, and a , etc. So I'm merely using the same wording they use. I understand the difference between a simile, a metaphor, etc.But C'mon, you don't think "She's my dreaming tree" is abstract? Or even the rest of that song? (Have you heard it?) Then please tell me what a "dreaming tree" is. lol. you wrote:"it is all about what works. And even then, stars can get away with things that nearly work, whereas you and I have to have exceptional stuff. "That was my point - that what most critics have agreed has been the most exceptional stuff of the last century is filled with exactly what you and I, as songwriters who haven't "made it" yet, are criticised for. And a great song is a great song. That song "She's My Kind Of Rain" is great all on its own. It didn't take Tim McGraw - as much as I admire him and as great as his performance of it is - to make it that way. Don't you think?53mph,you wrote:"Are you feeling a bit peeved at Taxi's screeners for not understanding some of your lyrics?In between the highly interesting article you wrote that's what seemed to come out.Personally I've had to reduce my expectations of what Taxi expect of my music."Uh...no. I'm not feeling peeved at anybody. I've been in this game for far too long to take song critiques personally. I meant exactly what I said and nothing more - or less. I wasn't using abstractions, lol. Please don't read "in between" what I wrote and look for "what seemed to come out". I thought I made it pretty plain. I wanted to discuss the subjects of abstract lyrics and cliches, what works and what doesn't, what's expected of us and what isn't, what we are and are not allowed to do in those regards, what the TAXI screeners expect and will or will not forward (Note that this issue also matters when other people - not just TAXI's screeners - screen songs). I DID give my tentative position regarding TAXI's screeners relative to this subject, saying that I personally believe they may not always give abstractions the depth of thought and consideration they deserve (and maybe, after listening to fifty songs in a row, an abstract idea that would normally hit the average person deeply at a gut level and REALLY work well, just doesn't come across, so maybe I wouldn't give the songs the best well-thought out critique either if I was in a screener's shoes). But nowhere did I say I was peeved, mad, upset, pissed off, sad, depressed, or anything anywhere close to that. I paid my money. I write and submit my songs. I WILL criticise the screeners and the quality of the job they do the same way they criticise me and the work I do. But I don't jump to the conclusion that they are mad or don't like me when my songs are returned. Please don't jump to the conclusion that I've got some emotional issue just because I criticised an element of the job the screeners do. If my skin was that thin, I would have quit songwriting a long time ago. Okay?By the way, in that song you wrote...the phrase "Left with Susie in my eyes"; I get that perfectly! I love it! Personally, that's another one of those things that, to me, how CAN'T a person get that? I don't understand and that's why I brought this up. Not because I wanted to rant about anything or because some song of mine got returned, but because I'd like to explore the subject. Why is it that a screener will criticise a song for something that the average listener (and the final critic of commercial music) can easily "get" and really like and even consider a song in high regard for?I wanted to discuss the subject from every angle. It's not just TAXI screeners who will nail a song for being too abstract or for using cliches. I didn't mean for the subject of this thread to be about ONLY TAXI screeners and their position on cliches, etc., the job they do and all of that crap. That's been done to death here. I wanted to get beyond all that and talk about the issue of how abstractions and cliches are used in song, what makes them work, what doesn't. And if they are so wrong, why is it that the best music is filled with them? As an example...Ed, you mentioned Gordon Lightfoot. He's a master songwriter, a master at the use of cliche and metaphor and simile and analogy. He knows how to paint an abstract word-picture that speaks to the listener at a very deep level and says so much more than the mere phrases themselves do. How does he do it? What is he doing differently than all the others in his genre who don't write at that level? That's the kind of thing I'd like to discuss and I'd like to hear everyone's ideas about. I think such a discussion among us would be productive and educational - and hopefully make us all better writers in the end.Don

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

Post by bc » Wed May 03, 2006 11:16 am

To each his own. I see nothing abstract about Lightfoot's colloquial word pictures. I had just made the leap from Buck Owens to Black Sabbath when Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind," hit the airwaves. Being a blue water boy, born and raised in the great lakes area, serendipity collided with epiphany and my songwriting found it's muse if not mentor.Good thread Don.bc

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

Post by edteja » Wed May 03, 2006 11:22 am

A dreaming tree is a tree that legend says gives dreams power if you sleep under it. It is a force for good and evil. It is a Native American legend and flourishes in some other cultures. I'd have to reread Campbells "Myths" to be sure. Don't think Tim knew that when he wrote the song though. But who knows?I know that ain't the point.You aren't wrong, Don and I was hoping you'd weigh back in here to focus our discussion. But it wasn't clear what you mean by abstract. The word means that it lacks detail and concreteness. A metaphor that relates to a tree is very specific. But my real question is are you talking the imagry or the story being abstract? The story, I think, needs to be specific. But I agree that Casey going away with "Susie in my eyes" is an image that fits well with his story. SO let us know if abstract images are the issue, or not having a storyline. It makes a difference to me, at least.My references to taxi screeners were only because I understood from your first post that this was the stimulus for this discussion. Sorry if I took it on a wrong track.
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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 davewalton » Thu May 04, 2006 12:33 am

Quote:Someone had posted on another thread that TAXI only wants clones of current acts. It's more than TAXI. Yes, sometimes people forget that Taxi is just the messenger, a central conduit for the record, film, and television industry to place their listings. If nothing else, I learn a lot about what the "industry" is looking for.

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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 on Lyrics Being "Too Abtract", "Clich

Post by donwilliams » Thu May 04, 2006 6:07 am

Hi Ed,you wrote:"But it wasn't clear what you mean by abstract. The word means that it lacks detail and concreteness. A metaphor that relates to a tree is very specific. But my real question is are you talking the imagry or the story being abstract? The story, I think, needs to be specific. But I agree that Casey going away with "Susie in my eyes" is an image that fits well with his story. SO let us know if abstract images are the issue, or not having a storyline. It makes a difference to me, at least."Well, I guess I'd like to hear what everyone thinks about the subject from every angle - abstract imagery, abstract song subject or storyline, and even combinations of both (for example, one line from "She's My Kind Of Rain" goes "Like love from a drunken sky". To me, both the message of that line, even within the context of the song, is a bit abstract. The alliteration is pretty hazy. I mean, I don't quite get the message of how her love is like rain from a drunken sky. What's a drunken sky? I understand that her love is like rain - that's common metaphor in song. But a DRUNKEN sky? Don't get that. In this case, I think both the alliteration and the message is abstract - and yet at a gut level, down deeper than objective consciousness, at a subconscious and emotional level, I get it completely).I'd like to discuss every angle of this subject because I feel that I can learn something from everyone's point of view. A metaphor can be very concrete, dealing in solid, material objects - such as a "tree", as you pointed out - and yet the connection between the metaphor, what the songwriter is trying to communicate through the use of the metaphor, and the MEANING can still be VERY abstract. Can you tell me what you believe the writers were trying to communicate with the line "She's my dreaming tree"? The line works to great effect, I believe. But regardless of whether it's a metaphor involving a material objecvt, the MEANING seems pretty abstract to me.By the way, Tim McGraw didn't write "She's My Kind Of Rain" - he doesn't write a lot of his songs, actually he writes very little from what I understand - the song was written by two great, award-winning writers; Robin Lerner and Tommy Lee James.Oh yeah! Thanks for the explanation of "Dreaming Tree"! With a Cherokee great-grandmother on my Momma's side, a Sioux grandfather on my father's side, and an Osage great-grandmother on my father's side - all of whom lived until I was older than six or seven and died before I was 14, I thought I was familiar with just about all Native American Religious beliefs. I guess not, lol.you wrote:"The story, I think, needs to be specific. "I think a lot of people feel that way. But I like a lot of songs that seem to communicate more of a feeling or a state of mind than a story. There's a fine line here though, often the song requires an explanation of how the person relating the emotions got to that point or came to feel that way. Thanks for your input on this.I'm fascinated with the way some writers give us a series of mental images that build a certain feeling within the listener without even ever naming the feeling outright. It's interesting how certain mental images seem to convey so much information and such strong emotions to so many people.Don

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