What separates a great song lyric from a forgettable one?
Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Ever since starting my Sharing The Goodness series I’ve been getting more and more into the art of songwriting and the impact it has on me. When a lyric sticks with me through more than just the melody, and sometimes exactly because of it, it causes me to look inward and analyze myself from head-to-toe. Why did this particular line bring me to tears? What makes this lyric echo in my head more than, say, this one?
Some might cite songwriting’s relevance to whatever they’re currently going through in their life, while others might prefer something more on the poetic side. You can glean a million different interpretations from a single line and below I’m going to take a look at some stand-outs I’ve been thinking about lately.
If you’re interested in some good music from primarily lesser-known artists and bands, check out my past Sharing The Goodness posts where I looked at disco and funk as well as soul, folk and lounge.
1. “Is my head in the clouds or are the clouds in my head?”
from “Smoke And Mirrors” by PATRÌCE
I’m going to start this off with the song that inspired this Sharing The Goodness spin-off in the first place. I picked out the S.G. Lewis remix in my Youtube recommendations line-up a little while back, originally finding it a touch stale…yet I came back to it again and again. There was just something about the echoing, mysterious hook that stuck with me. The best part? Thanks to the stylistically filtered vocals, I actually had no clue what they were originally saying the first few listens! When I looked up the lyrics later, I was alarmed that my favorite part was actually my favorite part.
Too often I wonder just how many of my anxieties are valid and how many are not. What’s actually an outside force trying to rob me of stability or an inside one tearing me to pieces. While there are plenty of amazing lyrics to be explored yet, it’s validating to hear a common inner question put to musical form. I don’t think I’ll ever let this one go.
2. “No hay cinco minutos ni hay cien palabras que me puedan definir.”
from “Breve Descripcion De Su Persona” by Los Cuarteto De Nos
Translated to, “There are neither five minutes nor ten words that can define me.”, this is the song lyric I can imagine resonates pretty hard for those struggling in the job market. When you have bills to pay and people to take care of, it’s infuriating having the complexities of your life reduced to insufficient bite-size pieces. One of the most acceptable forms of dehumanization out there is watering down people into barely transparent yes and no questions that will likely be overlooked in favor of a who-you-know system, anyway.
A powerful line against a powerful bias. Here’s hoping this sentiment wins out.
3. “You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste the afterlife?”
from ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ by Modest Mouse
Consider this one of the meanest burns I’ve heard in my twenty-something years of living on this planet. Even as a naive high-schooler attempting to balance classes with a piddling social life, the last line of this song left me stinging then and it leaves me staggered now. Wasting my time is something I think a lot about (there’s an irony to be found here). When you’re acutely aware of just how brief your existence can be, a self-fulfilling prophecy is ever around the corner.
I just hope I don’t fit this bill.
4. “Don’t sink the boat that you built to keep afloat.”
from ‘Float’ by Flogging Molly
My friend got me tickets to a Flogging Molly concert in my city and, boy, am I glad I went. I’ve loved this band since I was a kid and I’m happy to say I got to hear one of my favorite singles live the other weekend. Thanks to recent politics and shifting social, er…’anxieties’, the fact this particular lyric is going to be relevant for quite some time to come is rather sobering. So many people would sooner see themselves dragged underwater in a fit of pettiness than help everyone float off to more successful shores. It’s an ugly truth, but one that has to be called out if it’s to be challenged.
Let’s all keep this wisdom tucked away going forward. 2017 is going to need it.
5. “He said I was so small. I told him water me.”
from ‘Water Me’ by FKA Twigs
Already minimalist in execution, the song proceeds to put great emphasis on very quiet and introspective songwriting. The plant metaphor is a clever one and something that offers a good visual for anyone dealing with the aftermath of a friendship or relationship. I can find myself struggling with the urge to downplay or hide my weakness at times, even after learning the hard way that it doesn’t do me any favors. I love how vulnerable, almost plaintive this line is. I can imagine quite a few of us have had moments where we’ve bared our souls only to be unsure of the outcome.
The song may be an acquired taste for some, but the message peels back your soul and asks for nothing but your honesty.
What about you? Have any song lyrics that have had a huge or minor impact on your life? Share them with me and stay tuned for the next Sharing The Goodness where I’ll be going back to song reviews and checking out more rock!