Monday, July 02, 2007

Words, Words, Mere Words

I think the world is divided into two types of people:
  1. People who pay more attention to the lyrics.
  2. People who pay more attention to the music.*
I'm definitely in the latter camp. It's not that lyrics don't matter; it's just that I don't always give them a whole lot of conscious attention (unless they suck, in which case I wince, shake my fist, and yell at the radio). If they're good, they might sink into my brain without much notice (where they'll jumble together with lyrics of other songs and turn into one of my unintentional mash-ups). I deeply love many songs that I couldn't recite more than the briefest snippet of.

But I know people for whom lyrics are first and foremost, who know exactly what a song is about after the first listen, who can recite every line from their childhood favorites, for whom the music is a means of transporting the all-important words.

Which type are you?

* Of course, it depends on the specifics. Some songs are intrinsically more lyric- or more music-centric.


  1. Definitely music-centric, since much of the music I like is not sung in English. So there's that. As for the songs sung in English, I remember phrases, but couldn't recite a whole song if my life depended on it. I do like Cole Porter's lyrics a lot though, especially if Ella sings them.

  2. Sorry, I meant to add this, but I was listening to the lyrics of a song:

  3. Anonymous9:03 AM

    It's been my experience that women tend to be more lyrics-centric and men more music-centric.

    I'll sing along to songs without really paying attention to what they mean until I try to cover them. I was 28 when I realized what Night Moves is about.


  4. I am both. I am all about the music and then I listen to the lyrics later. The process is: memorize rhythm, in order to drum solo on the dashboard and screech werrrooowerrooowah to the guitar solos. Then I end up screaming the chorus, then as the lyrics become more clear, I add my own harmonies and tremelos, etc. Then one day the meaning dawns on me and I either become a bigger fan or incredibly disappointed.

    Sometimes, though, the lyrics jump out immediately. This usually happens on slower, less rockin' songs, though it happens often enough with any old song, too.

    When I was littler, I would sing along to made-up lyrics, no matter how ridiculous. Example: Sade, "Smooth Operator". I thought the chorus was

    "ooooouuuu boppa red-eye....ouuuuuuuboppa-redeye"

  5. Well good music is important, but only as a vehicle for lyrics. A song without lyrics just doesn't have enough for my brain to click into.

    Even if the lyrics are in a foreign or fictional language! At least I can sing along phonetically.

  6. Anonymous7:08 PM

    lyrics, is me.

  7. Anonymous9:10 AM

    To combine this with an earlier discussion, we might ask, which is your favorite Billy Joel song: 'We Didn't Start the Fire' or 'She's Always a Woman'?

  8. Anonymous1:17 PM

    Ditto Joshua. Lyrics is me, too! You probably knew this already, slim.

  9. Yes, you were the lyric-centrist who prompted this post.

  10. Music.
    The naughty words I get right away, and every once in a while a particularly good turn of phrase finds its way into my head on first or second listen (like that rhyme in Hey Ya, towards the end, where they rhyme neighbor with....with...--the one where he's asking to borrow some sugar--see, even the ones I love I forget, but I can hum and drum that whole song.), but usually years go by, and someone will make a reference to the lyrics of some song, and I stare dumbly.

  11. How about a visual versus audio thingy? And a why?