Are You a Lyric Lover or Melody Maven?


So I was washing dishes Tuesday night, belting out “I Love the Nightlife,” thinking what an absolutely ridiculous song it is…but also thinking how much I absolutely love to sing it at the top of my lungs.

And while thinking…something Wompuss wrote earlier that day kept creasing my brain. She referenced a post from Emily’s Everything blog about Taylor Hicks’ song “Just to Feel that Way” and how deeply that song touched her (Emily)…primarily because of the lyrics.

See…I think that song is okay…not great…but not the strongest from the album…and certainly not my top pick for the first single (but what do I know…I wash my own dishes for crying out loud).

The point is, since Taylor’s album has been released, I’ve seen how opinions have varied greatly from song to song. Some folks love “Give Me Tonight” (ahem…glares at Bama)..and some folks have sense enough to hate it (me). My friend, Staci, told me she can’t get enough of Taylor’s “Places I’ve Been”…and I didn’t even feel it was worth putting on the album.

I know people’s opinions are purely subjective (a point that explains how stuff like this makes it on the radio)…and I also know that there really isn’t any science to a universal song that is loved by all (if so…we’d all be placed in a Zen-like state by “Muskrat Love”).

But what I have noticed is that a lot of folks seem to be drawn to songs for the lyrics. The words touch them…move them…speak to them.

I’m just not that deep.

You’d think that, as a writer, I would be drawn to lyrics. But that’s not how I roll.

For me…it’s all about sound.

The sound of music (excuse the Rodgers and Hammerstein reference)…the hook…the musician’s voice…how he or she chews on vowels or spits out consonants. If the sound of a song doesn’t grab me…I rarely take time to give the lyrics a chance (maybe that’s why I’ve never been able to get into Dylan).

Take “I Love the Nightlife” for example…I’ve ALWAYS dug how Alicia Bridges sung “ack-SHAWN”…I mean…it just doesn’t get any better than that.

And growing up, I loved Duran Duran…but to this day…I couldn’t tell you their lyrics. Without Googling…if anyone can tell me the lyrics to “The Reflex” or “New Moon on Monday”…I’ll give them the Monkbot Medal of Honor. Simon Le Bon’s inarticulate delivery of lyrics made him sound like he was chewing on taffy. But I didn’t care…I loved HOW he sang his muddled words…and I loved the sound of Duran Duran’s music…in all its synthesized glory.

Don’t get me wrong, I have songs that speak to me…that have lyrics that make me cry.

I truly and sincerely enjoy a well-turned phrase.

But the music has to grab me first.

So…let me hear how y’all listen to music…are lyrics your draw…or is a toe-tapping tune the first to capture your fancy?

(And no fair saying “it depends”…I’ll yell foul and make you start over.)


55 Responses to “Are You a Lyric Lover or Melody Maven?”

  1. leejolem Says:

    Shelley, great question! I have a 2 part answer:
    1.When listening to a slow, ballad type song the tune gets me first, but if the lyrics are corny, weak (ie Muskrat Love) I just can’t get into it. There has to be a perfect mating of lyrics, melody and vocals to really get me hooked.
    2.An uptempo “fun” song such as The Runaround can have silly lyrics, and it doesn’t matter to me. I’ll belt it out with the rest of them.

    JTFTW is my fav from the CD because to me it has the perfect combo of lyrics, melody and vocals. As I’ve said before I’m a sucker for a power ballad.

    Give Me Tonight has fallen into category #2 for me. I don’t care for the lyrics, but I love to sing along and boogie while listening to it.

    That being said I’m notorius for not knowing lyrics or getting them wrong. My favorite Duran Duran song is Hungry Like the Wolf (very hot for the 80’s), but I couldn’t tell you one line from the song. To underline what a goober I am about lyrics, Shelley, all these years I thought she was singing “act sure” not “action” in I Love the Night Life. I kid you not. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  2. Squeebee Says:

    Well… depends.
    *ducks and covers*

    Honestly, JTFTW didn’t grab me until I had heard it a couple of times and the lyrics sunk in. As I shared yesterday, the lyrics are very a propos at this point in my life.

    But, give me a song like “The Runaround”, with cheesy lyrics and a good beat, and am singing it (badly) in the car just like any other.

    I guess to me, a GREAT song is one that speaks to me. A GOOD song is one that is catchy and sing-alongable. (Is that a word?)

  3. shelley Says:

    Leejolem…you get hit with a wet fish for saying “Muskrat Love” has corny lyrics (okay…okay…so I’m the only person in the world who loves that song…but, hey, like I said…music is subjective) šŸ˜‰

    I also cracked up at your “act sure.”

    I used to think Stevie Nicks was singing “just like a wide window”…so…I’m just as guilty.

    Squeebee…so glad you redeemed yourself…I preparing to hurl the wet fish your way!

    I see both y’all’s points…and I want to make clear that I REALLY DO love beautiful lyrics. I have ballads that speak to me. But if I don’t love the song…I doubt their meaning will ever imbed in my heart because I don’t care to listen.

    (I know, I’m probably missing out on some WONDERFUL stuff…but I’m stubborn.) šŸ˜‰

  4. ivoryhut Says:

    Great topic. To save us all some time, I’ll wait to hear the echo of Shelley yelling foul, then start after that.

    Gives me the night to come up with a different answer, too. šŸ™‚

  5. shelley Says:





  6. cher Says:

    Ok Shelley, first I have to tell you I thought I was the only person in the world that just went nuts when she sings “ACK-SHAWN” in I Love the Nightlife. We dance to this in Jazzercise and I LOVE it!

    Now about the lyrics….I once won a game of Trivial Pursuit because I was able to answer this question correctly….What is the amount of the tip left to the taxi driver in the Harry Chapin song Taxi? It was $17.50. (It was a 20-dollar bill for a 2.50 fare/She said Harry, keep the change.) I was a big Harry Chapin fan back in the day.

    Fast forward to Oct. 2006 and Hollywood Nights on I love Bob Seger and I’m faniliar with most of his stuff but had never paid much attention to Hollywood Nights. Heard Taylor do it at the AI concert in St Louis, liked it, still never really listened (or heard) the words. Then I watched/listened to Taylor do it on and was completely blown away by the lyrics and, of course, by the way Taylor sang the lyrics! I am terribly embarrassed to admit I never knew what the song was about! Anyway, since then, I’ve watched him do it maybe 10, oh maybe 50 times and each time I’m astounded by the fact that he took what I thought was a rather ho-hum song and made those lyrics his. (Could he ever go back?/No, FUCK, no!) Maybe the lyrics just had more meaning when Taylor sand them, I don’t know. As much as I love the sounds Taylor makes I do think he has a very keen ability to interpret the lyrics and make them come alive and tell a story….just one example…Louisiana, 1927 (a little fat man/with a notebook in his hand). So for me, I think the music and the lyrics work together and enhance each other.

  7. Libby Says:

    Ok –insomnia has struck… here are a few random thoughts:

    I like “Just The Way I Feel.” It is not my favorite song — but do agree it is more representative of Taylor at his best than “The Runaround.”

    I have always been a big Billy Joel fan (Going to see him for the 4th time in concert on Mar 1) — “Just The Way I Feel” has that Billy Joel vibe to me.

    This (JTWIF) song is a good choice for Taylor’s first single. Overall, the more I listen to the TH album (just as I did with UTR beginning months ago) — all of the songs have grown on me. (Sans the jived-up version of Soul Thing. Skip ST almost everytime. Much prefer UTR versionof that one.)

    I love beautiful lyrics and ballads — maybe one of the reasons I love Somehow (IYT)and Taylor’s version of YASB (from AI) so well too.

    Dont get me wrong — love to hear TH rock out with the blues too.

    Small confession –my special high school and college years were in the 80’s — and I can even shyly admit to listening and to enjoying “Give Me Tonight.” No tomatoes or wet fish please…Again, certainly GMT is not my favorite — but like to hear it. My guilty pleasure.

    As so many of you said — it is just exciting that Taylor’s single is being released soon. Let the experts decide. Just knowing the live performances are coming…where he can really shine is good news to me.

    Love ya – Monkbot friends !

  8. shelley Says:

    Cher said, “Maybe the lyrics just had more meaning when Taylor sang them, I don’t know.”

    Cher, do you think maybe you paid more attention to Taylor’s version because you liked the music more than when Segert played it?

    This is my point…I really think the sound one hears is what FIRST draws them. I’m not going to give a song’s lyrics a chance unless I connect with the music in some way.

    There have been songs by Dylan that others have performed and I’ve loved (and listened to the words) but would have never listened when Dylan sang it.

    Another great example is “Hallelujah”…I love Jeff Buckley’s version…but had I only heard the original (written and sung by Leonard Cohen) I would have NEVER liked it.

    You’re right, Cher, the music and lyrics work hand in hand…but I still think that initial appeal has to be there to draw someone through a song.

  9. shelley Says:

    One other thing…I have to say…as much as I’ve been going on about MUSIC influencing my like for a song.

    I also have to admit that poor lyrics will send me running for the hills.

    If the words DON’T work for me…it doesn’t matter how great the song is…I usually don’t want a part of it.

    As a matter of fact, I almost gave up on a GREAT song recently after a first listen.

    A friend sent me “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. The song itself (the music) is lovely, but there is one line that drove me insane initially.

    “If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied and illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs…”

    When I first listened to the song…I kept thinking “nose” instead of “no’s” and it stopped me every time.

    “Why would they DO that?” I kept wondering.

    Then, Gray posted this link on his site to the top 50 videos of 2006. I watched all of them…including No. 33…”I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”

    That video was probably the sweetest and saddest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I didn’t recognize the song at first…but I was absolutely enraptured by it.

    I did a search on iTunes and found it. I recognized the album cover from the one my friend had sent me before…it was the “nose” song.

    I didn’t even THINK about the “nose” problem when I watched that video. I just loved the song.

    I bought it (I hadn’t kept the version my friend sent…because of the “nose”).

    So…in this case…for me it was a VISUAL that made me fall in love with a song.

    It’s now on heavy rotation in my iPod.

  10. Shrewspeaks Says:

    Great GREAT topic!

    I really pondered this on my way into work this morning. The melody hooks me, and the lyrics keep me coming back…but stellar lyrics are NOT the only requirement.

    At this time of year I always get very introspective and start listening to my singer/songwriter collections (Joni, Phoebe Snow, JT, Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Chapin) so right now lyrics are hitting harder than usual. But for the most part I am driven by the tune, the beat, the vibe of a song…or else how could I like this little ditty?

  11. shelley Says:


    We’ve missed you!

    And your comment is EXACTLY what I’m talking about it!!! The music sucks me in first!!!

    And your example is perfect.

    (By the way…I’ve always thought that those are some hardcore cheerleaders.)

  12. bamaborntxbred Says:

    SHREW!!!!! I was just telling Shelley last night that I missed our little Shrewie-Poo!

    So, on topic: I think the music always hooks me first, however I am obsessed with lyrics and for some reason I’m oddly gifted with the ability to hear a song a couple of times and be able to sing at least 80% of it.

    The lyrics can definitely make me love a song that I wasn’t initially drawn to musically (ie. the newest John Mayer album). I love words, and I’m amazed when I hear a song that seems like it was written for me. Also, I love artists (like Blue October) that are very brave in their subject matter….that open up and examine in detail their lives, mistakes, loves.

    BUT, if I love a song musically, the lyrics can’t destroy it for me. The music itself is what moves my booty or moves my soul. (For instance, using Blue October as an example, one of their most popular songs has a line that makes me want to scream: “I have to block out thoughts of you, so I don’t lose my head. They’re crawling like a cockroach leaving babies in my bed.” The line doesn’t bother me b/c it’s gross…but b/c cockroaches don’t have babies…they lay eggs. Still, forgiving them this lapse, I love the song.)

    Right now, a song that makes me boogie and I love the lyrics for some damned odd reason is Fergelicious. Yep. You heard it here first. (T to the A to the S-T-E-Y girl you’re tasty.)

    New moon on monday and a firedance through the night. I stayed the cold day with a lonely satellite…

    The reflex is a lonley child, who’s waiting by the park. The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark. And watching over lucky clover.. isn’t that bizarre? And every little thing the reflex does leaves you answers with a question maaaark…

  13. shelley Says:

    “The line doesn’t bother me b/c it’s gross…but b/c cockroaches don’t have babies…they lay eggs.”


    And Bama gets the Monkbot Medal of Honor!

    P.S. I own an mp3 AND the video of “My Humps”…so sue me.

  14. double d Says:

    Ok, so color me a “Lyric Lover”. I commented at Gray’s a while back about the lyrics being the backbone of the song. Most great/memorable songs that ku-NECK, do so because of the “message”.

    Now, that’s not to say that the beauty of the music is not important. My opinion is just that when a song really “hits you in the gut”, it’s the lyrics.

  15. nolagirl Says:

    I thought about this for a while, and I think that my (pretty much former) love of country music is the biggest indicator that I am a sucker for lyrics. Songs about daddy’s little girl growing up and lost loves would get me every time (ok, they still do).

    Oh, and (ducks for cover) I must admit: I now not only tolerate, but enjoy, “Give Me Tonight.” I figured out that if I just pretend that I’m the girl in the song, it makes it OK. Reooowww. (did I just say that out loud? I promise I’m not “one of those”)

  16. double d Says:

    ….I caught you cold…

    BTW…love the “Reowwww”, NOLA!

    How ’bout dem TIGAHS!!!!

  17. texan Says:

    I’ve got a song I ain’t got no melody How’m I gonna sing it with my friends…

    But if I had to choose only one element…It is LYRICS for me! Not exclusively of course! Love the sound and the KoNeCTshun with the music, but lyrics capture me.

    …like dylan lyrics….

    Let me ask you one question
    Is your money that good
    Will it buy you forgiveness
    Do you think that it could
    I think you will find
    When your death takes its toll
    All the money you made
    Will never buy back your soul…..

    whooo go dylan go!!!

    and i am intriqued by lyrics that make me search and search for their origin or meaning like Steely Dan’s….

    You throw out your gold teeth
    Do you see how they roll

    hmmph! i’ve neva seen any rollin’ gold teeth! have you?

  18. KD Says:

    Hmmmm….making me think Shelley. I think the sound is first for me (I’m a first impression girl), but the lyrics will usually make or break the song for me. I have to say though, songs are soooo tied to memories for me, that I’ll love a song simply for the memory it brings to mind. In that case, I don’t care what it sounds like, or what it says….Example—I love the old Air Supply music, simply because it brings back such fond memories of my Dad…he used to play it constantly, and would try to sing to it, mumbling the words as he went. “I’m *mumblemumble* LOVE! I’m “mumblemumle YOU!” Love it!
    Example #2—the Chipmunks Christmas song…you all know it..”Christmas Christmas time is here, time for joy and time for cheer…” Used to hate it, until I saw my seven month old daughter rocking and smiling to it that Christmas eight years ago…it brought happy tears to my eyes and now no Christmas is complete without it. Now, I guess you could say I don’t like the song but the memory connected to it??? But I don’t think the two can be separated.
    Conversely, I can hate a song if it is connected to a negative experience…My Perogative by Bobby Brown—I danced to it along with all of the other goofy college kids and loved the beat…until one day a boyfriend (who shall remain nameless***Zan) dedicated it to me and played it over and over. The Ass. (That was of course before he figured out that he couldn’t get rid of me.) I hate that damn song and refuse to listen to it ever again. šŸ˜‰
    So I think a song either touches you or it doesn’t—certain songs hijack your emotions and we are all hijacked by different songs because our experiences are different…what touches our souls is very individual.
    So sorry Shelley, you can cry foul on me if you need to. šŸ˜‰ But I still say, music then lyrics, then emotional connection which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with words or the melody.

  19. Shrewspeaks Says:

    No kidding, I always felt so dainty and frilly next to those cheerleaders in that vid.

    It is funny…But noticing DD, Nola and Tex are lyric lovahs and they are the ones who can always quote them at the drop of a hat. I always marveled at that ability…I can name a song in three notes, but not three words…can you?

    *waves back at all the MonkBots…loved and missed you guys to bits…turbulant times are not done yet, but I needed a MB fix*

  20. Texan Says:

    oh Man….. KD! I LOVE the Chipmunks! HA I have not thought of that in years. But it was not my kids that played it, it was me! Me and my turquoise and white suitcase style turntable spent many a day WEARING out the Chipmunks. Makes me wanna crawl in my attic and bring down my turntable! Thanks KD!

  21. ruhappytoseeme Says:

    oh boy, you opened a can of worms (you can yell foul but im not starting again šŸ˜› LOL) first let me say I love the song I love the nightlife, and it is the beat and the way she says ackshun LOL that make it great. Most fast songs I like for the beat at first (or a certain way some words are spoken ermm sung) and most slow songs I like for the words and the way it sounds. Now I love taylors new cd, but I have to say the first time I heard the runnaround it was the beat that got my toes tapping, now I know the words and the beat and words dont match (there are many songs like that, where the beat is so upbeat but the song is actually about someone getting really hurt, or like the song how far is heaven… jee my radio station here called it a upbeat song, the guy wants to die for crying out loud lol) but as soon as I hear the runnaround my toes start tapping any way LOL the first time I hear dream myself awake (wich was the first song I heard from the new cd) I was a bit sad cause I didnt think it was Taylor, thought it was too popish but as I listened more (specially after getting the cd wich is worn out, thank God for 3 copies lol)and listening to the words I have grown to love it. To be tottally honest I now love every song on the cd except give me tonight, for some reason that one just does nothing for me . I of cource loved the original songs the way they were originally done but I also like the new versions and think they are just updated for the newer generation (especially soul thing, my kids love it) but I miss the part after he sang “country twang” that was one of my favorite parts (so yea the thing about the way things or sung or the beat has a lot to do with a lot of songs, but I know the words to many songs from biggining to end because ive listend to them and fell in love with the words) I love his song gonna move because of the beat AND the words because I really want and need to move and it is something me and my daughter sing to each other all the time lol the right place won me over the very first time I heard it because of the words and his tone (sexy) and of cource my daughter said he was singing it to me wich hahaha yea right but any way nice touch hahahaha truely id rather hear Taylor live then on a cd because he growls more, the way he sings, the tone is so much better so I do believe tone has a lot to do with it, (and the dance moves ohhh yea) but I love the cd too, just prefer him live (maybe he should do a live cd oh yeaaaaaa lol)

  22. nolagirl Says:

    Shrew – Hey!!!!! How is Beau? I have thought about y’all!

  23. Texan Says:

    :::waves to Shrew while peeling out in a Steamroller to squash the turbulence!:::

  24. Holeigh Says:

    So, I read some of the above comments and I will get back to them later, haha. Lots of words!

    1) I’m ecstatic that JTFTW is the new single…that song gives me a mini-freak out every time I hear it.

    2) leejolem’s comments mirror mine veeeery well. Fast paced songs can have shallow lyrics and a catchy-as-hell beat and I will love it forever. However, if I hear a TOO cheesy (cuz I do love most cheese) ballad, no matter how catchy, I will probably not like it. My ballads have to mean something, they can’t just be filler.

    And I would just like to state that “My Humps” is the bane of human existance…thank you. šŸ˜› (I still love you Shell, haha)

  25. Jan Says:

    Both the lyrics and music matter to me. I have recently been introduced to old Bob Dylan music thanks to and I will say that I think he’s brilliant.

    Shelley: I watched a great documentary on Leonard Cohen recently and as a result, I bought some of his music. I love the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah and really that’s the definitive version. What I found when I listed to Leonard Cohen is that Jeff Buckley didn’t quite get the full intent of the song. Jeff Buckley sings so beautifully that I only hear the sound and not the lyrics. Leonard Cohen is so irreverent and almost defiant in that song when he sings it.

    I do listen to songs for the sound and the beat though. Sing, Sing, Sing With a Swing is one of my favorite songs of all time and I have rarely heard lyrics to that song and don’t know what they are.

  26. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Thanks for the MMoH. I have it as my desktop wallpaper now!

    KD- I definitely have strong emotional attachments/memories to songs too…but I still think it’s mostly the music part for me. Like when I hear “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew…I’m back in 8th grade, pining over so-n-so. It really hits me hard with a wave of nostalagia. I mean, the song is about infidelity (I believe), so it ain’t the lyrics. (Also I like that current song by Hinder “Lips of an Angel” only b/c it sounds like 80’s hair band rock to me, which makes me feel nostalgic…the lyrics are atrocious.)

    True confession time: I haven’t listened to Taylor’s cd since the 3-4x right after I bought it. I pulled it out to listen to today since I heard what the single would be. I honestly couldn’t remember it…I do know that the one song that stands out in my memory is “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” I don’t remember any of the lyrics…just the feeling of the music.

  27. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Funny! Here is what I wrote in my “critique” of the album:

    Just To Feel That Way- (*****) Dude. I mean, just, dude. Love, love, love this song. I want to make out with this song, and take it home to meet my parents and tell our grandsongs about the first time I heard it. Duuuude.

    Wherever I Lay My Hat- (*****) Absolutely love this song. This is a song that makes me feel something. Can’t really explain it…

    So, apparently I need to listen to that cd again!

  28. Mind Doc Says:

    Hmmm — lyrics or melody? It depen… D’oh!

    I admit, I do not listen to music de novo much any more. I am usually listening because someone told me to listen or something like that. The days of listening to the radio or watching MTV are kinda over. I am more likely to be getting a YouTube video sent to me or something.

    But when I do listen to something new, it just has to catch my interest, either melodically or because of the words. I think (thinking hard) that it is usually the melody that gets me first, though. I love to dance, and I can sing along enthusiastically to the most horrendous lyrics, if I like the beat.

    However, on a non-dance songs, a bad lyric will ruin the whole song for me. A stupid lyric can wreck a song for me. Sometimes, even poor grammar can ruin a song for me. (I know, I know …) I have developed a sort of mental mute button when there is a song that I like, but I can’t stand a piece of the lyrics.

    The reason that I am still somewhat tepid on Taylor’s album is that I have not listened to it enough. It will grow on me. There was nothing that really caught me on the first two listens. It was funny, but when I was listening to the album and Sam, my four-year-old said, “Is that Taylor Hicks?” He has a better ear for music than I do! Sheesh.

  29. Shrewspeaks Says:

    Bama opened the door…*raises hand*

    I have only listened to TH twice since it was released…I keep getting stuck and wanting to hear The Right Place over and over rather than delving deep into the CD. I keep thinking if it were released in May that it would be a summer buzzer, but at this time of the year I am having trouble keeping focus on the CD in question. I swear it must be me. (Damn, Gordon Lightfoot with his caramel tones and poetry infused lyrics. Damn, Harry Chapin with his gruff stories and Damn Phoebe Snow for her soulful mellow jazzy uniquiness…the sirens of my January)

    But I thank you Bama for opening the door for me to say it out loud!

  30. double d Says:

    Get to listening, you slackers! Otherwise, I’ll have to call the “Taylor Po-Po” to take you in. Are you REAL fans or what?!? Gah.

    tongue planted firmly in cheek.

    I’m actually pysched about Just to Feel That Way because it’s the one song on the new CD that my kid and I actually both like. He’ll even sing to it when riding in my car. When you have a 15 year old, any kun-NECK-shun is cherished.

  31. Shrewspeaks Says:

    Speaking of slackers…I am stunned that Squeebee has not spoken out for or against her fellow canuck

  32. nolagirl Says:

    I have not listened to the CD nearly as much as I would have thought. I think it made it to my 2-week listening period point, but just barely. I didn’t have that “must listen” thing going on with it. Doesn’t mean I don’t like it, but I just don’t want to marry it (TM Bama) like I do say, Amos Lee’s CDs.

    Also, I was thinking some more about this while on my lovely drive to Party City at lunch. Sometimes I get too stuck on what a lyric means, trying to decipher it and put it into a “story” that goes along with it. But I remember Gray saying in one post a while back that he tries to just listen and not focus so much on that (I can’t remember if he was referring to a certain artist or not) and I tried to really take that to heart. Hasn’t really worked, but I try anyway.

    And lastly, but certainly not least, DD: Go Tigers, indeed! Weeeeeeee!

  33. Rowan Says:

    If I’m not allowed to sit on the fence, I’m going to plump for music over lyrics, which surprises me, as I am the type who will remember the scrambled lyrics to “The Reflex” long after I have forgotten my own name, and am living on a diet of other items of a purely scrambled nature. The Reflex has a great catchy Duranie strutty vibe. The lyrics are mince. I remembered a bit about a lonely child, a telephone, and question-marks, so I went and googled them

    At the time as a student of English, I toyed with the idea that there was some sort of Postmodernist philosophy underlining the utterly shambolic nature of the lyrics. That Simon le Bon was some sort of New Romantic T.S. Eliot, writing his song, tearing the page into strips, throwing them up in the air and fitting them together again, in an arbitrary fashion, to see what the new version looked like. Meaning would be fragmented, but hey – that was cool and edgy, wasn’t it? 9_9 It was a good excuse for listening to Duran Duran, rather than reading literary criticism.

    Anyways, I wondered, was Simon being very cutting-edge, cutting up his edges? He certainly cut a dash.I remember him fondly – he certainly sang his heart out at the concert I saw in 1982 – every number they’d ever produced, plus Cockney Rebel’s, Come up and see me Make Me Smile. I was starting off from a warm affectionate glow for the guy. I loved his music, and the depth of sadness in his rather haunting posh voice, which appealed so greatly to teenage girls like me.

    Were the lyrics to be pondered over, though, or were they just irrelevant? With the Duranies, I would place a pretty safe bet that the music came first, and they drew lots to who would write the lyrics on the back of the pizza box, phrases shouted randomly across the room whilst they knocked back pink gin and watched the latest episodes of Dallas and Starsky and Hutch.

    The randomness meant that I could just enjoy, to use your term, Shelley, “belting out” the songs. They tended to come in rhyming couplets. If one remembered the rhyme, that was enough. The music carried the day. And the white linen strides and pixie boots, and little nautical tee shirts.

    Another artist i love is Bowie. Some of his lyrics are a bit puzzling, but most are innnteresting narratives, imaginative, introspective, and pondery, but in a nice Ray Bradbury-esque sort of way. His lyrics never depressed me, as Pink Floyd’s did. My younger brother and sister were heavily into “Dark side of ther Moon” and played it ad nauseum. It was the most depressing album I’ve ever heard. “I – I have become comfort-bly-numb.” Sheesh.

    Bowie painted little pen-pictures with musical scores. For me, Genesis and Floyd spent time pointing out dreary home truths that made me want to drag my knuckles on the ground. I didn’t drink or smoke illicit substances, but they might have driven me to it, had I been forced to listen but one more time.

    One of my very favourite songs is Bowie’s, A Space Oddity. It is such a beautiful combination of the contemplative lyric married to a sweetness of cadence which wholly rounds out the meaning of the words. I can’t imagine them apart, but the lyrics do stand alone, as a poem, and are kind of unforgettable. I’m hoping that they are the ones which will stick in my mind, when I am sitting in my wrinkled stockings, watching re-runs of “Crossing Over”. Bowie is cool, and he will stand the test of time. And if I am a cool old granny, people will bring me more chocolate. : D

  34. Rowan Says:

    Sorry, two of my links aren’t working. I’ll try this:

    Steve Harley –

    David Bowie –

  35. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Ah, Rowan. You are a sage.

    (Also a mystic…did you go to my Jr. High, cuz I’m pretty sure you described me and my friends in your Duranie descriptions.)

    I love Pink Floyd. My new favorite depressing album is by My Chemical Romance, “The Black Parade”. The whole album is basically a rock opera with the theme being Death. In a way though, it’s kinda tongue-in-cheek (if you understand the band you’d know that), so it’s not quite as depressing as Dark Side of the Moon.

    Y’all, I was mulling all this over while I was working (Gasp! She works?) and I realized that one of my all time favorite bands, Nirvana, absolutely identifies me as a music over lyrics person…I mean, their lyrics were utter gibberish…but I could listen to them over and over….I still can.

    P.S. I’m glad I could help Shrew come out of the closet. Hey-if we can’t share it here….no one else will care! Haha!

  36. Jax Says:


    Well back in the day I would have answered this by saying the melody … come on confess… Those as old as me ….. There were songs you loveddddddd before you ever figured out what exactly the lyrics were … no internet … you either had to wait for the album, play the song over & over & over, or buy the magazine that come out with lastest song lyrics …

    If you have not seen the the commerical with the line “stock the cat box” instead of “Rock the Casbah” find it .. it is hysterical… but i digress …

    It was the melody & the singer … If the nuances that were that singer were poured in the song then we loved it..

    I have never been a “cerebral” listener to music .. “wow what does he/she mean by those lyrics” usually did not come out of my mouth…. I just knew what I liked & what I didn’t.

    I do now & have always absolutely love a beautiful song ….

    JTFTW is, imho, a beautiful song … are the lyrics what make it beautiful to me? hmm … they are pretty but add to that the Taylor Hicks’ nuances that are ALL OVER this song … the growls, the sweet voice … dayum I love it … I have been walking everyday so I have listened to this CD over & over & over .. I really like it, I really really do .. lol

    The Chipmunk song … I saw a Christmas special once & a group sing this … Vince Gill sang the Alvin part…. hysterical & he hit every note … “I just want a hoolahooooop”

    Good to see everyone!!

  37. jenfera Says:

    Hi all – I am delurking to chime in on this fun topic. You sucked me in with the Duran Duran talk. I’m thinking of Save A Prayer now and how as teenagers we sang along so earnestly, but now I’m thinking what the hell was that all about? What are we saving this prayer for? For the morning after? A read of the lyrics just now sounds like this is a song about a one night stand, so are we not worrying tonight and just praying in the morning we don’t wake up pregnant and diseased? Hmmm. Just sayin’.

    But back on the original topic, I guess I am a music person over the lyrics. I pick up on lyrics pretty easily (my boss was startled when I was able to sing along with every word to Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire), but I don’t spend much time thinking about what they mean.

    When I got married and it came time to pick our first dance song, it took awhile to find a song. (The only song we had that was “our song” so far was All For You by Sister Hazel. Not wedding appropriate!) So, Sting is one of my favorite artists. I started poring through all of my Sting CD’s, reading the lyrics and discovered that he did not have one suitable song out of all those lovely ballads. They are all about lost loves, past loves, unrequited love, etc. I never noticed.

    One last point, Seal never puts the lyrics to his songs in his liner notes. He says, “The song is always larger in the listener’s mind because with it they attach imagery which is relative to their own personal experience. So it is your perception of what I’m saying rather than what I actually say that is the key.”

  38. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Very cool quote Jenfera!! I wholeheartedly agree with that!

  39. Mind Doc Says:

    Welcome oh delurker Jenfera!

    Seal said that? I kinda agree, but I am famous for hearing things that don’t make a lot of sense in the lyrics. I am not sure how my interpretation of “Bad Moon on the Right” as “Bathroom on the right” increases the imagery. Until Texan (see above) clarified the lyrics, I thought it was “I got a song that ain’t got no melody … I’m a gonna sing it to my friends.” I never understood it. Noooow I get it.

    Seal does not take into account people like me, wandering through life singing the wrong lyrics, befuddled.

  40. Shrewspeaks Says:

    You know The wonderful delurker Jenfera makes a real cool point…I remember not connecting with most bands of the 80’s (Duranies I am sorry) and opting for classics like “You Make Me Feel” by Aretha. As always I was a woman out of step with time…but I remember singing with all ferocisty that song as a tender 16 year old.

    I guess I love Aretha’s emotion and sound, but it wasn’t until college that I really listened to the lyrics, but that was via Carol King. No less soulful, just more percise about the words.

    Bama – Yes you helped me out of the closet…not that there’s anything wrong with it.

  41. jenfera Says:

    Awww, thanks for the nice welcomes, folks!

    Mind doc – Seal totally feels for you. There’s more to the quote…
    “I think it is the general vibe of what I’m saying that is important and not the exact literal translation. How many times have you fallen in loe with a lyric that you thought went, “Show me a day with Hilda Ogden and I’ll despair,” only to find that it went “Show me a way to solve your problems and I’ll be there.”

    Poor Hilda.

    I still sing Benny & The Jets as “She’s got electric boobs, a mohair suit, I read it in a magazine!”

    Oh, and a quick Taylor lyric question. Am I hearing The Runaround right? On all the other songs I can pretty much pick out every word, but does the chorus actually say, “It’s not fair but I am so gone”?

  42. bamaborntxbred Says:

    That’s what I think it says Jenfera. I think he’s saying the girl thinks it’s not fair…but he’s so gone anyway. That’s right. He left her for me.

    Haahahahaa: She’s got electric boobs…

    Okay, what about when you’re 13, listening to Prince’s “Darling Nikki” and wondering…”NO! He did not just say that about her and a magazine! I must not be hearing that right!” So, sometimes you do hear the right lyrics but are in disbelief over them!

    (The most famous misheard lyric: “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche, another runner in the night” by Manfred Mann.)

  43. Shrewspeaks Says:

    Electric Boobs!!! I sang it that way too….

    Blinded By the Light…who wrote that anyone? Anyone? Hint, hint, close to me.

  44. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Was it Bruce??

    Y’all Ugly Betty and The Office are NEW tonight. Oh yippee! Yippee!

  45. shelley Says:

    Bama’s right…a new Betty and Office tonight…so I only have a minute to write a quick comment…sorry I can’t address ALL the wonderful points made.

    However…I must say…y’all have blown me away today.

    Great discussion from everyone.

    I wish I could give each of you an award…but I’ve decided on one particular commentor today…for not only coming out of lurkdom…but for the fantastic quote from Seal, which beautifully sums up exactly how I feel about music.

    So…to jenfera…I award to you…

    The Official Prize of the Day

    Congratulations…and welcome!

  46. Quossum Says:

    It’s the sound of a song that first attracts me, but if the lyrics are particularly offensive, I do get embarrassed to admit I like the song. For example, “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker. Love the song! Listened closely to the lyrics, realized it was about some dude having an affair with a married woman. D’OH! Oh, and I shamefacedly admit that I like “Achy Breaky Heart,” cheesy as it is, but at least it’s cheesy in all respects.

    The very best songs, of course, are the ones where the lyrics and the whole “sound” of the song just go together. From Taylor’s album, JTFTW does have that vibe, as well as Runaround in a whole different direction. My personal fave is Heaven Knows. Love both the words and the music, even though there are a couple of cheesy lines in there.


  47. jenfera Says:

    Awww, I’m all verklempt! Thanks, Shelley! And that is a dang fine picture. The facial hair totally works for him.

    Bama – your Darling Niki comment remimded me of another 80’s classic that we didn’t really think about what it meant… She Bop! Such a happy little song… about… whaaaaat???

  48. Quossum Says:

    Okay, I’ve been dredging my memory and I’m about to embarrass myself. *Totally* from my head, no looking up, and *without* going back and listening to the song one more time–this is completely from the memory of the last time I heard this song, which was probalby some time in the 80’s.

    “The Reflex”

    You gotta find the time…
    But I’m dancing on the danger line!
    You gotta shove me boy and put it away,
    When I’m banding on the things you say!

    So whyi-i-i-ii-i don’t you use it?
    Tryi-i-i-ii–i-i not to bruise it
    Buyi-i-i-ii-i-ii–i time don’t lose it!

    The reflex is a lonely child,
    He’s waiting by the park!
    The reflex is your door to finding
    treasure in the dark!
    The watching
    O’re electic clover,
    isn’t that bizarre?

    Okay, I’d better stop. I know there’s more–I distinctly remember a line about “Don’t wanna be around when this gets out” but can’t put it in context. I’m a singer. You know, one of those obnoxious people who sing along with the radio? Not knowing the words is not an impediment to that. Yes, I actually sang the words above (or something like). Looking at them now, I realize they…uh…don’t make much sense. That can’t be what he was saying. *blushes*

    *crawls away to hide in a corner*


  49. Mind Doc Says:

    Q, I end up singing that one with a lot of mmmmm’s replacing the words. I think you did a trememdous! job.

  50. Libby Says:

    Yeah !! We have a much appreciated visit from Shrew! **Waves to Shrew and Beau** We miss you — hope turbulence passes quickly.

    Liked hearing Toni Basil’s Mickey –I am remembering the days of being a young teenager and coming inside from a day at the beach — to an ice cold air conditioned room, a glass of lemonade and wasting a few hours watching MTV in its infancy. Oh to be that young again — with no responsibilities…**sigh**

    Great topic– I guess the vibe/ beat does draw us in –to then listen to the lyrics. But really love to hear the story in the lyric — maybe why I like ( dare I say…) country music too.

  51. leejolem Says:

    I got the fish thrown at me for thinking Muskrat Love was corny?
    (going off in corner and crying)
    I will now risk another fish and state that I wholeheartedly agree w/Holeigh–My Humps is the bane of human existence!!!!!

    Bama, If you don’t marry JTFTW I will, so you bet get to listening.

    Welcome Jenfera!!!

  52. Mind Doc Says:

    I have been listening to the CD and I love, love, love Just to Feel that Way.

  53. leejolem Says:

    Yeah for Mind Doc–JTFTW Rawks!!!!!!!!!

  54. Mind Doc Says:

    Yep — it is stuck on some internal loop — a great song, I think. It suits Taylor perfectly.

    (and lee, it is not only that Muskrat Love has … er … innnnteresting lyrics — it is just hard to believe that ANYONE ever said “Hey! I have a great song about rodents mating!”. How did Tenille even keep a straight face?)

    *ducks wet fish*

  55. TKls2myhrt Says:


    Thanks for leading me to that Wonderwall 1974 guy. Isn’t that fascinating? It inspired a post. Anyone know more about him?

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