This is part two of a blog post discussing what makes a good song. Melody was discussed in Part 1. In this post, we discuss the second major element of song composition, lyrics.
The second major element of building the emotional aspect of the song is lyric writing. Song lyrics take many forms; some are observational, some are metaphorical, some tell a story, and others evoke a mood. It’s impossible to say which kind of lyrics create the best song. When it comes to listening and connecting to lyrics, beauty is really in the eye (ear) of the beholder. I remember being a kid and hearing “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. I didn’t fully understand what the song was about, but I felt a profound sense of pain and loneliness hearing Michael Stipe sing:
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spot-light
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough
What was important to me at the time is what these lyrics made me feel, as opposed to what the lyrics meant. Personally, while I enjoy the narrative style of lyrics, I mostly connect with lyrics that are metaphorical or even abstract. That allows me to assign meaning, value, and experience very personal emotions. Sometimes, if the lyrical narrative is too strong or specific, I have a tough time personally relating to the lyrics.
I understand that not everyone has the same relationship with musical lyrics that I do. But I hope by sharing my experience that I can shed some light on different approaches to musical lyrics.