Friday, February 26, 2010

The Digital Music Business FAQ - SONG LYRICS - February 26, 2010

Where Have All The Dylans Gone?

Dmitry Popov asks:

Lately, I've been listening to the radio almost everyday and am I'm quite surprised by the quality of lyrics. Some new songs have poor lyrics and some of them are plain awful. With the rise of electronic music it seems that today a lot of people enjoy beat more than the actual message of a song. What do you think about that? Is it reasonable to believe that we are going to hear a new superstar song writer such as Bob Dylan?

Hartmann responds:

Rhythm was the first musical discovery. Our paleolithic ancestors danced, chanted and eventually sang. They started with meter, mixed in melody and fused their message into song. Long before producers crafted tempo, tune and tale into records the beat was deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Songwriting evolved along with man's cognitive skills as the concept of story led to the creation of spoken language. Music is the universal mathematics of the masses.

The computerized genre popular today is not dependant on lyrical content, it embraces that primordial ingredient in music that compels us to dance. It could just as easily be all instrumental. It is the lack of a lyrical ingredient that has kept electronica from producing a superstar, unless Lady Ga Ga is it. If so, at least she has reasonably appropriate lyrics for her image in most songs. Whatever her mass appeal, or success, certainly she will never be classified as a great songwriter.

The Hip Hop culture dominated popular music in the eighties and nineties The lyrical content of rap music is a primal ingredient but mostly demonstrate a rebellious attitude and social observation than a story with a beginning, middle and end. The folk, country and singer songwriter traditions are all lyric intensive embracing musical choices indigenous to each style.

The crafting of an effective lyric that communicates some identifiable truth is the highest art form in music. Although it can happen, rarely does a song spring full blown from the head of Zeus. Most often a universally appealing song is created over weeks and often months of careful experimentation. The end product is ultimately dependant on the writer's artistic choices.

Knowledge and experience in crafting musical compositions does not make one a songwriter For lyrics to resonate on an emotional level with the public, they must first emanate from someone with a point of view. When the public embraces any given tune they are identifying with the truth they perceive in the song's story. The goal is to tell the most story in the least least number of words. Every note, metaphor and simile must be shaped to support the song's central theme.

Songwriting is the core art form at the center the music industry. It is the source of the one true thing, music publishing. The most enduring material is produced by the greatest poets with the most prodigious musical skills. The writer describes the life and times of a specific segment of society and he exploits his work through an established music tradition. The message is infused with the romance, angst and rage embraced by the performers personal community. Regardless of genre or style it is the music fan who dictates the degree to which the words matter. Each generation discovers its personal poet laureate and ultimately identifies him as their Bob Dylan.

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