Do Lyrics Matter?

That’s what I have been asking myself since I started writing this blog. Does anyone care about lyrics? Well, obviously I do. For me, they make all the difference.

Of course, the first thing that strikes when listening to a song is the melody, the tune, the instruments, the rhythm. The singer’s voice might also catch your attention. You either like all these in a song or you don’t. There is such thing as “love at first sight” – or better: “at first hearing”, don’t you think so?

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If you just want to dance the night away, you won’t pay much attention to the text. There might be a chorus that is easy to understand and remember so that everyone can sing along – that certainly adds to the fun. Looking at the songs I have dealt with in this blog, “In my head” by Jason Derulo and “Bad Romance” by Lady GaGa as well as  30 Seconds To Mars’ “Closer To The Edge” and “We Are  The People” by Empire Of The Sun would possibly belong to this category. I guess not many people, especially in non-English-speaking countries, do understand the lyrics at all. Still, these songs are highly popular, for example in Germany.

Other songs which might be considered as ballads, with a slower rhythm, a calm melody, attach much more importance  to the lyrics. They have a message they want to get across – like John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning”. Others tell little stories: “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette, Eminem’s “Stan” or Jay Brannan’s “Housewife”.

There are songs that can be seen as poems set to music–like Hey Rosetta’S “Red Song”, they are not really easy to understand and leave a lot to the interpreter’s imagination.

Of course, if you are in love, you’ll like to listen to love songs, if you have been disappointed, “Grenade” might be the song for you. So sometimes it’s all about the lyrics, isn’t it?

To my surprise I have found rather poetic verses in very popular charts-songs, like “Closer To The Edge”  and “We Are The People”. Maybe they are not meant to “mean” anything and just sound poetic, but then again: you could say the same thing about some modern poems which are sometimes really hard to “understand”.

And even songs such as “Bad Romance or “In My Head” deliver a message, take up a certain attitude, morale, idea. This is what I try to discover and analyze in my blog. As long as a song has lyrics, it conveys an idea, and be it only unconsciously. We should be aware of that.

That’s why lyrics DO matter, in my opinion.

I’d love to hear your opinion – please feel free to comment and discuss.

Do you listen to the lyrics of a song? Do you care? Do you try to understand them?

Let me know about your favourite song – I might have a closer look at it in this blog some day!

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Bruno, don’t blame the piano! Grenade – Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars – Grenade from Mazlanlan on Vimeo.

Bruno Mars – Grenade from Mazlanlan on Vimeo.
In case the video doesn’t work watch it on this website. The song’s lyrics can be found here.

“I encourage everyone who watches this video to understand that it is an artistic interpretation of the song, and not something to imitate.” This is what Bruno Mars advises on his website.
That’s good to know, Bruno! I was already picturing in my head all those painful and somehow senseless actions you are singing about in this song.

I have to admit I quite liked the hook, the melody, the rhythm of “Grenade”. But then of course I was curious about the lyrics. Why would someone “catch a grenade, throw his hand on a blade, jump in front of a train, take a bullet straight through his brain, yes, even die” for someone else? Well, obviously because he is in love with the girl – and she is not. He would do all these things for her – but what for? To save her life? To attract her attention? To show her how much he loves her? I’ m not sure that would work – and if it worked and she would start loving him he wouldn’t look nice anymore… 😉
But it all starts with some heavy reproaches: “Easy come, easy go, that’s just how you live, oh, take, take, take it all, but you never give.” He gave her all, but she “tossed it in the trash”, she “doesn’t understand” and even seems to be the violent kind “beat me ‘til I’m numb”, coming straight from hell (“tell the devil…”). I wonder why he loved her in the first place, but then again, love happens, right, and you don’t have the choice…? Bad woman, good guy – the modern version of a drama, another bad romance?
I am not saying that people don’t do these things for someone they love. I’m not sure if I would catch a grenade, which means to kill myself to save someone else’s life – maybe I would for my children, but I don’t know if I really had the courage to do it in the very situation. But why would I jump in front of a train for someone – this doesn’t make sense, really… which leads me to the official video for this song.

The idea of dragging a piano across town and overcome several obstacles such as traffic and street gangs is quite a romantic project. I like the idea. However, we already know that the girl is a bad one, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that she is with another man. Poor Bruno decides to end his life (and the piano’s!) by positioning himself on a rail track. He kills himself because she doesn’t love him. This is suicide – and it happens all the time and has nothing to do with martyrdom and saving someone’s life. So what’s the point? I don’t really get the message. Lyrics and film tell a different story.
Can someone please come up with some less destructive ways of showing your love to someone? Dragging a piano to the beloved’s house and singing a song would indeed be a good start… 😉  Any other ideas?

I Wanna Be A Housewife – Jay Brannan

What a wonderful song! So simple, so easy to listen to, so without-a-big-fuss – after all these expensive, hyper-technical videos and songs I lately talked about in my blog. I like it for many reasons.

One being the fact that I am if not a full-time but certainly an 80% housewife myself. Not a perfect one and not one who loves all the duties that come with this job. I don’t like scrubbing the floors or cleaning the toilets, that’s for sure.

Jay Brannan seems to like even these humble activities.” I like to wash the dishes, I like to scrub the floors, don’t mind doing his laundry”. Why? Well: “what are boyfriends for”? In his song “ Housewife” and the respective video he describes the perfect suburban idyll: a couple busy with their weekend activities: one working on the car, later at the barbecue, the other one preparing guacamole, doing the laundry and the dishes. I can already hear some women’s outcry: No, please, not that cliché again! What a traditional and conservative role model. Reality has outgrown this way of life. Well, has it really? I doubt it. But it’s not this topic I want to talk about right now.This is not what the song propagates either. The couple Jay Brannan  is singing about is a gay couple, two men with “fucked up pasts” as he calls it but living together very happily: “Two bodies pressed together, two boys are falling hard. The smell of sweat and leather, a kinky greeting card”.

Love makes the singer even wish he could “have his baby” and “wear his ring”, and that is why he enjoys doing all the “housewife-things” for his lover. So it’s not about fixed role models and expectations but only about love and what everyone in this relationship loves to do.

Maybe this could be a clue for a more relaxed attitude towards these expectations in our society. Why not accept it if someone, be it a man or a woman, decides to “work” mainly at home for the family and others go out to “”work” (and earn the money, of course). Both works have to be done, alright?

Jay Brannan dreams about the man he still hasn’t met: “can’t wait ‘til he’s in my life, yeah, cuz we haven’t met …”

I like the way he plays with the cliché. A woman singing this song would possibly risk being harassed. Jay Brannan is certainly allowed to sing it. And he is fun reading, too. Go and check out the bio on his website! 😉

I definitely like this. It is fun. It makes me think about the clichés in my head. Enjoy the song. Enjoy whatever you are doing!

Make a wish right now: Airplanes – B.o.B. /Hayley Williams

„Airplanes“– the title appeals to me! I love flying. Airplanes stand for the wonders of technology, success, adventure, far countries and the dream of the great, wide world.

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It is all about dreams in this song by B.o.B: “Let’s pretend that airplanes in the night skies are like shooting stars…” When I see a shooting star, I can make a wish. That is why he sings: “I could really use a wish right now.”

So this is the main theme of the song: wishes, hopes, goals, dreams and their failure.

The contrasts in this song make it a highly dynamic one: a black man (B.o.B), a white woman (Hayley Williams) as singers, melodic pop in the chorus and fast rap in the verses.

From the dark night skies we move onto the stage of success. „Partyin‘, smashin‘, crashin‘, glitz and glam and fashion, pandemonium and madness“, this looks like a snapshot from the life of a superstar – exciting, colorful, busy and noisy.

Then, however, there comes the downfall: „You fade to the blackness“. Here again, the song plays with contrasts. We are presented with the prototype of an artist’s nightmare: “And when you’re staring at that phone in your lap and you hoping but them people never call you back….”

You can never be sure how things will develop; you are always on the move, always in a hurry, afraid to be too late for that next appointment, always promising: “I’m on my way so don’t close that gate. If I don’t make that then I’ll switch my flight and I’ll be right back at it by the end of the night.”

What a blessing after all this rat race to be back under the silent night skies – „I could really use a wish right now…“.

 

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In the second verse, we are drawn back into the past, a flashback or is it a hope for the future – or both? We hear of a dream, a desire to go back to a life “much simpler than this”. Back to the roots, to the beginning, the beginning of his musical career as a street musician trying to “get a tip at subway”, back when it didn’t “matter what I had on my bank”, when making music was just fun (“for the hell of it”), not a way of making a living. Money or the lack of money is an issue again. Could it be that money is not only a blessing but a burden, too?

In this song, it’s also about language and identity, about home. “This is for Decatur…” – Bobby Ray Simmons’, the singer’s hometown. In those earlier times he was allowed to use his own slang. He didn’t have to disguise or hide his origin. Today his managers and producers want him to be understandable for all Americans, even for the whole world. So – not too much slang, please ….

Ok, this seems a very idealistic way of looking at it, doesn’t it? Anyway, should someone who makes so much money in the music business be so critical about it? Can we honestly believe he wants to go back to that subway station, back to that demo-mix-cassette nobody wanted to listen to?

Not really. But isn’t he allowed to dream? Aren’t we all? We make decisions; life goes on with all its ups and downs. Somewhere in between there is something like paradise – maybe in the past, maybe in the future. Who knows…?

Maybe dreaming and making wishes can help us deal with so-called “realities”, with our daily life.

Let’s pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars…and make a wish!

No Happy Ending: Bad Romance – Lady GaGa

These days there is no way around Lady GaGa. Her song “Bad Romance” was titled “best song of the year” at the 2010 MTV Music Awards. Whenever I listen to the song on the radio I cannot help singing and dancing along, it is such an earworm, has such a catchy tune. I know it’s not so much about the lyrics but more the tune, the rhythm, the whole concept of the artwork “Lady GaGa”. Her videos, her costumes, her performances, everything is so professional. She really seems to know what the audiences are waiting for. I admire her for that talent and intuition.

But, then again, the song has got its lyrics. Not as if I would understand everything: I couldn’t find „Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-Roma-ma-ah!” in any dictionary, but I guess that doesn’t matter…

The song seems to be about a relationship- a “bad romance”. There are indeed some passages that sound romantic in a conventional sense: “I want your love, I want your drama, the touch of your hand. I want your leather studded kiss in the sand.” But these same words already imply the darker side of this romance. It’s all about vengeance and violence: “All your love is revenge, you and me could write a bad romance.” The lover is not being depicted as the classical romantic type: „I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your horror, I want your design ‘cause you’re a criminal as long as you’re mine.” He is a bad boy, threatening, ugly and seems to be suffering from an illness. She wants him nevertheless, or maybe that is why she wants him. “I want your love and I want your revenge. I want your love I don’t wanna be friends.” She is not looking for friendship or romantic love. She wants lust, subordination – this is her way of exerting power. This is shown very drastically in the official video for the song. She is victim and culprit at the same time. Hitchcock’s films are quoted in the video scenes and in the lyrics:  „I want your psycho, your vertical stick, want you in my rear window…“ At the end a burned skeleton is lying in

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bed next to her. There is no happy ending in a bad romance.

Despite these hard and at times shocking words and scenes the song was very successful. Maybe that is WHY it was so successful? There are so many songs about love – songs which are sometimes boring and one-sided – just the other way round. As if love was just sunshine and fun. As if there was only real and true love to be experienced.  Many would be able to tell a different story. Even when the facade looks all ok, tragedies might be happening behind closed doors. I dare say: there is a bit of “bad romance” in all of us, a fascination with the bad, the dark and the inexplicable. I have heard that most violent crimes are being committed by people related or at least known to the victims, not by complete strangers. There is more bad romance in our daily lives than we want to believe.

Maybe that had to be said – or sung. Maybe that is psychologically healthy. Thanks, Lady GaGa!

Is this a cult? Closer to the edge – 30 Seconds To Mars

To look at the lyrics click here, for the official video here.

I like it when family members come together to make music, be it on Christmas Eve or other occasions. I think that’s a nice custom, it’s beautiful and moving.

I wouldn’t call it moving though, what brothers Shannon and Jared Leto are doing together with their band “30 Seconds To Mars”. Quite a creative and somehow cryptic name, isn’t it? Until not so long ago I would have assumed this to be a science-fiction novel rather than a band name.

With their song “Closer to the edge” they landed a major hit at the beginning of 2010. The lyrics of this song appear to be somewhat cryptic, too. Let’s have a look.

I don’t remember the moment, I tried to forget. I lost myself, it’s better not said, now I’m closer to the edge.” He doesn’t seem to know since when he has been feeling closer to the edge – and we don’t learn anything about the reason. “It was a thousand to one and a million to two. Time to go down in flames and I’m taking you closer to the edge”.  Is he talking about the chances of a relationship being as bad as 1000:1 or 2 Mio:2? Or is it about a game, a bet that has been lost – but who are the parties? It is all very mysterious.

There seems to be an accusation pending, the demand to say sorry for something. But no: “No I’m not saying I’m sorry.” At least there is a conciliatory hope: “One day, maybe we’ll meet again.” The introductory statement in the official video sets on the ideas that many fans certainly love about this song: “Don’t regret anything you do, ’cause in the end it makes you who you are“.

Even if until now one could have the impression that he is talking about an unhappy relationship, from the second verse on things get more and more enigmatic.

Can you imagine a time when the truth ran free, the birth of a sun, the death of a dream?“

This definitely reminds me of the biblical story of Creation and Fall. The endless story of human pride and eviction from paradise, the loss of the glory and the honour of being the summit of creation. Whereas Christian churches call to repent the sins and promise forgiveness by God and the church, this song protests loudly: “No, no, no, I’m not saying I’m sorry. I will never forget. No, no, I will never regret. No, no, I will live my life!“ I presume that this chorus and the immanent attitude towards life appeals very much to the band’s young fans: it’s about protest against the moral of the establishment and the control of the authorities. I can understand that very well.

There is also a very well made official video coming with this song, which brings something else up for discussion. “Closer to the edge” gets a much more political note. The video shows lead singer Leto carrying off his audience. At one point Leto, dressed in a long, dark coat, raises his right arm and greets the fans. The text: “Are you ready?” is displayed in this scene. A fool who doesn’t have annotations of political events in Germany’s and other countries’ past. It is amazing how he achieves to coordinate the audience’s singing and their movements. It is disturbing to watch how they follow him, deify him. “Yes, this is a cult” is being displayed while Leto seems to be “crucified” in a corona of gleaming light. The cult sites are mentioned as well: London, Tokio, Berlin, New York …and many other places around the world.

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This is all very well and professionally made. I assume the video has been done to actually create an awareness of this “edge” and the dangers coming with this sort of “cult”. Jared Leto brings his listeners to the edge, to the point where they are willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater idea, for another person.

Of course, all this has an obvious religious (not Christian!) annotation, which is clearly underlined by the statements of young people throughout the video: „Some people believe in God, I believe in music. Some people pray, I turn up the radio. Music is everything to me.”

Music, religion and power – an interesting combination. I can’t imagine a religious belief without any musical expression. Many people can’t imagine religion without power. And music certainly has got power over people. These three aspects all seem to come together in this song and the video. Is this just a statement or is also supposed to be a warning on the part of 30 Seconds To Mars regarding their fans’ attitude towards them? I don’t know if I am over-interpreting, but I take Jared Leto to be intelligent enough to have such a meaningful message. What do you think?

Carols or Coldplay? Christmas Lights – Coldplay

There is a video with lyrics here. For the official video click here.

Christmas is coming – and I need a Christmas song in my blog!  Should I go for tradition (carols, J.S.Bach) or a modern pop song (Coldplay)? What would be your choice? Do you sing carols? Do you sing at all or do you prefer listening to music?
There are many beautiful Christmas carols, very old ones which tell the story of the first Christmas. But then, more and more contemporary bands and musicians choose to release Christmas songs or albums – like Coldplay has now done with their song “Christmas lights”. What does Christmas stand for in this song, does the song offer a new, modern interpretation of the old tradition, the old story? Let’s have a look at the lyrics.

Not a good start – but obviously something many people experience nowadays:
Christmas night, another fight, tears we cried a flood
Got all kinds of poisoning, poison in my blood.”

People expect too much from this holiday. Families come together because they want to or they think they have to. Anger and well hidden resentment surface like poison. It all ends in tears and accusations. You could just go away, leave the scene behind:

I took my feet
To Oxford Street
Trying to right a wrong
Just walk away
Those windows say
But I can’t believe she’s gone.”
It doesn’t work, it doesn’t help, it doesn’t bring her back. He loves her and always will and she doesn’t – the old story, the same song.  „But I’m up here holding on to all those chandeliers of hope”. So there is still hope. The city Christmas lights stand for this hope. No city without illumination, no home without candles and lights. That’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? But there is something else missing: ”Oh when you’re still waiting for the snow to fall, doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all.”

So there we go: Coldplay-Christmas means music, lights, snow, and yes, reconciliation, love, relationships – that’s something! I guess that is the least common factor necessary for people to celebrate Christmas together. It has become a festival of family and friends, of gifts, of decoration and good food. That’s fair enough. Of course you can have Christmas without Christ. Christians can’t claim Christmas for themselves any longer.

So which songs am I going to sing on Christmas? I have to admit: I choose the carols and J.S.Bach over Coldplay. For me, there is more meaning in those old carols. They don’t just hope for reconciliation, they tell the actual story of reconciliation. At the end – Jesus is the reason for the season – believe it or not… 😉

I like to listen to Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights” on the radio while driving my car, though… 😉

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, no matter how and why you celebrate it!

Who’s got the power? We are the people – Empire Of The Sun

You can watch the video here.
You can read the lyrics here.
A telephone company commercial pushed this song from 2008 by the Australian music project “Empire Of The Sun” into the German top charts. The ad was quite successful and well made: young people looking for love and finding it in the jungle of the city. You can’t really survive without a smart phone.

We are the people that rule the world. A force running in every boy and girl, all rejoicing in the world. Take me now – we can try.” This is the vibe of today’s younger generation: enjoy, have fun, determine your life, live now!

But then again, there are also memories of past times, maybe better times: adventure, never-ending summer, falling in love before it was too late, be there for each other: „The feeling was stronger. The shock hit eleven, got lost in your eyes.“ A year is mentioned: 1975. The smart phone generation may not even now, but it was kind of an exciting year: The end of the Vietnam War and of the Franco Regime in Spain, first treaties for disarmament in Europe were signed, but also war in Lebanon, RAF-terror in Germany…Times were changing. Maybe there is a hint of this feeling in the verses that introduce the song: „We can remember swimming in December, heading for the city lights in 1975. We share in each other, nearer than farther, the scent of a lemon drips from your eyes.” Hippie-feeling?

At first glance this is definitely a love song. About memories and about the fear that this love could be over: “Are you gonna leave me now? Can’t you be believing now?” These verses are being repeated all over again in the last part of the song, somehow boring but also summoning the lost feeling :“ Can’t you be believing now?” But what are we supposed to believe in? Love, power, music? So far, so good.

But then, there is also the official video for this song. It’s really worth watching, completely crazy and absurd. It has been shot in Mexico and takes in several mythological and religious motives of this country.

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The Aztec calendar for example is dragged through the desert and later reappears in a jungle setting. The two singers dressed up as Mexican-Indian warriors or medicine men, on their search for “the Goddess” meet a man digging a well which actually is a tomb for the two travelers. The “Goddess” then carries them off into a jungle scenery where they meditate and find the water of life. But suddenly they find themselves in a traditional Mexican procession of the “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) and the “Goddess” turns out to be the “Goddess of Death”. At the end of the video the two men are lying (dead?) in the desert again. A mysterious man watches them while the text “we are the people” is displayed.

With the video the song becomes more than a simple love song. It even has political connotations if you hear them: “we (are) the people” are the beginning words of the American Constitution. You can just sing and dance along this song if you want so.

But you could also contemplate on questions like: Who has the power? The people, the politicians, the media? Who has got all the information? “ I know everything about you. You know everything about me. We know everything about us.“ The video preaches: water is life. We know that but actually neglect it. We dig our own graves and dance our own death dance.You could think about all this. But of course you can also just enjoy the music – if you like it. I do.  🙂

Let me know what YOU think.