Fight Club: Lyrics vs. Lyrics

This edition of Fight Club is the kind of match-up that only exists in the world of fantasy sports… or science fiction. It’s a man vs. himself battle royal pitting lyrics against…lyrics. It’s like Tyson vs. Tyson. It’s like regular Captain Kirk against the evil Captain Kirk from Episode 27.

This month’s Fight Club match-up is: How Lyrics Sound vs. What Lyrics Say…and it’s time to throw down.

The Red Corner: What They Say
Words with no substance are just empty calories; quick energy but no staying power. Fast food. As an artist you should strive for more. Have something compelling to say. It’s the content of your words that elevate your art from shallow pap to something significant and meaningful.

Songs are powerful. They can lull a baby to sleep or lead an army to battle. They can spark a social revolution and literally change the world. Make your words count. Metaphor, simile, alliteration, rhyme….these are the ingredients in a songwriter’s cookbook. Why settle for mac and cheese when you can have filet mignon?

The Blue Corner: How They Sound
Meh. Screw “deep meaning”. This isn’t Shakespeare. This is pop music; it’s supposed to be sweet. It’s supposed to feel good. We’re not writing poetry here. Lyrics are meant to be sung. As such, their “singability” is of supreme importance. You really want people to remember your words? Then you better make sure each one feels as good on the tongue as chocolate chip mint ice cream.

If a lyric makes no sense but is fun to sing anyway, I say mission accomplished. You got people singing along? Mission accomplished. Does this hurt your artistic pride? Get over it….unless you want to survive forever on the mac and cheese you seem to hate so much.

No Quarter
Fight Club is not about touchy-feely “everybody’s a winner” scenarios. We want to watch somebody’s ass get kicked. We want a champion. In this bout, I say the winner is clear: How Lyrics Sound.

You think meaningless syllables went out of style with “Beebop-a-loola”? Try the lyrics from this mega-hit on for size:

          Rah Rah ah ah ah ah
          Roma, Roma, Romama
          Ga Ga Oh La La

You think nonsense verse ended with Jabberwocky? Take a gander at these lines, penned by a pair of semi-well-respected songwriters from Liverpool:

          Sitting on a cornflake waiting for the van to come
          Corporation t-shirt stupid bloody Tuesday
          Man you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long
          I am the egg man, I am the egg man, I am the walrus
          Goo-goo gajoob. 

Is it fair to say that in a perfect world every lyric would be equal parts style and substance? Sure. In reality perfect rhymes, alliterations, metaphors, and other poetic devices don’t jive with every set of lyrics. If I’m forced to opt for one or the other, I’m going with singable, memorable lyrics ever time.

*photo by PetitPlat Food Art


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