This issue of utmost concern seeped into my head during one of my French classes, when we had been watching the stage performance of a well-known French comedian. One of the many phenomena that he threw rotten eggs at was the lyrics of American songs. He demonstrated how meaningless the lyrics can sometimes be by saying the lines “It’s very difficult to live in a dungeon because it is very dark in there” over and over again in symphony with the music that was playing in the background and adding intonations to his voice. And guess what – it actually sounded good!
Instigated by this new revelation, I could not stop myself from listening carefully and deciphering the meaning of each and every word that was spoken in the English songs that I listened to. It must be mentioned here that until that day, I had never paid much attention to lyrics, liking songs of any genre and any language as long as they sounded appealing to my aural senses. Although I really liked most of those songs, I found myself nodding and laughing in a silent, cynical manner at their verses after looking up the lyrics. In the following part of this article, I have mentioned a few that left me dumbfounded.
In Des’ree’s song “Life”, there’s a part saying ““I don’t want to see a ghost, It’s the sight that I fear most, I’d rather have a piece of toast.” I personally thought that it was pretty random to compare a ghost with a toast: she must have been separate to find rhyming words.
Owl City’s “Firefly” sounds quite good with the techno type music, but the lyrics somehow made no sense to me. While the entire song was quite pointless with fireflies teaching him how to dance and fox-trot and what-not, the lines which stood out were “It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep”- I mean, poor lyricist! That must be a BIG revelation for him!
One lyrics that left me in a dilemma whether I should laugh at its silliness or cry because it was just nonsense were the lines “Someone left the cake out in the rain/ I don’t think I can take it/ Because it took so long to bake it/ And I’ll never have that recipe again oh no” by Richard Harris in his song “MacArthur Park”. Finally I decided to patronize the lyricist – someone please give the poor man some cake!
I have finally come to the naïve conclusion that it must be a status of great pride to be able to write lyrics that make no sense, since not even the oh-so-famous Madonna could not resist this temptation when she wrote “I don’t like cities/ But I like New York/Other places/Make me feel like a dork” in her song “I Love New York”. Apparently, she was trying to be anything BUT philosophical. However, don’t be fooled. There are lyrics where philosophy is just overstated, like in America’s song “A Horse With no Name”: “There were plants/And birds/And rocks/And things” or in U2’s song “Staring at the Sun”: “There’s an insect/In your ear/If you scratch/It won’t disappear”.
So as you can see, even without fillers like “doo—doo” and “ruh-ruh”s being chanted randomly, or in some cases, a single sentence as in Ting-Ting’s “That’s not my Name” repeated until it seems like the record has suddenly got stuck, there are actually plenty of lyrics that make little sense.
Nevertheless, it is quite evident that the number of lyrics in this category is small compared to the number of meaningful lyrics in American songs. However, there is a rising trend for such lyrics. I must mention that in contrast, the lyrics of French songs are more deep and meaningful since French people place a higher importance in lyrics than on the music of the song; but that does not mean that they do not have any glitches. No racism intended! Anyway, after finding out this phenomenon, I have once again started considering song-writing as my career, since anything would sell as long as it sounds good. So let me end with a song by me:
College is not fun/The dining hall fails to serve/ any soft bun/yeeahh—yeeaahhh…
But spring break is near/ and we have nothing to fear/ uh-huh-wooo—yeah—ooooo—yeaa-e-aaaah!