Lyrics or Tune?

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Do you listen to the lyrics or the tune first in a song?

lyrics
3
18%
music
6
35%
combo
8
47%
 
Total votes: 17

the hutch
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Post by the hutch »

well actually, here in Tejas we get a lot of Spanish lyrics, what w/ Tejano, and the recent insugence of some decent mexican and columbian stuff. i frankly can listen to rock in any language but french.
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Betty Felon
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Post by Betty Felon »

(Check out Manu Chao, yo. Spanish, English and French. Incredible stuff.)

Really? I mean, you think you are totally open to foreign language music? I've checked out Liesbeth's website and it seems like almost all of her favorite music is not in her native tongue. I can't relate to that at all.

I lived in Tucson for awhile (close enough to Mexico that it's lucrative to drive to the border to buy your liquor at the duty free shops) and there was a little spanish rock music, but it was still a very small fraction of what was coming through and out of the town. The rest of what I heard seemed part of the Ricky Martin Living La Vida Loca trend thing.

Here in chi, even bands like Kinky, Latin Grammy nominated with Beck's personal endorsement, play at obscure salsa clubs instead of the usual small or midsize venues.

And you can't really ignore the fact that Bjork and Shakira, etc. had to sing in English to get America's collective attention.

Maybe texas is it's own animal and things work a little differently there. In my experience, though, while I love Canada, and occasionally follow some bands out of Glasgow or London, and I like wordless electronic stuff from Germany, I have no clue about what's happening musically in Monteray, or Rio, or Rome, or Stockhom, or Warsaw, or Moscow, or Cairo, or Cape Town, or Tokyo, or New Delhi, or anywhere that doesn't speak english.
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Liesbeth
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Post by Liesbeth »

Betty Felon wrote:No one has made a case for lyrics (which I actually find surprising for this board since TLW have particularly strong lyrics.)

Well, your original question was what we listen to FIRST.
Sure, lyrics can be important in my appreciation of songs. And yes, part of why I like TLW so much is the lyrics, most definitely. But when I listen, melody and rhythm are stronger at first, and the meaning of words takes a while to surface from that.

Re: french rock, ah, superbe! (well, sometimes)
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Betty Felon
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Post by Betty Felon »

Liesbeth wrote:Well, your original question was what we listen to FIRST.

...

Re: french rock, ah, superbe! (well, sometimes)


It's true. I did. Hahaha. But until you posted about listening to music not in Finnish, I never realized how I generally don't listen to music not in english.

I guess lyrics are more important to me than I realized. Weak lyrics can destroy my ability to listen, even to good music. And unless the band is instrumental and amazing, without strong lyrics, they will never attain the coveted "One of Betty's Favorites" award.

btw--what is a dremple? and perhaps I should explore some french rock...any suggestions?
sean
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Post by sean »

one interesting thing i have considered in my recent travels is the degree to which foreign rock bands from non-english-speaking countries (france, belgium, holland, et. al.) tend to write their songs in english. i have heard quite a few records in the last few months by such bands, and every time, i'm forced to wonder why it is that the songs fall short of excellence despite the fine quality of the playing and the overall songcraft. in the end, i chalk it up to the tricky question of "having the language"--that is, the extent to which a writer is able not just to speak english, but to speak it colloquially, to flex it, and ultimately, to bend it, shape it, any way you want it, so that it qualifies as that slouch-backed hybrid of poetry/prose/nursery rhyme/and journal entry that we so portentously call (wiping away a few tears) "lyrics." there are plenty of english-speaking songwriters whose words make me wince, but it's seldom a case of pretending.
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Liesbeth
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don't know the english word for drempel, sorry...

Post by Liesbeth »

Sean has a point most definitely.
So why do we attempt english anyway? Well, in the Netherlands, I'd say it's certainly a scale thing, if you aspire to ever play outside the country, dutch won't get you far, and there's only so (not) far you can go IN this country. And, english is what we hear most of the time, so that seems like pop's natural language. Which it doesn't have to be - and in many European countries there is far more music in the native language.

If I think why I don't listen to many bands singing in Dutch, that is probably because those that do are often not that good at it - which you realise cause you understand the lyrics better!

If I think why I write my songs in english... probably a mix. I cringe when I attempt stuff in dutch, but am more easily satisfied with english (I realise what I'm saying here :-).
And if I ever let my stuff out into the world (and I know this may sound pompous) I would like it to be understandable for as many people as possible - not like millions, but like that one person half way across the world who might feel like I do. Oh, and I wrote a song in French, it sucks I'm sure, but it just had to be written like that cause the person I wrote it for doesn't speak english or dutch.
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Betty Felon
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Post by Betty Felon »

hmmm...not to focus on drempel's, but Mac OSX's sherlock translator (I love that app) thinks it means "threshold", like a doorway or entrance. Is that even remotely close? Now I need to know.
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Post by sean »

speed bump.
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wonderbex
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Post by wonderbex »

i've always considered myself a lyrics grrrl, and that's probably because my formative music-listening experiences were accompanied by scrutinous lyrical examination and deconstructing. so the other kids would mock me mercilessly if i dared to play them my fave folk songs and i would say, "but did you hear what he/she/they just SAID?" and they would say, "but it's so boring, it's just a guitar" and i would say, "but did you HEAR what he/she/they just put into words?" and then they would shrug and go play kickball and i'd retreat into my private land of folk music and rainbows.

i like words, a whole whole whole bunch. for quite some time, i disagreed with the lyric "the plainest words are the finest" because i like fancy-schmancy words and have a probably-annoying habit of tossing them into common conversation. HOWEVER. i've come to realize that the greatest lyrics are those that represent a universal experience - a feeling, a sensation, an action, whatevs - that comes from the collective unconscious. And the verbal representation of such truisms tend to be most recognizable when they're in, ahem, plain words. good call, roderick. i stand corrected.

all this being said, i still think i listen to the lyrics first and then to the music. in addition to my childhood lyric-sheet-poring, i write words but i can't write music so i think my brain latches onto the familiar and the deconstructable, rather than the (to me, unfortunately) obtuse and rather frightening art of crafting melody and harmony. amusingly enough, i every-so-often end up with grossly erroneous interpretations of other people's words when i mishear lyrics -- i thought the Shins were singing "the art of drowning in holy water" (rather than "they ought to drown him in holy water") and "you sat on your hands and i stood on your chance" (rather that "you sat on your hands and lost your only chance) -- and I was slightly sad when i actually read the CD insert and learned of my kiss-this-guy-isms. because i like my way better. and you music-first (hey! our old slogan!) people probably don't mishear chord progressions or modulations or crescendoes. or do you?

lyrics first, music second. although i'm recently obsessed with the ironic juxtaposition of the two. like when Simon and Garfunkel sing "nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town" and they sing it with such celebratory glee! How fierce and biting and acerbic!

of late, i've been writing lyrics professionally and i find it much easier to write to a musical track. how do you real songwriters do it? music or lyrics first? because if i freeform lyrics without writing the lyrics directly to a track i get all pretentious and gross.

love and kisses,
bex
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grant
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Post by grant »

mlle bex wrote:of late, i've been writing lyrics professionally


Would you care to elaborate on this?
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wonderbex
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Post by wonderbex »

grant wrote:
mlle bex wrote:of late, i've been writing lyrics professionally


Would you care to elaborate on this?


alas and alack, it's nothing too glamourous, it's not like i'm part of the Matrix and writing songs for liz phair and avril and pink. they get paid the big bucks. i don't know how much cable t-vision you tigers watch, but i wrote all these snarky little ditties about 2003 that i made into little :30 animated music video sorta things. to promote a specific show, not just to celebrate the short-term nostalgia that everyone enjoys.

i love 5 minutes ago!

oh, yeah, five minutes ago, it was amaaaazing. This guy totally called me "mademoiselle" and then, get this, he asked me eeeeLAborate.


five minutes ago? i got three words for you -- quarter. to. seven.

short-term nostalgia rules. and we got the market covered, baby.

love and kisses,
bex
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Betty Felon
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Post by Betty Felon »

lol. I'm laughing...but I'm not sure what at. ....?
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LoveSickJerk
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Post by LoveSickJerk »

I am a huge fan of lyrics first--the quirkier the better. One of my favorite lines is from Cinnamon "Listen to my car, what's it telling us? Start...please start, please start" That's the hot diggity damn nuts and bolts of what makes a song cool.
I do agree that mishearings are a hanper with this (hot hot heat's Le Le Le Low at fist sounded like "my lovelife's speaker is blown" when its really "my left right speaker" oh my disapointment...), but that's half the fun.
as a writer of some songs, i find that i find a meter out of a couplet, which grows into a stanza then two and a seperate stanza for a chorus (my inclination is to always have 3 stanzas and a chorus). I woudl write the basic structure bring them to my bandmate and hed figure something out we'd like and i'd finish after he played it for half hour or so. it was a mix, honestly. Which is what I look for in the music finally.
I have been known, however, to buy purely on the basis of lyrics. Example: Outkast's new single. Specifically: Can i borrow some sugar, I AM your neighbor.

I haven't bought it yet, but it's getting close.
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meg
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Post by meg »

That's "Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor!"

It's better as a command, see.

But really, that line's half in the inflection. So I'm INFLECTIONLYRICS first, everything else eventually.
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Post by mildlyrestarted »

goddamn, i love that record. i bought it while following the dcfc/lw tour and steph and i blasted "Roses" repeatedly throughout the deserted streets of champaigne, il.

"i know you'd like to thaaank yo' shit don't staaank..."
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Liesbeth
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Post by Liesbeth »

wonderbex wrote: and i would say, "but did you hear what he/she/they just SAID?" and they would say, "but it's so boring, it's just a guitar"

that's a regular conversation in our household.
if dylan writes such brilliant lyrics, let him be a poet or put more compelling music to his words, is what I say.
as a matter of fact, when I'm looking for words, I will sooner look to poetry, which I like a lot.

the good thing about my slow method is that when I do discover bits of lyric (like that cinnamon one, never noticed it before, it's wonderful) it's such a nice surprise
sean
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Post by sean »

leonard cohen's favorite song couplet is "i found my thrill/ on blueberry hil."

and who the hell am i to disagree?
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LoveSickJerk
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Post by LoveSickJerk »

I wouldn't disagree with a saint, that's for sure.

There's been only one song that continues to give me chills even when i read it's words. Nautical Disaster by the Tragically Hip, The last lines from "Anyway, Susan.." on are giving me goosebumps as i write.
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Post by NatureBoy »

Lyrics have the capacity to move me emotionally, while the music itself moves me physically.

It's possible, (and I still do) get 'the chills' from either or both.

My favorite music is capable of giving me the chills constantly...
the hutch
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Post by the hutch »

i think we are hittin on the difference between the cerebral and the visceral, the lyrics bein the former, lyrics the latter. discuss!

but seriously, if'n you are into lyrics first, check out Consonant- Clint Conley from Mission of Burma, almost all the lyrics are from Holly Anderson's poetry. and it works, the visceral & the cerebral meet.
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