Nonsensically Lyrical

The Guardian has gone and started the dangerous game of questioning pop lyrics:

Is there any point trying to get meaning from the wishy-washy lyrics of bands such as Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol? Or have musicians just run out of things to say?

One does have to ask if pop music ever said much of anything comprehensible. I think of classic songs like Don McLean’s “American Pie” or the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and they come across as pretty non-sensical, too. Or how about Pink Floyd and “Dark Side of the Moon”? This shouldn’t be taken as a defense of Coldplay, mind you. I do enjoy listening to Coldplay, but it’s certainly not for their lyrical genius or inventive melodies. I make no mistakes about “Speed of Sound” making any more sense or sounding much different from “Clocks”. Hell, I’m an aerospace engineer, so I study things that happen at the speed of sound, and that song… well, it certainly doesn’t represent it with “birds go flying at the speed of sound / to show you how it all began”. But I’m not convinced that popular songs from years past were much better off.

What really interested me about this article is the fact that it more or less ignores artists who actually have lyrics that make sense. Or lyrics that make sense but are difficult to decipher (Alanis Morissette, anyone?). Their examples of better crafted modern lyrics come from the likes of Franz Ferdinand, another group I listen to, but really more for the sound. I mean, “I am the new Scottish gentry / anglofied vowels, sub-London thoughts” repeated over and over isn’t exactly high on the poetry scale, either.

Where are the singer/songwriters of today in this? Where’s Rufus Wainwright (or his sister Martha, for that matter)? Damien Rice? John Ondrasik? Sarah McLachlan? Sheryl Crow? I’d say Mic Christopher, but I don’t think anyone outside of Europe has heard of him except for me.

Maybe the Guardian is stuck up on popular British artists with lyrics that make sense. If so, Travis is a good sight better than Coldplay, and they’ve got a card of widespread popularity that my favorite band has yet to receive.

Ah well… at least I’ve got my playlists well in hand.

be my muse, hypotenuse, twice the one i am
divide by nothing to give me everything
break the code or split the atom
we extricate, extrapolate,
prove ourselves together

2 Responses to “Nonsensically Lyrical”


  • Still wondering when, how, and why music became about words and not, y’know, music. It’s like if you printed out poetry on transparencies and pasted them on top of paintings, and then proceeded to dissect the artwork and assign it merit on the basis of said nifty modifications.

    I actually think it’s indicative that this seems to be the primary form in which many people relate to music. I think it would explain a lot about the actual musical form today, too.

    But that’s because I’m an incurable snob.

  • I read that article… The best lyricist I know is Neil Hannon IMO and since he’s from Northern Ireland he could have passed as British. Anyone think they were exagerating the dearth of meaning for effect?!
    I agree with Mark tho – you listen to music for the, well, music!

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