Thinking About Art


Song lyrics.  What do they mean?  Some people don’t even listen to the lyrics.  And I admit, when Ghostface Killah is talking about “sloo-footed penguins” ducking from “rap damians” I just take it for granted I will never understand those lyrics.  I could google it on genius.com but eh.  Anyway,

The song “More” by Sisters of Mercy.  The lyrics are about being in a relationship with somebody whose passion does not match your own and feeling incredulous about it.  “I don’t know why you gotta be so undemanding.”  I’m like, Andrew, this isn’t rocket science.  Sometimes it’s just like that, bro.  Better luck in the next relationship.

My problem is that song lyrics form some kind of giant index in my mind that is instantly accessed by common words and phrases.  Like if somebody says, “stop” as a one-word sentence, I might think of that part in the chorus of “How Sweet it Is,” or “Stop in the Name of Love.”  And if anybody wants more of anything, even if it’s cheerios, Andy Eldritch’s studio ladies start shrieking at me, “I NEED ALL THE LOVE I CAN GET, AND I NEED ALL THE LOVE THAT I CAN’T GET TOO.”

That’s the pattern.  Random mood or turn of phrase calls up a song lyric, then I ponder it for a minute, and get a head full of these kind of observations.  Thinking about art.  Sometimes, it’ll happen whether you want to or not.

I’ll end this with a song that came to my mind not from word association, just from mood.  It’s a quarter past midnight and life is looking kinda thorazine right now.  “Play it on ’til the dawn, I’ll be lonesome when I’m gone, Everything we done is wrong, Play it on ’til the dawn…”

Comments

  1. brucegee1962 says

    Thanks to the Bobbettes, whenever I am counting things in a game and there are more than two and fewer than four, I can’t help singing to myself “Hey, look at Mr. Lee!”

  2. says

    words are sounds that have meanings within language, setting them to a meter of some kind makes them poetry, and even the most meaningless poem says at least abstract things about something. the fact these words occur within the context of the unrelated art form of music does allow one to decide if they want to ignore the meaning inherent in them, but it is a decision you’re making. or for people who have a hard time understanding what the words are themselves (hard of hearing, listening to the hoarser end of death metal, whatever) sometimes the decision is made for you.

    another wrinkle is provided by artists whose songs have non-word vocalizations instead of lyrics. problem there is that *I* will find myself turning the gibberish into words, and the nonsense gets stuck in my head.

  3. says

    I love The Sisters of Mercy. “Nine while nine” is an old favorite.

    The Sisters do the same trick Bauhaus used to leverage, and Bob Dylan mastered: you throw evocative words together and create a mood, without explicitly saying what you’re saying. It lets your music become a mirror to the other person as they find what they are interested in. This is, basically, the same technique haiku (as Denis Leary calls them “haiku-writing motherfuckers”) use: tone and color references.

    another wrinkle is provided by artists whose songs have non-word vocalizations instead of lyrics. problem there is that *I* will find myself turning the gibberish into words, and the nonsense gets stuck in my head

    I’ll take “bad lipreading” for a dollar. Lots of opportunity for hilarity there. Bawitabaw a dang a dang diggy, something something upchuck the boogie.

  4. says

    Sometimes the nonsense really is words too. Inna-godda-davida babey, I actually heard the intended phrase right when I first heard the song, but then was gaslit by the title. No fair.

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