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Adversary
08-08-2005, 11:40 AM
When I listen to the radio I realized much to my chagrin that I don't really listen to the lyrics of the songs most of the time, just to the beat/melody. My wife on the other hand can and does sing along to most every song she likes on the radio. I am mostly oblivious unless it is an 80's top 40 hit.

Maybe this is more more of a poll type question, is there a reason behind this? Do you really listen to the words of the song?

Spatial Rift 47
08-08-2005, 11:51 AM
I listen to the lyrics, and I remember them when I can. I'm very rythmically challenged, tone deaf, sans harmony, and just generally musically deficient, so for me "knowing" a song is knowing the words and how they words sound when sung.

Hamish
08-08-2005, 11:54 AM
Like Spatial Rift, I'm harmony-challenged, and respond much more to the written word than a tune. If a song sounds like it might be interesting, I'll look up the lyrics on the net, and if I like them, memorize them.

Hung Mung
08-08-2005, 11:54 AM
I memorize songs all the time. I know whole albums of stuff. But then, I'm pretty musically inclined and when station surfing can identify a lot of songs by the first couple of notes. In fact, I dislike a lot of newer stuff because the lyrics are so dreadful.
By comparison, though, Sting and Tom Waits and guys like that make everyone else look like mental midgets.

WordMan
08-08-2005, 11:55 AM
I listen to the lyrics a LOT. I am very open to the possibility that the lyrics of a given song:

- are an inane attempt to fit a cliche, commercially-driven pop formula - in which case, I want to assess how they did

- are a "tone poem" - using sounds to evoke a feeling without the words themselves necessarily making sense - Nirvana and John Lennon did a lot of this

- make no sense, period

- are a more personal statement...

so yeah, they matter.

Pretty funny that you should post this, MChapman - Mike Chapman was one of THE great songwriter/producers of the 70's - he worked with everybody from The Sweet and other Brit glam rockers, to Blondie and Pat Benatar. I think lyrics mattered to him! :)

saoirse
08-08-2005, 11:59 AM
I also listen to the lyrics. I'm usually disappointed to find out how pedestrian they are when I get them memorized, but I get over it.

By the way, MChapman could also be the writer of the song "O Jodi." Just throwin' that out there.

Hampshire
08-08-2005, 12:05 PM
Count me as someone who rarely listens to the lyrics. My musical tastes run much more toward the composition of the music, instruments, voice.
I have been caught off guard more than once with people asking "you know that song? you do know what their singing about don't you?" to which I have to reply "umm, I've never payed attention to what they were saying, even though I've heard that song dozens of times."
Probably why I'm not much of a country music fan. It relies heavily on the lyrics. Without the lyrics the music sounds very hum-drum.

Only Mostly Dead
08-08-2005, 12:16 PM
I listen to the lyrics every song (try to, anyway). And when they don't jive with me, I will denounce the entire song no matter how interesting the melody, harmony, rhythm.

As a kid, I HATED Mason Dave "We Just Disagree" because of "there ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy..." I was old enough to catch on to the futility of double negatives, the nonexistence of "ain't", and what I perceived to be the cop-out laziness of "good guy" and "bad guy" when a quick glance at a Thesaurus can give us "hero" and "villain" or something slightly more clever. For some reason this song has grown on me since.

I guarantee you I will shut off ANY Vanessa Carleton that comes on my car radio because one line from her first radioplay, "A Thousand Miles" so thoroughly irked me: "If I could fall into the sky, do you think time would pass me by?" Huh? First, about the only (literal) way to actually fall into the sky would be from a height. Skydiving or jumping off a bridge. Coming up with a figurative translation doesn't work much better. And the total non-sequitur of the second half about time drives the nail into the coffin.

Yeah, now I sound like a music snob, writing off entire artists because of a single atrocious line. Truth is, most of the time I will gladly overlook a bad line, even if I do notice it. Part of the test for me, since I was about 15 or so, has been whether I would be embarassed to have to sing that line while playing the song. Playing guitar has led me to intentionally memorize hundreds of songs for play, and inadvertently memorize at least parts of thousands more just in listening. I'd be embarassed to sing some of the meaningless tripe out there.

So yeah, I hear, more importantly I listen, and then tragically I overanalyze.

ultrafilter
08-08-2005, 12:18 PM
I used to care a lot about lyrics, but nowadays I don't so much. I still appreciate good lyrics, but I can very much enjoy a song that I don't understand at all. This is very handy when your favorite styles tend to feature the vocalists shrieking through closed throats in Swedish.

Zeldar
08-08-2005, 12:27 PM
I'm primarily interested in the tune, the beat, the harmony. Lyrics are always secondary for me. Only lyrics I can understand when listening are of any value. Stuff I have to read off album covers, or those tiny sheets you get with a CD, because either the singer garbles the lyrics or else the music is too loud to hear them, are worthless.

I agree that country music lyrics are about all there is to like about that genre.

At least 90% of rock lyrics cannot be interpreted, and that seems deliberate. Blues lyrics are hard to understand, even when repeated, depending on the singer, but at least the instrumental fills are fun -- sometimes.

Sinatra, Ella, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and several "pop" and "jazz" singers can/could enunciate well enough, and the lyrics actually mean/meant something, that I'd have to say that genre is the exception to my general rule, which is: leave the lyrics at home and play me some good music.

Agonist
08-08-2005, 12:38 PM
Lyrics are very important to me. I can listen to a song for years and not care about it for more than background music, then finally pay attention to the words and have a new favorite tune.

Several years ago a boyfriend tried to share his favorite hard rock song with me. I hated it - the words were almost impossible to understand, and what I did get amounted to "sacrifice to the devil/I wanna die" or some such. When I shared this with my boyfriend, he looked surprised: he had never bothered to listen to the words; what he cared about was the beat and the music.

Yumblie
08-08-2005, 12:46 PM
I'm more of a music fan than lyrics fan. I usually find lyrics distracting, I tend to favor instrumental music instead. Sometimes I'll enjoy the tune of a song up until the lyrics start, and it'll "ruin" the music for me. Sometimes I do like singing, but only as another "instrument." I almost never pay attention to what the lyrics are actually saying.

critter42
08-08-2005, 01:08 PM
By comparison, though, Sting and Tom Waits and guys like that make everyone else look like mental midgets
You ain't kidding :). I ALWAYS listen to Sting's lyrics - what other songwriter can you think of that can generate a Top Ten hit song that includes references to Greek mythology, Goethe, and adultery ("Wrapped Around Your Finger")? Heck, even his album titles - was there anyone else besides me who just loves the pun in title of his album "Ten Summoner's Tales"?

With most metal songs, however, I just listen to the music and don't concern myself overmuch with the lyrics; however intelligent lyrics no matter what the genre always attract me - which is why I tend to lean toward prog rock over other styles of music. On the whole, prog rock lyrics (especially Rush) seem to me to be more complex, more layered. more literate than in other types of music

RealityChuck
08-08-2005, 01:20 PM
I always listen to lyrics -- they're the first thing I notice about any song.

For me, part of it is that I grew up on Broadway show tunes, where they lyrics are important. I learned to pay attention to them first.

In addition, I'm more interested in words. That's one reason I'm a writer.

Hung Mung
08-08-2005, 01:49 PM
I'm more of a music fan than lyrics fan. I usually find lyrics distracting, I tend to favor instrumental music instead. Sometimes I'll enjoy the tune of a song up until the lyrics start, and it'll "ruin" the music for me. Sometimes I do like singing, but only as another "instrument." I almost never pay attention to what the lyrics are actually saying.

I've begun following that path myself. I'm disappointed a lot of the time with lyrics and the quality of singers most of the time, so I started delving into my parents' records. Luckily they have some cool stuff like Bill Evans and Joe Henderson as well as some old school blues.
In fact, I really dig old timey blues because the lyrics are so simple and powerful, even downright eerie. It's completely unpretentious. I love it.

Lord Ashtar
08-08-2005, 02:19 PM
When I get an album, I like to listen to it straight through all by itself, then a second time with the lyrics in hand. Great lyrics can make a good song great, but terrible lyrics can make a great song really, really bad.

amarinth
08-08-2005, 02:19 PM
Yes.
And I sing along, too.

I have a friend who doesn't hear lyrics, and I don't understand it. (Every so often, she'll hear something and say "did you hear what she just said? She said <insert 'adult' lyrics here>!" "You said you loved this song and you have for months." "But I didn't know the words.")
The artists are saying the words (often times, over and over and over and over again) how can you help but hear them? They're usually on top of and louder than the background music. And the songwriter obviously included the lyrics for a reason.
How can you tune them out?

Still, I'm not rhythmically or musically challenged. I can recognize good music with wretched lyrics (but I'll like the song much less, if not outright dislike it).

twickster
08-08-2005, 02:34 PM
When I'm listening to music in English, I prefer good lyrics -- Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Cole Porter, etc.

However, most of what I listen to these days is in languages I don't speak (Portuguese, Spanish, Hindi, Wolof, Soso, Malinke, etc.), so obviously, for those, the vocal track is just another track. Occasionally I'll check out the translation of the lyrics, but that's pretty rare.

QuickSilver
08-08-2005, 02:43 PM
Big lyrics fan. A song can have the greatest riff but if the lyrics don't resonate with me, I'll usually not like the song or the musical novelty will wear out very fast with me. And it's not like I have to be able to personally relate to the lyrics. It's kind of like poetry. Some poems just work for some unexplained reason while others just fall flat.

Bosstone
08-08-2005, 03:33 PM
Another one who listens to lyrics. I have to be able to sing along in the car. :) I'll even go so far as to try and learn the lyrics for non-English songs if I can.

dwc1970
08-08-2005, 03:46 PM
I'm primarily an instrumentalist when it comes to music. I don't pay much attention to lyrical content and the vocals are just another "instrument". I vastly prefer artists who play long instrumental sets with complex rhythms (Rush, ELP, Dream Theater), which is why progressive rock appeals to me. I'm also big on hard rock/heavy metal, which is also instrument-heavy.

rayh
08-08-2005, 04:15 PM
I love the lyrics, they are what makes a song for me. Lines from songs keep whirling around in my mind and I sometimes see the connections in my everyday life.

A friend of mine one quoted a line from a song to me, which is how I found out we both liked the same artist.

My favourite songwriters are people like Al Stewart, who can put together erudition with some great melodies.

Which is not to say I do not like instrumental music. I love the music of Bach. I love solo acoustic guitar, especially Laurence Juber. My favourite instrumental is Hocus Pocus.

Pushkin
08-08-2005, 04:18 PM
Only if someone's chatting at length about lyrics do I make an effort to listen, my hearing isn't so good (or at least my brain couldn't be bothered listening) so most of them go over my head. I was as surprised when I read that the lyrics to Jethro Tull's "Budapest" was about a fumble with a young groupie at a gig :p

Anaamika
08-08-2005, 04:51 PM
Another one who listens to lyrics. I have to be able to sing along in the car. :) I'll even go so far as to try and learn the lyrics for non-English songs if I can.
You could be me! I will also learn the words to songs in languages I don't understand, and I will go on the Internet and look up what they mean. I prefer songs to which I know the lyrics.

Not that I can't enjoy songs I don't, but they are rarer.

WordMan
08-08-2005, 04:54 PM
Which is not to say I do not like instrumental music. I love the music of Bach. I love solo acoustic guitar, especially Laurence Juber. My favourite instrumental is Hocus Pocus.


You should do a search on "guitarists put up shut up" or something like that - one of our very own Dopers posted a cool cover of Hocus Pocus with some really interesting vocals and instrumentation....

Khadaji
08-08-2005, 05:08 PM
I listen - often the lyrics are what hook me on the song.

rayh
08-08-2005, 05:17 PM
You should do a search on "guitarists put up shut up" or something like that - one of our very own Dopers posted a cool cover of Hocus Pocus with some really interesting vocals and instrumentation....

Yes, very cool. I am working on an acoustic version of Hocus Pocus myself, without the vocals though.

Telperien
08-08-2005, 05:30 PM
The lyrics are how I remember songs. I sing so badly that often the lyrics are the only way someone else knows what song I'm singing. I can let a song whose lyrics don't meake sense pass, but only if I try not to think about it too much. Otherwise, I'll be singing along to it, thinking, "What the hell does that even mean?" Then I'll sit there trying to puzzle it out.

ouryL
08-08-2005, 06:04 PM
Uh, you kinda gotta
otherwise when you sing along
people might give you strange looks!

Mother Superior jump the gun,
Mother Superior jump the gun... :wally