Lindsey Kuper (lindseykuper) wrote,
Lindsey Kuper

Lyrics and music are so intimately connected

that I can't really separate them. I write lyrics and music at the same time myself, and when I listen to other people's stuff, I can't think of one out of the context of the other. The song, encompassing lyrics and music, is an atomic structure; it can't be taken apart further without losing meaning.

Having said that, there are a few weird cases where I really love the lyrics, but don't like the song. Here's one example (and I feel less troubled about typing up these lyrics than I normally do, because to me, the lyrics are everything that's good about the song, so I don't feel that I'm doing the song a disservice by posting something that's just a shadow of its true meaning):

Marianne Faithfull, "Love in the Afternoon"

It's getting dark outside
Daytime is done
The lights along the river come up
One by one
Let's make love again
We got time
I am yours
You are mine

It's getting dark outside
I have to go
Don't want my husband
or my friends to know
Zip up my dress
I can't find my shoes
Don't fall in love with me
Too much to lose

The kids are home by now
Have to think fast
I really think this afternoon
Must be the last
Don't say anything
Don't turn on the light
Thanks for loving me
Call you tonight

Isn't that great? The repeated "Don't"s. I love it how she contrasts the banality of getting dressed again with the heart-wrenchingness of the affair. That dully recited list of imperatives: Zip up my dress. Find my shoes. Don't fall in love with me.

"It's getting dark outside" twice, with two meanings. And the final "Call you tonight" is what really does it for me. It's giving up. You know they're going to meet again.

But the song is stupid. It's boring and cheesy and it drags and it doesn't take advantage of any of those wonderful things in the lyrical structure. I can barely stand to listen to it.

Now, in this case, the lyrics and music were written by different people. Faithfull wrote the lyrics, and another person wrote the music. So I wish I could just say, well, I like what she's done, and I don't like what he's done. But it doesn't work that way, because -- and this is crucial -- it's not that either the music or the lyrics are bad by themselves. Maybe the music is actually great. It's that the combination of them is bad. A good song is more than the sum of its parts. This one's less.

Tags: songwriting

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded