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Audio Refugees • View topic - improving lyrics

improving lyrics

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improving lyrics

Postby cjdenecia » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:58 am

you can't handle the truth.

nor do you want to ...
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby Peevette » Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:31 am

Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby Steve Soucy » Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:40 am

Steb's lyric (as is) is impossible for me to write a melody to... Not even the section Peeve mentions brings anything to mind. To me a song is a completely different animal than a thought provoking poem or prose piece. When I listen to a song, I DON"T WANT to think. I just want to enjoy. Then again, I like Katy Perry.

However, I could imagine writing a pop song & lyric around the word simultaneously... it has a peculiar sound and rhythm to the word. I'm absolutely positive that it would be the only 6 syllable word in the song. And the word "simultaneously" would probably happen 5 or 6 times in the chorus, with different oxymoronic things that could be simultaneously happening. And if I couldn't write that, I know lots of writers who would be willing to try it as an exercise.

Some of Steb's raw emotion could be worked into a song concept like that, but being more of a pop guy myself, I wouldn't want to write song about this.

I did write one about the Iraq war a few years ago. I like it. But I can't imagine it getting used for anything or covered. It does have a cool predictable chorus.



When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.

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Re: improving lyrics

Postby Krispy » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:55 am

To save time, assume I know everything
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby Steve Soucy » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:45 pm

Thanks for listening, and the comments K. I very much like, that you like it.

I am as usual, AWESOMELY happy. Camera points at me, it just gushes out. I'm powerless to stop it.


When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.

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Re: improving lyrics

Postby Krispy » Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:47 am

I wonder if anyone might be able to work with these lyrics:

I am, as usual, awesomely happy.
Camera points at me, it just gushes out.
I'm powerless to stop it - my sphincter is knackered;
You can watch it on Youtube if you are in doubt.
To save time, assume I know everything
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby Mark Kaufman » Fri Nov 12, 2010 5:54 pm

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Re: improving lyrics

Postby Steve Soucy » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:53 am



When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.

~ Corrie Ten Boom
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby pharquartt » Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:48 am

now is the infinite opposite
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby cjdenecia » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:19 am

you can't handle the truth.

nor do you want to ...
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby steban » Sun Nov 28, 2010 5:19 am

Hey ceej, I just missed this thread completely!

Well, there is some duplication, going on, you are right, quietly, how quiet? as the proverbial (that was become a byword: commonly spoken of) western front, which was not all that quiet except as a title of a classic novel that happens to deal with the conditions for soldiers in war and after, coming home.

Hoopla, fanfare, ticker tape parade, yes, synonyms. So what? Heroes, I don't think that I am implying they are not, but I can understand why one might think that might be why there was no parade. I juxtaposed the two ideas intentionally to solicit that thought.

I think there is no tense change. 'welcoming' is not present tense.

Mysterious? I think it is conversational and rather straightforward. The 'rather' is an extra adverb, sorry it bugs you.

I am very clear which war ending I am referring to without saying Iraq. I say the second war born on 911 (Afghanistan) went on. This war that ended is Iraq, and next I say I am watching the troops crossing into Kuwait on the news, that clinches it.

I cut the sticker shock lines, just didn't feel needed to make the point.

The idea is that this war ended and so many people barely noticed. That's a sad fact. I don't think there is any winning or losing that makes it better or worse. Are people so self absorbed? It is possible. I don't make a judgment, I make an observation.

Even though the number of syllables fluctuates, the words fit with the musical phrase (the video version here is the version I much prefer). It didn't go as well the first time, and I will agree that a more traditional meter and rhyme is easier to translate into song, but it is not a rule. I certainly wouldn't say one is superior over the other other. The last two verses are much more behaved, and I had to resist the urge to not sing it conversationally. In the end I liked how it flowed.

I didn't tell people which side I was on, I reported the situation, and I hope that the observations would make all sides think about war in a less than glorified way.

It might not be the best political song ever for bunches of reasons, but I don't think it is misleading or afactual.
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby cjdenecia » Sun Nov 28, 2010 11:18 am

you can't handle the truth.

nor do you want to ...
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby steban » Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:11 pm

Just because I don't quote you point by point you take my response as, what did you say, let me look, not wanting/willing to have a working dialog.

I responded and that constitutes a dialog, and I stayed on topic, and I conceded a couple points and disputed a couple of others, so where was it not a 'working dialog'?

So instead of your responding in working dialog fashion, you decide to take the leap to 'I get it' land and make some totally unsupported conclusive statement.

I ask you, Mr. ceej, what makes you think my choice of 'rather' is so bad? What makes you think that there ought to be some clear pattern to the phrasing? What makes you think that rhyming has to be better and has to be consistent? Do you really seriously suggest I change the word simultaneously to 'at the same time' based on the two extra syllables? I could of used 'concurrently', I suppose, but the truth is at the end of a musical phrase there is usually a space before the next line, to breath, to end a sentence, to allow music to play out. I actually had musical space for the extra syllables and then some. It felt right.

I would certainly put Ray Davies way above most other lyricists in terms of creativity, and some of his songs use a lot of long words that get squeezed in. Oh, You Really Got Me is super simple and propelled them into super stardom, but then there is Education or Second Hand Car Spiv, not songs you are familiar with I wager, and not ones you would like very much I also guess, and yet it is the over the top wit that defies the more predictable pop lyric and in the end elevated him to being a master lyricist in my eyes.

Here's the one song-

Sung by spiv, flash & floosies

Spiv: I was born a slum gutter infantile, 10 syllables
Brute-force educated, delinquent juvenile. 12
I am a product of mass produced factory fodder, 13
Streets full of tenement blocks, rat infested filth and squalor. 15
I left school, went straight on the dole 8
And unemployment's no enjoyment, 9
Welfare state owned my mind and my body and my soul. 13
So I worked my way up to be a second-hand car spiv, 14
But don't judge me harshly because I'm just a slum kid. 13
I built up my business with a quick wit and fist, 12
So don't double-cross me or my hoods will dissect you 12
With their black jacks and shiv. 6
Slum kids never get a break, they've got to fight their way up. 14
Wheel and deal, beg and steal, 6
Sweat blood to earn a buck. 6
I didn't want to work on the factory floor, 12
I wasn't content, I wanted more 9
Than to be a slave of a lathe, 8
Work all day and go home bored. 7
So a second- hand car spiv was what I became. 12
I built an empire because I used my brains. 12

Chorus: he was a second-hand car spiv up from the slums, 12
So don't judge him harshly because he's just a slum kid. 13
Then he moved into property, stocks and shares, 11

Spiv: and into high finance and you've got to agree 12
That running a multi-million corporation 12
Sure beats selling cars second-hand. 8

Chorus: once he sold old worn out heaps to the punters on the street, 14

Spiv: now I'm in control of the country as a whole, 12
And the world is at my feet. 7

Chorus: the world is at his feet. 6

Spiv: power, power, I've got power oozing out of me, 13
And when you think of all the things I've done 10
It says a lot for one 6
Who worked his way up from the streets. 8
Yes I'm a second-hand car spiv. 8
Do a deal, buy and sell, 6
It's my trade, I know it well. 7
Make a sale, ring the bell 6
And let the suckers go to hell. 8
Bank the profits, count the change 7
Another sucker comes your way. 8
Life is a crooked game, 6
And slum kids never change. 6


Those lyrics do rhyme, and there is a lot of pattern in the phrasing, but the line length is not kept the same, and I think it contributes positively to the conversational quality.

Just because none of us has big hits to back up our claims of being songwriters means nothing. Try to find me a single superlative Bret Michaels lyric. There isn't one. It is all fluff, all filler, and he has nothing to say. cj, your poppiest lyrics are better than his. In fact, most of us here produce lyrics that have more meat than most hits.

Not all. There are notable exceptions. But how do I, the unknown amateur, have the audacity to say that Brett is a terribly vanilla songwriter? I must be wrong! I can't even keep my syllables in order, heh.

Well, I have ideas, I introduce new ideas, I make points, I use big words even just for the sheer joy of saying/singing it.

I used noncombatants because it is one of those new words designed to make something sound less emotional. Is it easy to use fifty thousand noncombatants in a lyric? No, it was hard, but I needed to say it some way, and this way I was able to kill a couple birds.

So here is a song that is political but completely flat, just a pep talk.

Artist: Lee Greenwood
Song: Proud To Be An American

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there's pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.



And here is one even even flatter-

[Ray Stevens - Text]
Sunday December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor

On a clear Sunday morning 1941
The sky was full of Zeros in the land of the rising sun
They flew in over Pearl Harbor
Straight down battleship war
And the sank the Arizona in a cloud of firing smoke

That was 1941
And years later 2010, Arizona is a target once again
Attacked by drug lords terrorists and our own Attorney General
What they are trying to do to Arizona surely must be criminal

[Chorus]
God Save Arizona
She’s under siege again
God Save Arizona
She’s a front line of defense from the enemy within

She can handle the illegals
Protesting malcontence
God Save Arizona
From our own Federal Government.


It isn't just the rhyme or cadence that makes for good lyrics, cj, it is mainly what is communicated in the end that matters.

So why am I so qualified to rate these lyrics negatively? Because I am not swayed by bad ideas put to poetry or song or a book or movie because I can see the badness in the idea. Yes, I have life experience, and I use it. Yes, I am literate, and I critique writing on all levels.

Hopefully we all keep writing our way, don't you agree? We do make decisions to be vague vs. specific, and we do make decisions to be for or against or ambivalent about things, and we communicate what we do. If we don't convey what we we intended, or if it musically doesn't seem to do what we hoped, well, we can redo, or we can try again on the next project.

Here are the final lyrics, and it cut out an entire verse-

a war ended rather quietly the other day
quiet as the proverbial western front
without a lot of hoopla
no fanfare, no ticker tape parades
welcoming home all the heroes

perhaps the peaceniks were ilprepared
for protesting two wars simultaneously
as were the many patriotic supporters
while 50000 noncombatants remained
and the second war born on 911 went on

I was watching the news
it was getting pretty late
as the last of the troops
crossed into Kuwait
I knew I was watching
history in the making
but it was pretty boring
not at all entertaining

what a war it had been!
for so long, at what cost
what a buildup
for such a letdown
what would we feel
if we had lost

You might be right that the title is too long and conversational, but it searches better as it is. Nowadays I think more about that in a title's worth. I dropped the 'a' in the title so it alphabetically begins with 'war' on youtube.

The 'rather' also alliterates with war, other, proverbial, western, and ticker in that verse. I'm a sucker for alliteration and inline rhymes. That's my style. I could have dropped 'rather' but I preferred how it fit the rhythm with 'the other day'.
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby cjdenecia » Mon Nov 29, 2010 1:06 am

you can't handle the truth.

nor do you want to ...
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Re: improving lyrics

Postby steban » Mon Nov 29, 2010 11:43 pm

That was a longwinded post, ceejipoo, but

a) this is not a pop song

b) this is not audipopolis

c) I do write some songs that are simple enough to be pop (I Miss Pluto, Like a Liar's Heart)

d) In the modern world, google your song title and main lyric, see how cliche it really is

e) I do edit and rewrite (funny thing is I found the original handwritten lyrics for war and here they are)

A war ended the other day
without the general hoopla
no fanfare, no parades
welcoming home all the soldiers

perhaps the peaceniks were unprepared
for protesting two wars at once
and the second goes on
and 50000 noncombat personnel remain

perhaps it is because we won
and we're still paying the cost
on paper we were victorious
and truly the future will prove the worth

That was the first draft. Obviously it went through several drafts.

And Dylan wrote a lot of songs, and he mostly stuck to very traditional folk structure. Many of his lyrics are excellent, and many make a point, but like the human he was there are many that do not 'flow' so well, and that isn't about the rhyme or cadence, that he always manages to conform to reasonably well, just that sometimes the idea or the imagry is weak.

He liked to beat the dead horse as much as the next poet, and some of his best songs are of that ilk. I like Dylan, but I sure don't want to write like him! He never wrote lyrics that didn't rhyme. Never. As much as I love to rhyme, I am a more modern writer than he.

Well, there I go again, sounding like a know it all, expressing opinions about Dylan now, doesn't that just take the cake?

This is a serious topic, not a me vs. you flame thread. But I say too many songs are too safe, and it destroys them. Too experimental or unpolished can put off its hoped for audience, too. There are so many that all of us do stand a good chance of doing better than the average bear.
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