The other day a Facebook friend asked folks to share their favorite music lyric. The question put me into a mind coma. I wanted to play. I wanted to include a few lines from the collection of words set to music which reside in my brain. For far longer than I will admit, I sat, staring out the window, and tried to cull out what I was going to contribute to the quickly-growing list. Looking at the other entries, I saw songwriters I loved and lyrics I knew. I thought to myself, “Obviously. That one didn’t take any thought.” My internal comment was less of critique of the inventiveness of the participant in the survey and more of a way to justify having wasted close to an hour (at that point) attempting to find inspiration in the trees on the other side of the picture window in my writing space.
I ended not not participating, explaining my absence from the online game to not being able to come up with something quickly enough. (I think after an hour and a half, most would agree surrender appropriate.)
But that wasn’t the real reason.
I couldn’t come up with my favorite because there are too many. When I recognized this, in the face of picking out “the best,” I was initially angry, that morphed into explainable jealously.
How is it possible to tell a whole story in four or five hundred words where the characters are presented, the crisis is laid out, the struggle emerges, and the conclusions are drawn? How is this possible?
I’m not referring to songs which appeal to the commercial masses. I found a study where Andrew Powell-Morse took a look at the last ten years of pop, r&b, country, and rock hits and analyzed their “intelligence.” His results on how the popular artists of the last decade have become either dumber or believe their audience needs simplicity can be found here.
When I think of great lyricists, I think of Paul Simon, Adam Duritz, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel, Diamond/Yauch/Horovitz, Chrissie Hynde, John Lennon.
These folks tell stories. How they manage to describe time, place, and action with such detail and with so few words is quite amazing.
There have been lot of times when I hear a song and think, “This would make a great book.” I like the idea of changing several hundred song words into a 100K-word novel. But I could never go the other way. I could never reduce the time, place, and action of a full-length novel into compact lyrics. No way. Several of the upcoming writing contests are for short stories of 1,500 — even 1,000 — words or fewer. I’ve decided to stick with the longer ones, i.e., 3K-12K, for were I to be tasked in creating something of value and interest in so few words, I’d be taking many ninety-minute thought-vacations looking out my window for help which isn’t coming.
My favorite lyrics?
Today, I’ll nominate “Home” by Sheryl Crow.