Writing Right with Dmitri: Sing, Sing a Song
…don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear…
Joe Raposo, Sing
Alas. It seems to me that after Sesame Street came on the scene, songwriters everywhere took those words to heart. Take the lyrics to the religious song that was introduced to the local church this Easter season:
…Christ has overcome, and the grave is overwhelmed…
Really? In what sense is the grave 'overwhelmed'? Emotionally, or literally, as in tsunami? Help. The same song says '…my faith becomes my eyes…' This is just wrong, on so many levels…
Pop music is no better.
When your legs don't work like they used to before, and I can't sweep you off of your feet…will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?
I chose this example at random. I'll bet I could play 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey' with a Billboard Hot 100 Chart and never miss a sample of truly horrible lyrics. Gone are the days when '…song she brang to me…' made people laugh at Neil Diamond. (I still like that song because it makes me chuckle.) Oh, no, everyone's doing it. Now, not only do the tunes suck, but the lyrics make no sense at all. And not in a good way. I mean, 'mairsy doats' was at least intentional. That didn't make it much better to listen to, but at least we didn't worry about the songwriter's educational level. (Just his common sense.)
Now, I'm all for clever, tricksy lyrics. I love funny songs in dialect. But they need to be intended that way. Listen to Jack Daniels, If You Please, an ironic hymn to whiskey by David Allan Coe. (Listen to anything by David Allan Coe. I dare you.) Now, that's clever, and it's intended. You need to be clever to do that. And a bit more educated than I suspect the average pop 'artist' of being.
Okay, end of rant. I apologise for going on, and yes, I realise that Sturgeon's law1 applies to popular music as well as science fiction writing. But it seems to me that even the pop music of the 60s was better than this. Okay, the Christian pop music wasn't, but there was at least much less of it, and Ralph Carmichael2 was easier to ignore. And yes, I remember Snoopy and the Red Baron, but the Royal Guardsmen were four guys in college, and it was a lark…anyway, it's not getting better. And I want you to Do Something. Now.
The Campaign to Rescue Our Ears
YOU can help rescue our beleaguered ears. And practice your writing skills while you're at it. And believe me, if you listen to pop music at all, you'll probably find it easy and enjoyable. Just find a pop song you like, and write new, singable lyrics to it. (The singable part is important: no melismatic stuff, you know, Ogden Nash-type lines. Don't cheat and stuff the phone book in there.)
I'll bet you can do it better than the hacks who are getting paid for it. Just pick a catchy tune and go to town.
What's that you say? The 'real' lyrics are distracting you? Pshaw. That's why the angels invented karaoke. (Okay, they were Japanese angels.) You can listen to the tune to get the rhythm right (and avoid all those extra syllabubbles.)
Can't think of a song? Here are a few suggestions, with karaoke links. All of them are crying out for new lyrics.
- I Won't Do That (Deathless Meatloaf Stuff.)
- Crunchy Granola Suite (Well, we had to have some Neil Diamond, and I want 'song she brang to me' left in peace.)
- Brady Bunch Theme Song (I have never actually seen this television show, but even I am tired of that theme song. Replace it with something singable. Please.)
- Wind Beneath My Wings (This song is so emotive, and so inane. Could it please say something, anything at all?)
- Live to Tell (I have never been able to figure out what this song was actually about, but it sounded really portentious.)
- I Will Arise (This one was the cause of the rant. Easter should be so joyful, and then this happens…)
Or surprise us. Plenty of space below. Give us something to sing in the shower. 'Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear' should apply to the home singing, not the radio version.