March 7th, 2014 15:05 EST
Al Hammerman Composer & Lyricist Asks: Are lyrics really important?
"I could eat alphabet soup and sh*t better lyrics."
I guess I have your attention now. NO, I didn`t say it, Johnny Mercer did. However, as a songwriter and fellow listener, I know we have all thought something similar to this at one time or another.
But are lyrics really important? OK Pop Quiz. Take out a piece of paper and quickly write down your three favorite songs. Now turn the page over and write down one of those songs on the opposite side. Finally, from the beginning, write as many of the lyrics to that song as you can. Thank you and pencils down please. So, how did you do? Well, I tried this with a class I teach and found the following: Those choosing songs which might be labeled as Country or Adult Contemporary (including the Standards), did rather well. Those choosing songs which might be labeled as Pop did miserably.
So again, I ask are lyrics really important? In fact, I did ask just that to the well known authority on popular music and songwriting, Dan Kimpel, whose answer seemed to coincide quite well with what I had already learned from my students: The overall importance of lyrics is related to style; in the more rhythmic modes -- R&B and hip-hop -- it is more the hooks than the lyrics per se, whereas In country music, the lyrics are vital to the song.
As for me and the Adult Standard genre I tend towards, I find lyrics very important, and in my particular case as a songwriter, often the hardest part to get right. I am in awe of those who seem to be able write the most clever and meaningful lyrics, with ease. I am amazed by a quote from Sammy Cahn who told his then lackey Derek Sivers (music guru and founder of CDBaby.com), As soon as I hear a melody, I can tell you what that song will be called. The piece of paper goes in the typewriter, I start typing, and when it comes out, it`s done! No edits!
When my wife hears me complaining about the difficulty I have with the stupid lyrics, she suggest that I collaborate with someone who likes to write lyrics. The truth is, I love to write lyrics and find nothing more rewarding than coming up with just the right words. For me, the thought of letting someone else write lyrics to my melody is like letting someone else name my child. Still, the thought of collaboration is certainly not a bad one " particularly when I think of the many great and prolific songwriter teams.
Finally, as far as those stupid lyrics go, I leave the topic of their importance with one final quote:
"Anything too stupid to be said can be sung." - Voltaire
Al Hammerman is a Composer & Lyricist based in St. Louis, MO.
For more information visit www.alhammerman.com