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holding my own

'm not sure my songwriting partner (from Sri Lanka this time) will like what I've written. He didn't say if the song is meant for male or female vocals. Therefore, I first wrote a rather generic chorus. Then I had to decide which way to go. I went political:

waving flags, and people yelling
incited masses in a fury
about to change their country for the worst
an angry mob who's keen...

on enthroning a new tyrant
who'd also act as judge and jury
beyond reproach 'cause he'd be ranking first
head and leader

I cannot stop the rushing flood
I cannot stop the rain from falling
I do my best to keep from breaking
tryin' to withstand
holding my own

I cannot stop the burning heat
I cannot stop the fire from spreading
I do my best to keep from breaking
tryin' to withstand
holding my own

freedom of the press abolished
the intellectuals all in prison
hints of rebellion defeated long ago
the spark of freedom has given...

way to marching, looming forces
the evil vermin has arisen
the human rights knocked down like dominoes
our world broken

I cannot stop the rushing flood
I cannot stop the rain from falling
I do my best to keep from breaking
tryin' to withstand
holding my own

I cannot stop the burning heat
I cannot stop the fire from spreading
I do my best to keep from breaking
tryin' to withstand
holding my own

Two more

1.) you can't keep the waves off the beach
is the result of a little fun action on a Facebook forum:

your kisses were sweet
and your touch was so skilled
you had me on my knees
I was done for and thrilled

you have entered my dreams
and you're haunting my nights
I keep building up steam
once I switch off the light

you see, I'm a desperate man
and I just had to see you again
am I'm coming too close to you
but, tell me, what else could I do

you can't keep the waves off the beach
you cannot keep me off your door
I can't stand you bein' out of reach
I got a taste of you, now I need more

you mess up my day
when I should do my job
'cause my thoughts drift away
it makes me look like a slob

you see, I'm a desperate man
and I just had to see you again
am I'm coming too close to you
but, tell me, what else could I do

you can't keep the waves off the beach
you cannot keep me off your door
I can't stand you bein' out of reach
I got a taste of you, now I need more

2.) under seven billion stars
is written to music by David Gareth Stephens:

wide as the country
and furtile as its soil
smoother on the skin than almond oil

some bright as fire
some silent as a stone
some are prayin' to gods who're still unknown

life's so bountiful
wide and far
life's so wonderful
living under seven billion stars

now hot as blazes
then colder than the poles
delicate and frail like wafting souls

some fierce like fighters
some gentle as a dove
feelings fleeting just like puppy love

life's so bountiful
wide and far
life's so wonderful
living under seven billion stars

behold the mountains
behold the endless sea
feel the bond that's joining you and me

see all the people
and watch them buzz around
open your mind to the world of sound

life's so bountiful
wide and far
life's so plentiful
life's so wonderful
wide and far
life's so wonderful
living under seven billion stars

lyrics that do not make sense?

Would that work? Writing lyrics that don't make any sense at all?

It does! Read this:

Ariadiamus late ariadiamus da
Ari a natus late adua

Aravare tue vate
Aravare tue vate
Aravare tue vate latea


It's the beginning of "Adiemus" by Karl Jenkins. A huge hit in 1994.

In Germany there was "Da Da Da" by the band "Trio". And there have been many more ("da doo ron ron", and "balla balla" spring to my mind).

Namely Jenkins' concept of using an artificial 'language' he specially invented for his music illustrates my 'rule' (for popand dance music) that lyrics should SERVE THE MUSIC.



In the rock genre I know of several singers who actually don't sing any meaningful words at all but just some mumbo-jumbo that sounds like real words. I actually admire them as they are able to invent syllables and lines on the fly that flow well with the song they are performing. I would get stuck halfway. The audience normally doesn't notice. Just remember the "Born in the USA" example. The audience never noticed what the lyrics were about. So - apart from the chorus that WILL be noted - what use ARE lyrics in a rock song you might ask. There are three uses, actually:

- you have text that you can print and people can read and understand
- there is less risk of getting stuck while trying to invent lines of text on the fly
- the lyrics actually can enhance the 'message' of the song (I actually mean its groove, mood, or attitude as I mentioned in a former post)

So there actually ARE uses but the literal meaning of the song lyrics is not THAT important.

Rhythm, Rhyme, Repetition

... are the three most important lyrical ingredients for pop or dance music. These genres normally have a decisive rhythm that must not be interfered with. Maybe sometimes the verses are not as restrictive, but often there are only two short verses anyway. You have lifts (pre-choruses) instead. Just like the chorus lifts are repeated, if maybe with slight variations.

So what about story-telling or creating a 'stage' by means of powerful words? Well - forget it. Sometimes you only have four lines altogether to tell your story - better to just let go of that idea.

And what about imagery, avoiding clichés etc. Other than I suggested in the video vivid imagery actually MAY play an important rule, namely, if you have an intro (that could even be SPOKEN). In such cases the approach of 'setting the stage' still applies. My rule of thumb: if you can understand the lyrics in the song easily, or WHERE you can understand them easily, you might want to make sure your lyrics are intriguing in themselves.

Clichés are normally no problem in pop or dance music. On the contrary, they can make songs easier to grasp. Keep in mind that listeners only catch single phrases or lines of a song, most notably the hook that usually also is the title of the song.

Repetition
Apart from whole parts that are repeated in a song (chorus, lift) additional repetitions WITHIN the 'blocks' can also support the rhythm and impact of a song. In the video I used the chorus of "let's party and get on bad" as an example:


let us party on the beach
let us party in the streets
let us party every night
let us set the nights alight
...


But I use repetions in the verses, too:

when the work is done
or when school is out
it's time for some fun
and we sing and shout
no more drudgery
and no foreign rule
no indignity
no more playin' the fool


when - when
no - no - no - no

All to support the groove.

Rhythm
As for the meter Alex' tune didn't leave me any freedom with regard to syllable counts. Sometimes, if the melody is not too fast, you can sneak in an upbeat syllable=note. Or you might insert a pause where there is a note but you cannot think of a suitable word. Pop and dance tunes often are like that: fast and precise, leaving not much room for elaborated poetry.

Rhyme
In the example above, the chorus for "let's party...", I used an AABB rhyme structure because that is how the tune changes (the pitch). In songs that apply the common meter - alternating 4 and 3 stresses per line - I prefer rhyming ABAB. I actually go by gut feeling, i.e. just listening to what the tune seems to suggest.

Rock music
Life as a lyricist is much easier when writing for rock music. There normally are only few restrictions in the verses. Lines can vary in their lengths, you can add or leave out notes (insert pauses) as needed to make sense with your lines of text. The verses are longer and thus allow for some 'painting' or story-telling. On the other hand hardly anybody will understand the lyrics. Just as with pop music normally only the hook actually 'gets through'. Remember my example of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" in the video...

When I write rock lyrics I focus on matching my words with the attitude or mood of the song. If the music sounds aggressive I use aggressive words and phrases, if it's romantic I use tender ones and so on. I once received the draft for a new MotorPlanet song that sounded mystic and slightly eerie to me, so that's what I wrote:


hold on
let's see what's underneath
hold on
and take some time to breathe
be ready for a secret
that is on the verge
of coming to the daylight
to let the truth emerge


... and so on. In the following parts there are more words like "signs", "book of life", "future", "shrine", "faith", or even "enlightenment"(!). Using words like that were more important to me than telling a consistent story or describing a consistent scene (I didn't). All I wanted to achieve was supporting the atmosphere of the music. That is my usual approach when writing rock songs.

*****

You will note that I come from writing to music which is what I mostly do. You should try it, too, if only because it's a good training. I am well aware that most (hobby) lyricists prefer writing their texts hoping that someone will pick them to set to music. Although there are many composers who actually do work like that the chances are quite slim to 'pitch' lyrics in that manner for there are many more lyricists than musicians who might need a song text.

pleasure ride

I kept the title, and changed "hardness test" to "acid test" (I didn't know the term before, but that's what I mean). I'm applying the 'standard' pop structure ** verse - verse - lift - chorus - verse - lift - chorus - bridge - chorus ** so as to optimize the lyrics' usability. As in the first post I offer variants for male versus female singer, and also a 'family friendly' alternative for the chorus :


sometimes life is like a pleasure ride
sometimes life is like a bore
there are days when I can't get enough
sometimes I can't stand no more
when I look into your loving eyes
I see what I'm living for

sometimes life is like a acid test
sometimes it's a thrill of joy
there are days I feel like chucking in
sometimes life's like a decoy
when I look into your loving eyes
I know that you are my boy*

when I'm with you
life looks so easy
carefree and breezy
like it's a pleasure ride

ride me now*
ride me now
ride me now
do the pleasure ride

ride me now
ride me now
ride me now
do the pleasure ride

sometimes life is unbelievable
sometimes life's like predefined
there are days I hardly can conceive
in my mixed up state of mind
when I look into your loving eyes
I know we're one of a kind

when I'm with you
life looks so easy
carefree and breezy
like it's a pleasure ride

ride me now
ride me now
ride me now
do the pleasure ride

ride me now
ride me now
ride me now
do the pleasure ride

you turn my world around
you turn me upside down
we can have so much fun
tell me that I'm the one

ride me now
ride me now
ride me now
do the pleasure ride

ride me now
ride me now
ride me now
do the pleasure ride


*
I know that you are my boy - OR - I know that I am your boy
ride me now - OR - ride with me (if you want it less saucy )