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"lousy lyrics"

There are basic 'rules' to writing good lyrics as
- tell a good story
- appeal th the senses
- use vivid imagery

But these rules are happily ignored in many - if not most - chart hits because in rock and pop music
- stories don't matter much
- imagery doesn't matter much
- although maybe words appealing to the senses still do, especially in rock music that's all about mood, feeling, and attitude.

What is important in rock and pop music are
- rhythm
- rhyme (flow)
- and repetition (namely in modern pop).

In these genres the lyrics must support the music rather than claiming a life of their own (by telling a story, for example). For rock music this means: they must flow well with the music, and they should match the music's mood, feeling, and attitude. The words may be vivid, sense-related, and colorful, of course, but they need not.

Modern pop music it is all about rhythm. The lyrics have to match the rhythm, the meter, quite closely. The stresses must sit perfectly. Often, even deviating from the syllable count (the number of notes) would damage the effect. On the other hand, repeating phrases, lines, or complete parts can enhance the music's impact.

Even clich├ęs 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.

These are lyrics I wrote for Alex that I am proud of because they support the hammering tune of his song so well:

let us party on the beach
let us party in the streets
let us party every night
let us set the nights alight
let us feel the throbbing beat
let us feel the body heat
let's be hot or raving mad
let's be free and get on bad


For another pop song by Pierre (sung by Julie Carpino) I wrote:

breaking away from shared illusions
breaking away from the confusion
I'll break away from you
that's what I will do
breaking away from our delusion
breaking away is my conclusion
I'll break away from you
that's what I will do
breaking away
yeah
I will break away
I'll break away from you


Both texts would probably be considered subpar by songwriting gurus because of their many repetitions, "breaking away" also for its lack of imagery. But together with the music both make perfect pop songs.

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'. Take Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" as an example...

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.