NPR logo You're A Poet (And You Didn't Even Know It!)

You're A Poet (And You Didn't Even Know It!)

It's Friday, so let's talk about poetry. Actually, let's discuss the fact that lyrics rarely, if ever, look good on paper, without the aid of music and melody. There are, of course, exceptions: Jeff Tweedy, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, to name just a few. But most lyrics don't have the same meaning taken out of context. Sure, you can put the words on a card or in a letter, scribble them on the pages of a notebook or even get them tattooed on your body, but the lyrics' original power likely came from the marriage between them and the way they were sung. Personally, I feel like great lyrics can't exist outside of a great tune.

Here's a side note for you: In a high-school creative-writing class I tried to pass off a Soundgarden song as one of my own poems. Yep, the song was on the album Badmotorfinger. I'm just going to put that fact out there. Apologies to Chris Cornell, and to my teacher.

Then there are lyrics that, when sung, sound contextually acceptable, but when you really examine what is being said, you can't even believe they even exist.

For an example, I'll go out on a limb here with a band you probably weren't expecting to think about today. Remember Color Me Badd and its song "I Wanna Sex You Up"? Well, that song's lyrics are barely fathomable once you really start thinking about them.

From "I Wanna Sex You Up:"

Let me take off all your clothes.
Disconnect the phone so nobody knows.
Let me light a candle,
So that we can make it better.
Makin' love until we drown.

The first four lines we can ignore, despite them being trite. It's the last line that is amazing: "Makin' love until we drown." Huh? Are they in the ocean, a pool, a vat of wine? Do they have an excessive sweat problem? Are there so many fluids involved in their lovemaking that they need a life vest? We'll never know. Or, if you do know, and you are married to or hooked up with someone from CMB, please share!

Sorry to put that song and image in your head. Actually, I'm not. Enjoy the weekend.

And please share your thoughts about lyrics as poetry, bad lyrics and lyrics that shock or embarrass you once you're forced to examine what they really mean.

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