Songwriting is poetry….
Poetry and music live in the same vein. The songwriter fills the observer with hope, fear, sadness and love; the poet does the same. I was speaking with a coworker the other day about music and the subject of poetry entered the conversation. My coworker believes that songwriting is completely different from poetry; or rather, that they cannot be enjoyed in the same way. This is because, according to my coworker, poetry uses metaphor and songwriting is more of a direct medium. This took me back a little because, for me, music is poetry with a soundtrack. Musicians from Bruce Springsteen to Common have used metaphor in their songs to express feelings about a certain topic. For example, Common has a song titled: I Used to Love H.E.R. He describes the perfect “woman” in the song, explaining how amazing and well-rounded she is. He explains:
“I met this girl, when I was 10 years old
And what I loved most, she had so much soul
She was old school, when I was just a shorty
Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me
On the regular, not a church girl, she was secular
Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin’ her”
He continues through the song talking about this “woman” getting used by different people and changing. He explains how frustrated he is with these adjustments how much she’s evolved since he first met her. Eventually, we find that Common is actually speaking about Hip-Hop itself and how it’s changed to be almost unrecognizable, but regardless, he’ll always be there for “her.” The poetic talent in this song makes it more than just a cookie-cutter hip-hop tune. It elevates the experience for the listener and the reason why it’s a classic.
I believe that good songwriting is poetry. It grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck and demands attention. The impact would be different if the songwriter was more straightforward about what they were trying to convey. “I’m so sad because….” can work, but in my opinion, if a songwriter possesses poetic ability, it makes for better music. I want to be blown away by music. Just like I’m blown away by amazing writing. I can tell you ten different ways to get to the store, but it’s how I describe the expedition that makes the difference. Maybe it’s because this person doesn’t listen to music in the same way that I do. I believe that lyrics are just as important as melody. Some people are attracted to music they can dance to (LMFAO); I would rather listen to music with substance (William Elliott Whitmore).
My coworker and I may not agree on this, but I was grateful for the exchange that we had because it solidified my commitment to this blog. Music is not ‘background noise’ to me. It’s an experience; moreover, a passion that is hard for me to express. I try to convey my adoration for music as much as I can in these posts, but I often feel like I could have done more; that I could have added another piece that might change how the reader experiences music. Music is life-changing, it is the sustenance essential to survival.
As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and I hope that you continue to read these posts. I will try to keep your interest.