Though The Great Song Return No More

That’s right folks, I’m whipping out Yeats for you. One of my favorite poets–The Stolen Child being my favorite poem– although the world sees little like his poetry today. This particular line, from The Nineteenth Century and After, really resonated with the lyricist in me.

What has happened to songs these days? Why are the chart toppers endless repetitions of vulgarities instead of the music and poetry coupling that a song should be? Example: Number one of the top forty? “Rude Boy” by Rihanna. Most repeated phrase in this “song”? “Come here rude boy, boy can you get it up?/Come here rude boy, boy is you big enough?” I’d weep, but weeping belongs to better spoken days. Honestly, most of this supposed “song”, and yes it is necessary that I put it in quotations, consists of “can you get it up” and “I like it when you…” And of course, there is the requisite number of “babys” and “Love mes”. Come on people, put some imagination in it! Just because you’ve decided to objectify yourself doesn’t mean you can’t do it creatively. It took one man to come up with “the beast with two backs” surely the rather pathetically high number of people writing “Rude Boy” could have come up with something remotely resembling art.

It’s not as if all lyric poetry died with Shakespeare, Sappho, Yeats and so many others. Warren Zevon was writing truly astounding and provocative lyrics up until his untimely death in 2001. And for those of you who think my objections to “Rude Boy” lie along the lines of prudery, I suggest you take a look at Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” or “Excitable Boy”. Just an iota of thought into song lyrics, that’s all I ask.

It pains me as a writer–amateur yes, but I still think even my lyrics would shame the writers of “Rude Boy” and “Soldier Boy”, if they had any shame–to watch songs like these become hits. I mean, the music is hardly anything above mediocre and unremarkable. It’s mostly some techno crap with a heavy base, and the vocals are almost spoken words. Rihanna has a voice, but any hack who hasn’t undergone a tracheotomy  could ‘sing’ that song.

And sure, fine, sex sells, but again can you say something? I can hear people having sex and talking dirty any given day in the dorm where I live. (Walls are thin, people.) If I switch on the radio, I want to hear music, I want to hear something my next door neighbor isn’t capable of creating. That’s why we pay entertainers the big bucks. Say something about sex that’s new, or at least different, if that’s really all your tiny brain can think to write about.

Maybe you can tell, but I have a rather strong dislike of rap and R&B music. Most lyrics seem to just blend together after a while, those that I can understand. Why do the lyrics blend together? See above rant. It applies to most of the music I hear from these genres.

Why aren’t songs like Miranda Lambert’s “House That Built Me” or any one of Regina Spektor’s songs at the top of this top 100 list? (Lambert’s is 71.) I’m starting to think it’s the banality of our culture. No one wants to think anymore, no one wants to interpret. People are bored by poetry. People are bored by thought. Well, folks, poetry and music are what separates us from the rest of the beasties. You want to hand in your humanity? Fine. I can think of some monkeys that, given typewriters, could make better use of it.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dan O'Shea on April 23, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Can a song lyric be about sex and still say something?

    And we’re lying here so safe in the ruins of our pleasure
    laughter marks the place were we have fallen
    with our lives so near, it doens’t occur to us to wonder
    if it’s the past or the future that is calling
    But still, I’ve loved the times you’ve come.

    Jackson Browne.

    Remember, people, stupidity is a condition, but ignorance is a choice. Choose carefully.


    • Of course it can, that was my point, although I didn’t make it clear enough. If you’re going to write about a common experience, like sex, pain, love, etc., write about it in a way that’s uncommon. Not some dirty talk I could read in Cosmo.


  2. Posted by Kim Deal on April 23, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Oh Shannon,

    You make me smile. Thank you for writing this. I HATE that song and all of the songs like it. Have you heard neighbors know my name? It’s pretty bad but not as bad as rude boy. It’s sad what “music” has come to.


  3. Posted by Norman on April 24, 2010 at 12:06 am

    If you bothered listening to music more then just passing by. Then you would know that there are plenty of really meaningful, well written songs. Please start talking about subjects you actually know something about.


    • Dear sir,
      I do believe I mentioned several songs and songwriters of great worth. Perhaps if you read my blog more than in passing, you’d realize I was critiquing a particular style of song.


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