Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Annoying Lyrics

I realized something the other day. I had always known it, I just never knew I knew it.

I don't like ambiguous song lyrics. They annoy me.

I remember reading, or hearing, or coming to know through some other medium, that U2's Bono said that he intentionally makes his lyrics ambiguous so that more people can relate to them- attach their own meanings to them. What a crock. Making the lyrics ambiguous doesn't help me relate to them. It just leaves me wondering what the song is about.

Good song lyrics are enlightening. Or at least informative. They tell you something you didn't already know. Or they help you better understand something you did already know. Or they reafirm something you already believe. Or, if you disagree with the underlying message, they at least present that message in an understandable manner. Mr. Bono certainly never followed that philosophy.

I came to this realization the other day while listening to Doug Fabrizio's talk radio show Radio West. He was interviewing Paul Muldoon, poetry editor of The New Yorker Magazine. I tuned in just in time to hear Mr. Muldoon recite a piece written by the much lauded Bob Dylan titled, simply, 17. Here it is:

after crashin the sportscar
into the chandelier
i ran out t the phone booth
made a call t my wife. she wasnt home.
i panicked. i called up my best friend
but the line was busy
then i went t a party but couldnt find a chair
somebody wiped their feet on me
so i decided t leave
i felt awful. my mouth was puckered.
arms were stickin thru my neck
my stomach was stuffed an bloated
dogs licked my face
people stared at me an said
“what’s wrong with you?”
passin two successful friends of mine
i stopped t talk.
they knew i was feelin bad
an gave me some pills
i went home an began writin
a suicide note
it was then that i saw
that crowd comin down
the street
i really have nothing
marlon brando

© September 22, 2008 The New Yorker Magazine

There is nothing elightening about that. Nothing informative. No increased understanding was achieved. What it does accomplish is to leave me wondering how anyone can manage to convince themselves that there is something important here- either conveyed by the words themselves or acheived by the poem as a whole. What these words, combined in this order do achieve is the antithesis of important. They are nonsense.

There is enough nonsense seemingly going on spontaneously in the world. Let's not encourage it by heaping praises onto this type of stuff.


Kami said...

Hear, hear!

Anonymous said...

I agree! Good song lyrics aren't any different from good poetry; they present a new perspective. Too often people are caught up by the image of an artist and praise whatever he or she does, even their crud.