So lately I’ve been working on a new project. I’m listening to tunes from the 80s in order to see which ones I like.
They have to have a good melody, good singing and good lyrics.
Some songs have fine lyrics but the music is rather lame or jarring — I can’t imagine myself wanting to listen to them again.
However, it is far more often the case that the lyrics are the problem. Lyrics for songs are, of course, like poems.
In general, the poem behind the music needs to be good in order to end up with a good song. What I am finding is that good lyrics are hard to find. What I am finding is that now that I have access to the lyrics, some of those songs that I loved so much as a teenager aren’t quite as impressive as I thought.
Not all the songs are making the cut, in other words.
Sometimes the song-writer, who was inspired with a great idea and theme, stopped working after they had a stanza or two plus a chorus. It’s such a shame. I find this was the case with some of Cyndi Lauper’s stuff. “Time After Time,” for example, really shows a lot of promise, but when you study the lyrics, it’s clearly unfinished. She could have done so much more with that one.
Sometimes the song-writer comes really quite close to a winner but then drops the ball. He has the most soaring and romantic love song and then he spoils it by inserting a crass word like ‘sweat.’ Yeah, that’s for a different type of song.
Some words cheapen the song because you feel, upon listening to it, that the song-writer is ultimately thinking only about sex, and not about love.
So words like ‘tonight,’ ‘body,’ ‘dress,’ and ‘sweat,’ well, they often go in the wrong direction and I decide to put the piece to the left. (Rejected.)
Sometimes the lyrics are dismal and when you go to read the name of the song-writer, you see the problem. Look! That song was “written” by five men! No wonder it says almost nothing. Every guy chipped in half a phrase and ultimately, it makes no sense. Something about mountains and something about a journey and a rainbow and a street and yeah
Just shoot me please.
Poetry is a way of saying obscurely what you feel you cannot, for now, say directly. It is therefore natural that it leaves out words and punctuation. The reader is supposed to make the unspoken connections, if he can.
Poetry is abused, however, when the person actually has almost nothing to say – almost nothing to bring to the table. So he behaves like an abstract painter, acting as if things are “deep” when in fact they’re way beyond empty.
It doesn’t work.
You can’t just throw together some neat words that rhyme and add some kind of beat. It may make the charts, but the song won’t stand the test of time. By that, I mean Blogger won’t add it to her list in 2016.
And sadly, some artists who do have a lot to say and who do have a lot of talent wind up not making the list with any songs at all.
Prince is one of these artists. Sorry buddy.
He’s in heaven now, so he knows why, but I’ll see what I can do in terms of fleshing things out down here for those people on this side of death.
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with songs about sex. How can there be? It’s part of God’s gift to humanity. We’re not bodiless angels, as I’ve said before. A human person is both body and soul. All good so far.
The issue, as with all things, is the context. You need to put sexuality into the right frame, in the same way that you need to keep plants rooted in soil. Once you cut the flowers from the rest of the plant, death is on the way and those pretty things wilt in the vase.
Now the interesting thing is that once you put sexuality into the context of husband and wife, you will find that it mostly fades from view. The spouses protect each other and guard their intimacy from the knowledge of others. Things become really quite discreet and any references become tastefully vague, dignified and soft.
Enter the rock star.
Enter, say, Prince.
I quiz him now.
I pull his lyrics out of my briefcase.
Me: So, Prince, let’s talk about Little Red Corvette.
Me: So it’s an analogy, right?
Prince: Yes. Yes it is.
Me: Can you tell us about that?
Me: What is the little red corvette? It’s a symbol, right?
Me: Can you explain?
Prince: The little red corvette represents the body of a woman.
Me: What kind of woman?
Prince: Well, um, can I say that word here?
Me: I think that will do.
Prince (relieved, nervous chuckle): Alright.
Me: What was the point of the song?
Prince: I was saying that she should be careful.
Me: Go on.
Prince: She was gonna wear her body out, with that kind of behaviour.
Me: Alright. In that song, your analogy was pretty obvious, wasn’t it?
Prince: Yes, I thought so.
Me: I agree, but not everybody saw it.
Prince: I know!
Me: Do you often use analogies in your lyrics?
Prince: Yes, quite often.
Me: Let’s look at this other one. How about Darling Nikki?
Prince (groans): Oh boy.
Me: Yes. You already got a lot of flack for that, didn’t you?
Prince: The whole world was all over me for that one.
Me: But it probably boosted your sales, hey?
Me: So what happened there?
Prince: It wasn’t a bad song, really.
Me: Are you sure?
Prince: Well, I suppose it wasn’t perfect.
Me: No, it wasn’t.
Prince: But what can I do now, being dead and all?
Me: Well, let’s just talk about it, here on the blog.
Me: Did you really have to go into all that detail?
Prince: Man. Well, I wasn’t really thinking.
Me: Excuse me?
Prince: You know, I was just trying to make a song.
Me: You had no choice in how you wrote the lyrics?
Prince: Well I’m not saying that, it’s just that does it really matter?
Me: Well, yes. The work of an artist lingers behind, influencing people long after his death.
Prince: Heh, didn’t think I was gonna croak that soon —
Me: I know. People just don’t see it coming.
Prince: Can I go back and like ‘haunt’ that loser? Some friend!
Me: No. You’re a saint now. Saints don’t do that.
Me: Alright, let’s get back on topic. The point is, you knew what you were doing.
Prince: But, but I was an artist and I was, like, on the edge. And I mean, well, what WAS I doing?
Me: You were trying to scandalize. You were trying to shock.
Prince: Oh yeah. Now I remember. I guess I was.
Me: Yeah, you were.
Prince: And it worked!
Me: Yes, it did.
Prince: Tipper Gore.
Me: I know.
Prince: What a name, hey?
Me: Yeah, it really couldn’t be worse.
Prince: I didn’t like her.
Me: I understand. But whether Tipper Gore is around or not —
Prince: She outlived me!
Me: Yes she did.
Prince: But I’m in heaven, so I guess I still win.
Me: Yes, I guess you do.
Prince: Yeah, take THAT Tipper!
Me: Okay, so the thing is, Prince, whether or not Gore is around, you shouldn’t forget about God.
Prince: I didn’t! I dedicated my album to him and stuff.
Me: It’s not enough to praise God in your credits section.
Prince: So then what?
Me: So then my point is that you did wrong. You shouldn’t have written that song in the way that you did. It was too descriptive and it was graphic about sin.
Prince: Oh. Yeah, I suppose it was.
Me: It was.
Prince: So does that mean you’re siding with Tipper Gore?
Me: It’s not about Tipper. It’s about God. You didn’t honour the gifts that he gave you.
Prince: He gave me a lot of gifts.
Me: Yes, he sure did.
Prince: And I rocked.
Me: Yes, you did, but you could have done better.
Prince: I was a star.
Me: Yes, you were.
Prince: So how could I have done better?
Me: You could have been happier on earth and you could have set things up to be happier in heaven.
Prince: I wasn’t always all that happy on earth.
Me: I know.
Prince: It wasn’t my fault.
Me: Are you sure?
Prince: Well, not all of it.
Me: Whose fault was it?
Prince: I don’t know. Everybody’s. They were always being difficult or in my space, cramping my style and changing my game.
Me: Prince, this is going to take forever.
Prince (smiling): Ha ha, I got time, on this side of the line!
Me: That’s actually funny, but I’ve got other things to do.
Me: It’s okay.
Prince: But why all the questions, anyway?
Me: The point is that if you had done better, in your use of your gifts, you would have done many people a lot of good.
Me: And God would have rewarded you. And he would have made you happier, both on earth and in heaven.
Me: You see?
Me: Do you understand?
Prince: So you’re saying I screwed up?
Me: Yes. That’s what I’m saying.
Me: Do you finally understand?
Prince: I do. I get it.
Me (relieved): Whew. Okay. So let’s go to the next song.
Prince: Do I choose or do you?
Me: My choice.
Prince: How come? Why can’t I pick one of my nice ones? I’m sure I wrote some harmless stuff.
Prince: Yeah, surely there are a few. I wrote a lot of stuff. Inspired, I’m sure.
Me: No, sorry buddy, you weren’t inspired.
Prince: What?! But what about the angel? An angel came to me when I was just a boy.
Me: That’s no guarantee of inspiration, then or later.
Prince: So nothing I wrote was inspired?
Me: No. None of it was.
Prince: But you wrote about me on your blog.
Me: I know.
Prince: You said good things.
Me: I know.
Prince: Doesn’t that mean I was inspired?
Me: Did I say that you were inspired?
Prince: Well, not exactly, but you made it sound like you enjoyed my stuff.
Me: That’s why I’m writing another post.
Me: Yes, I’m clarifying to the world where you stand.
Prince: I’m in heaven.
Me: I know, but that’s not my point. The point is that you have not left a legacy that God can be proud of.
Me: You didn’t.
Prince: That’s too bad.
Me: Yes, it is, especially in light of all the talents you had.
Prince: So then what?
Me: Well, it’s over.
Prince: No encores, hey?
Prince: Man. I didn’t think I’d go so fast.
Me: I know. But God knew you weren’t gonna do any better.
Prince: Maybe I might have. I might have changed.
Me: No, he’s all-knowing. He doesn’t make mistakes.
Prince: Not like me, hey?
Me: Right. Not like you. Except the thing is, Prince, you weren’t making mistakes. You were committing sins, with some of your work.
Prince: Sins, hey?
Prince: I don’t have any sins on my soul now, though.
Me: That’s true, but you didn’t cross into the afterlife with extra credits of your own.
Prince: No, I know I didn’t.
Me: I’m glad you know that.
Prince: I understood that part, but I don’t get it all.
Me: Wow. Then that explains why you sound so entirely daft.
Prince: What? You think I sound “daft”? Who uses the word “daft”?
Me: It’s kind of Englishy. I use it sometimes.
Prince: Well then it’s good you don’t write songs!
Me: Watch it buster. My birthday cake was already wrecked cuz of you.
Prince: What do you mean? I didn’t even know you.
Me: I suffered for you.
Prince: For me?
Me: For you.
Me: I didn’t get to choose. God chose.
Prince: How does that work?
Me: God takes the suffering of some and applies it to atone for the sins of others.
Prince: Ah, well then I guess it worked out for me.
Me: Uh, sort of.
Prince (confused): Is there more?
Me: Yes, there’s more. The thing is, if you had arrived with ‘credit,’ then that merit could have been applied to help others and you also would have enjoyed a greater share of glory and happiness in heaven. Your afterlife would have been better.
Me: Do you see?
Prince: I see.
Me: So let’s continue.
Prince: Another song?
Me: Purple Rain.
Prince: What do you want to know?
Me: Explain the reference to ‘purple rain.’ What did it stand for?
Prince: I don’t want to say.
Me: Why not?
Prince: I wish I hadn’t done it.
Me: What did it mean?
Prince: It’s something I shouldn’t have done.
Me: To me it looks like a song about seducing a friend who was already committed to another.
Me: But GentleOne is a mystic, and she sees more.
Prince: But you’re not able to see more?
Me: I would be guessing.
Me: But give me a moment. I’m going to check.
Me: And LoyalOne is gifted this way too.
Prince: So two?
Prince: Is this fair?
Prince: I guess I don’t have a choice?
Me: Okay, I’m back. They ask me to ask you this: What’s a purple rain drop?
Me: Is it rain?
(An absence from the computer.)
Me: Prince, this is very grave.
Prince: It wasn’t for me, then.
Me: I know.
Me: They tell me it’s a reference to people, in the very earliest stages after conception.
Prince: But what does it matter?
Me: People are not raindrops.
Prince: They sort of are.
Me: Prince, are you just another raindrop?
Prince: But I’m an adult. I was an adult. I wrote songs. I was a star.
Me: But you trivialized sex, and took it out of context, both in the way that you lived and in the way that you wrote about the way that you lived. This leads to children conceived outside a family.
Prince: Safe sex
Me: Conception occurs even when contraception is used. The Pill does not prevent a new life being conceived in all cases; sometimes it occurs but implantation is disturbed. Little baby cannot settle herself safely. “Safe” sex is not “safe” for baby. The pill does kill. When you trivialize sex, Prince, you trivialize babies and people.
Prince: But they aren’t anything . . .
Me: No. You are wrong. Reckless disregard for life means that you prevented others from being born and experiencing life. The pill contains chemicals which cause death.
Prince: My death was caused by pills containing chemicals. I died too soon.
Me: But at least you had a life, and a chance to do good. What did you do?
Prince: I did wrong.
Me: Now you are right.
Prince: I did wrong.
Me: You did.
Prince: I did.
Prince: What now?
Me: Repent. While you still can.
Prince: But how? Don’t I die now?
Me: You die, yes, but somehow, God gives you a millisecond, a microsecond, something small, something that flashes past, seemingly insignificant, but really worth everything, like a baby conceived.
Prince: I repent.
Me: I’m glad.
Prince: I am too.
Me: Then farewell. If your repentance is real, you’ll be given, in heaven, what you do not deserve: a chance to meet the little ones you rejected.
It occurs to me now that birthdays are a very big deal for those in my shoes.
We’re in that special club of people who were Not Meant to Be Born.
Good thing there’s a God.