Very few things I can appreciate more than a quality song. A song generally consists of several elements – the music of which I find the melody most important, and the lyrics.
Executing both well requires a tremendous amount of talent. When I assess myself, I find myself better at composing beautiful melodies than outstanding lyrics.
So I can appreciate well-written lyrics. They’re hard to do.
I’m going to take you on a journey. We’ll explore a few fragments together and I’ll show you why I appreciate these so much. Then, I’ll honestly and humbly tell you that I wish I could write lyrics like these.
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
The general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to sidePink Floyd from “Us and Them”
You can simply say “most nations treat soldiers as disposable in war.” But this is so much better.
It shows the futility of it all. These men, some of whom just turned 18, who have their whole lives ahead of them, are now dead.
For what? Nothing happened. The lines just moved from side to side.
Imagine, you’re an 18 year-old male. You got a beautiful girl back home. You can’t wait to get home and marry her, then start a family.
But instead, you get the order to charge. So that’s what you do – follow orders.
Then you get gunned down by a machine gunner. And just like that, your life is over.
It took me paragraphs to write that and my writing isn’t even half as interesting as one simple stanza. That, my friends, is good lyric writing.
You could say “it’s very, very hot.”
You could say “it’s super fucking hot!”
Or, how’s this?
High noon, I will sell my soul for waterRainbow from “Stargazer”
Ronnie James Dio is one hell of a lyricist. I liked him best in his Rainbow years with Ritchie Blackmore composing the music and Dio writing the lyrics.
Unfortunately, Blackmore is notoriously hard to deal with. Supposedly of course. I never met him.
Dio only sang for Rainbow from 1975 to 1978 but in that time period, they put out some dang good music. Blackmore though wanted to go a more pop route and Dio wanted to continue writing swords and sorcery lyrics. So Dio left. Or got fired. Depending on who you believe.
Dio ended up in Black Sabbath and Rainbow ended up with another singer who lasted only one album before he too got sacked.
I love the song “Stargazer.” It’s a great sword and sorcery song about a crazy ass wizard who enslaves a people just to build a tower that he can fly from. It ends with his flight failing and he crashes to the ground and dies. Then of course, the people are free.
Very few lyricists can tell a story as well as Dio could. He’s written some outstanding lyrics over his career. Check out “Throw Away Children” for instance, a totally gut wrenching song.
It’s really sad how some kids end up getting disposed. I’ve actually known quite a few, including my first experience with a high school acquaintance taking his life. In this case, they blamed drugs because it’s way easier to say than his parents sucked. But alas, I don’t want to stray too far from the topic. I may talk about that incident another day though.
You could say “I’m a prisoner about to get executed.”
Or, you could be a heck of a lot more elegant with words.
When the priest comes to read me the last rights
I take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for meIron Maiden from “Hallowed be Thy Name”
I remember back in high school some pretentious bitch making fun of us Metalheads for being unsophisticated. I’d let Maiden take on any of her pretentious bands lyrically. Between Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson (Maiden’s primary lyricists), Iron Maiden put out some damn good lyrics. Let’s keep going though…
You could say “and I’m not ready yet.”
Or you can say:
Can it be that there’s some sort of error
Hard to stop the surmounting terror
is it really the end, not some crazy dream?Hallowed by Thy Name
The whole song is wonderfully written. If I’m not mistaken, Iron Maiden is a Christian band. But this particular song explores Existentialism.
I remember revisiting this song in college when I went through my Existentialist phase. It sung to me very well back then.
Recently, Iron Maiden ended up in my car. I got a chance to appreciate just how good they are at writing lyrics.
You’ll find a lot of bands in the 2nd half of the 80s and the 90s ripped them off profusely. Even bands that don’t even like Metal appreciate them. I’ve met quite a few Goths in the 90s who loved Maiden.
Anyways, let me know some lyrics that appealed to you. Also let me know why and what they mean to you.