Let me pose a few questions to start.
When you hear a new song, what do you listen to first, the melody or the lyrics? How often do you check out instrumental music? Can a shallow message throw you off a track, even if it’s got an awesome beat? Do the lyrics matter to you at all?
I bet your music lover’s ego has felt a little threatened reading through the above. Because – to a certain extent – we all want to be perceived as conscious and educated music fans. So most of us would probably claim that we pay attention to the lyrics as much as we dig the sonic vibe.
But even I catch myself sometimes singing along to a tune without actually focusing on the song’s message. And that’s exactly why I’ve recently started exploring the lyrics a bit more again.
Fancy on audio version of this blog post? It’s here on Spotify:
Jesswar released “Venom” in October 2020. Yet, it was approximately four months after that when the lyrics hit home for me. And no, it wasn’t in the same context as for the Brisbane-based artist. But yes, I “connected” with the song on some level.
On that particular day, I was feeling feisty and needed a sort of pat on the back. “Venom” gave me that reaffirmation. And that’s when the idea of an Instagram (IG) stories’ segment occurred to me. If I feel this way sometimes, I bet you do, too.
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here when I say that we often see our own lives reflected in songs. After all, that’s what music is all about. Apart from the creative and aesthetic aspects, knowing that we can relate to other people’s experiences makes us a part of a greater community. That bond is a very precious thing that every single artist wants to tap into.
In one of the many promo interviews Amy Shark gave after releasing her second album, Cry Forever, she used an awesome quote that nails the concept I’m referring to: “Your vibe attracts your tribe”. And it’s very true. If the song speaks to you, you’re very likely to follow that artist and look forward to their future works.
Moreover, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, it has everything to do with the lyrics. Amy Shark gets it. You can’t deny that what she writes about in her songs is very relatable. Like in the case of “Baby Steps”, a track that has made it to my #lyricsoftheweek segment as well.
But since it’s not a revolutionary discovery, why do I even bother with this topic?
After Jesswar’s song, I started looking through all the tracks I’d missed out on in the previous months. But then I thought, “maybe I should focus on the present a little more”. So I switched to new material. Now I choose the lyrics from the new music Friday releases. That way, they are more relevant to here and now, too.
When I’m typing this (5 October 2021), I’ve already highlighted lyrics to 22 tracks which are quite different in nature. Some are very beautiful, hopeful songs, like Xavier Rudd‘s recently released “We Deserve To Dream”. Some are bold political manifestos, like Jack River‘s “We Are The Youth”. And some are just an on-point (if not a little poignant) commentary on the society we live in, like Mansionair‘s “More”.
My goal is to be non-judgmental and objective and show a variety of genres. And not just for the heck of it. I want to prove that whatever message artists try to convey might play a significant role in music’s reception across the whole spectrum.
Because, whilst some genres indeed place more emphasis on the lyrics than others, one winning line can make a song, regardless of its musical style. And I definitely CANNOT support the claim that in the past musos were “wordsmiths”, and now they don’t make any effort to pour their souls into the lyrics anymore. I mean, have you listened to Sampa The Great, for instance?
That’s why in the tracks I’ve chosen so far, you’ll see quite a mix: from hip hop (Masked Wolf) followed by a songwriter (Angie McMahon) to a rock band (Slowly Slowly), and then an electronic act (Running Touch). There are names you’ve most likely never seen before (check out LIVSKA) and artists making waves globally (ever heard of The Kid LAROI?).
What hasn’t entirely worked so far is trying to feature only one song per artist. This requirement I’ve imposed on myself goes along with my blog’s general efforts to showcase as many different Aussie musos as possible.
But I’m a human being above anything else. And when I hear powerful lyrics, I just can’t NOT share them with the world. So here’s a shout-out to Mia Wray who appears twice on my list.
Interestingly, the majority of the lyrics I’ve resonated with are by female-identifying artists. This is a total coincidence, and believe me when I say that I pay equal attention to all musos and all artist configurations. The recent collab between Birdz and Missy Higgins, for example, had me tear up in seconds.
On the other hand, this strong female-identifying representation makes me truly happy. Women and non-binary artists are still at a disadvantage when it comes to their rightful place in this business. So if there’s anything I can do to amplify their message, I’m all for it.
Not all the lyrics are easy to understand or made available to the public. So, before you assume I use some kind of magic device to decipher the actual words the artist is singing, know that I rely on my English-understanding skills and my ears first. And then I run the text by either the artist’s official resources or the lyrics’ aggregating pages (like Musixmatch, Genius or AZLyrics). That’s because many artists upload the text there before the premieres as well. After all, they are well aware there’s nothing better than a sing-along to your fave song.
Since we’re on the topic. Tyne-James Organ reached out to me to clarify the text I published, saying “You won’t believe how many people get that part wrong”. So, after a few attempts of me trying to get it right (the dictionary kept “correcting” me back to the previous version), we sorted that once and for all. And now we all know what the pre-chorus in “Sunday Suit” really is.
Last but not least, I’d like to emphasise one thing.
The #lyricsoftheweek segment is a very subjective part of my Aussie music discovery. By no means is it meant to “evaluate” any muso’s lyric-writing skills, criticise the message they are sending to the world, or rank what they have to say. It’s just sharing what has resonated with me at that very moment in time.
I’m not going to claim I know every single Aussie act out there, either. And there might be songs whose lyrics speak to you more than to me on any given week. We also might interpret the track’s message completely differently.
So if you find something worthwhile that I’ve missed, by all means – send it through. I’m always happy to get to know new music. Because the most important thing here is that the lyrics MEAN SOMETHING to us.
On that note, check out the playlist with all the songs whose lyrics have made it to my segment so far. And see you on my @SillyMcWiggles IG stories every weekend for more, yeah?
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Looking for more reading?
Here are some posts about the artists mentioned above:
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