For those of you unaware, the title refers to Eminem’s song “White America”. Proper tune mate. No really, a great song, one of his more old school (pre-Relapse in my eyes) and serious song, to differentiate those songs with his comical ones. Eminem’s a fucking great lyricist, grand wordsmith. Not only has he great crazy rhythm (not that I’m an expert on rap but daaaamn son he got some skills) but he has amazingly well written songs. I say this as much from vocabulary and rhythm as from a literary/poetical point of view. I mean, check out dem alliterations and assonances, he just strings them together effortlessly (well obviously while singing, he probably practiced them for ages, who knows how long it took him to write them..) and it isn’t pointless or useless cause it helps his rhythm and flow and makes him all the more impressive.
To take the above example: “lyrics, lyrics, constant controversy, sponsors working ’round the clock, to try to stop my concerts early”, look at all the ‘esses’ and ‘tees’ yo. Beautiful.
(if you dig this, check out the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, king of Kings for this).
Now these alliterations and assonances may seem more at home in the realm of rap due to the more complicated inducing nature they lend to the genre (to the flow and such) but they can be just as useful and prominent in other genres. I obviously have no concrete examples in my preferred genre of Rock………
*pause to think some more* : still no results. Anyways, you’ll all notice it in some songs.
Lest we forget, the content is just as, if not more, important and again, Eminem hits the nail on the head as regards to that as well. Again in “White America”, he talks about the controversy surrounding his fame, his reputation, with kids, with the law and it’s all very interesting and poignant. The same can MORE than easily be said about songs such as “Sing for the Moment” or “The Way I Am”.
Now I’d like to take a moment to talk about the nature of writing and judging lyrics. First of all, you could ask: who the fuck are we to judge what someone’s written? Fair question…but come on, it’s been going on for centuries in all arts (but who’s to say Shakespeare is actually good? eff off mate, whatever). We criticise Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber to Nickelback and AC/DC.
Let me say two things about that: first of all: some lyrics are pretty unforgivable, I mean, “Anaconda” (just read the lyrics, maaaan), some of those lyrics might actually be alright on a standard scale of what’s happening nowadays but you know THEE part I’m talking about (wow, it’s actually the whole last stanza…):
“Yeah, he love this fat ass
Yeah, this one is for my bitches with a fat ass in the fucking club
I said, where my fat ass big bitches in the club?
Fuck those skinny bitches, fuck those skinny bitches in the club
I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherfucking club
Fuck you if you skinny bitches WHAT?
I got a big fat ass
I mean wow. ‘Nuff said.
Now that I’ve just taken the piss about her, it makes it easier to compliment Nickelback. I’m juuuuuust gonna say, sometimes it’s fucking pleasing to hear things being said nice and easy and simple and straightforward, which they do well (some will say TOO well..). I just can’t help but compare to Radiohead when you sometimes wonder “dafuk is he talking about?”. Not a criticism here, just a remark, I looove me all of Radiohead and the lyrics make for more interpretation and metaphorical allowances, no problem about that, just a different style that sometimes mean switching to more easily understandable lyrics leads to some sort of “oh well at least with this guy I know what he means”.
If you’re wondering why I “praise” Nickelback but not Nicki Minaj, well, I shall answer “lyrical content” AND “presentability”. Yes, Nickelback have many songs about sexsexsex and alllll the such, but just take a look at HOW it’s done (look at that those Anaconda lyrics, there’s a certain way to present stuff to people’s ears…)
I will take a minute to wax lyrical about Elbow and more specifically the singer and songwriter Guy Harvey for his beautiful distribution of lyrics. Seriously, just check it out. Stunning.
Also in for due praise, among others: Eddie Vedder (he makes any cheesy lyrics NOT cheesy, too much emotion…), Zach de la Rocha (raging political bashing at its subtlest and exquisite finest).
I’d like to end on the note, that writing anything is first of all something very intimate, revealing and daring and that it doesn’t matter too much what you write as long as you believe in it really.
I once read an article where Sting was rated worst lyricist: the fuck does that even mean? Yeah he wrote “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” but The Beatles wrote “Obla Di, Obla Da”, seriously…