The Battle between words and sound

Today, in the world of Billboard, MTV top 50 and ratings, the sole target of music artists is to please the general public. When the absurd songs like ‘What does the fox say?’ are spotted in UK top 40, the age old question starts breathing in our minds again, “Do the lyrics matter?”

Music differs from artist to artist, instrument to instrument and region to region. This is what gives it the rich variety for which it is known to be an evolutionary parameter. Modern day music has seen advent of Electronic, Rap, heavy metal and Hip hop. All these new genres of music do not give much gravity to ponderous lyrics. The beats are the most important part of the songs. Even if an artist repeats a line again and again with a strong backing of music to it, who knows, The soundtrack might just be the billboard topper!

We have good songs like ‘Alchemy’ from ‘Above and beyond’ and then we have songs like ‘Goulish’ by Lil’Wayne. The incongruity between these two itself proves the situation we are looking at. Well It is true that while dancing in a crowd what matters the most is the beat and rhythm. This is the biggest reason some of ‘lyric disasters’ end up on the top charts around the world.

Although the institution of music hasn’t been procrustean through the ages, but there can be seen a clear nonconformity between the ‘old music’ and the ‘new’ one. One of the basic parameters that sets the different eras of music apart is technology. The old songs would be single layered with playback. Then came the electric guitar age, which gave birth to blue rock and heavy metal. When synthesizers came out during 1980’s, Electronic music was born. As a result the soundtracks are a result of extreme process and engineering nowadays.

In this world of change and evolution, the importance given to the lyrics has also changed remarkably. The lyrics tell us a lot about how people used to speak, their aspirations, thought process, lifestyle etc. Earlier the music could be related to the culture of the people. The music we get to hear now is dominated by the filtered, worked upon set of beats which would please the listeners. The words uttered by the singer are seldom given much emphasis under the heavy drums or the thundering guitar.

The type of music an individual wants to hear depends on the occasion, the mood and of course the preference of the listener. I might want to hear ‘Wake me up’ by Avicii to get a good burst of energy and positivity. I might prefer ‘Wicked games’ by Gemma Hayes to calm myself down and I might even love to let go on the beats of ‘Spaceman’ by Hardwell in a club. It all depends on my mood.

In general, the lyrics matter only when the listener has time and interest to spare for a thought over the lyrics.

While lyrics are the medium of expression for the artist, the beats and rhythm give the song life. An artist might end up writing the most beautiful words for a song but it cannot be successful till it appeals to the listeners. It might not matter at all to an artist to give the song meaningful lyrics when his target is to make it a fast rhythmic soundtrack. On the contrary in the songs where the contemplation on the lyrics is given prime importance, rhythm of the song is crafted in the way to suit the lyrics.

To an intellect, Lyrics might be of prime importance. To a regular partygoer, it might just be the opposite. But to the general public, in my opinion it is the mood and the time which decides whether the lyrics or the music gets the crown. Feeding symbiotically on each other music and lyrics will always be essential to the soundtrack but it will always be the listener who will be the final appraiser. After all, music is a way to express, freely and without fear, the ideas of one’s mind. So when the expression can be without any boundaries, why should the sentiment and notion of the listener be restricted?

Smita Bose

I would define myself as someone who believes in the beauty and power of freedom. I love writing, art, music and travelling. New places and experiences make my life worth living and I love it.

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