Music and Lyrics; I Like Pop Music, but I Cannot Stand Pop Lyrics

Taylor Swift’s powerful song of unrequited love, and the pain it brings to those that experience it, You Belong With Me, to this day remains one of my least favourite songs. The first article I ever wrote for TheByteDaily was a poorly worded deconstruction of the song that ended because I was left ill and fatigued at the lyrics, and because, had I continued writing another poorly placed word, I would have never created more articles. My original problems with the song still remain, and while I’ve grown to be able to handle listening to the piece when it’s played in supermarkets, malls, shops, and other public locations, I’m still entirely unable to listen to it without cringing a little. The problem isn’t so much the music that accompanies the piece because, quite frankly, I can deal with the rhythm and tempo, and I’m rather fond of the introductory acoustics. My resentment lies within the lyrics of the piece; the actual words that Swift chose to include bring me to my knees whenever I hear them, simply because they’re so poorly chosen and put together.

It’s not just Taylor Swift that has this problem, since many other “Young” artists have a similar dilemma; their music is catchy, and is very “Pop,” even if the genre they try to appeal to isn’t. I enjoyed listening to Selena Gomez when she first arrived on the Disney scene, and while she wasn’t my number one choice in quality, I didn’t mind hearing Miley Cyrus on the radio, or in stores when her music played. The keyword here being “Music,” because, quite frankly, no matter how good the tune of a piece might have been, the aforementioned artists couldn’t string together a series of words to form a coherent sentence if all of their Grammy and Teen Choice Awards nominations were being held hostage and, therefore, depended on it. Hilariously, the reason that their music is catchy and “Pop” is the same reason that ruins their songs entirely: the lyrics are dreadful.

Of course, it’s wrong of me to blindly attack the Disney artists for their poor lyrics, because a similar problem is evident in their non-Disney affiliated peers, and counterparts (though finding such an ensemble becomes more and more difficult as time moves forward). I’ve repeatedly spoken about my dislike for certain Bruno Mars pieces, despite my adoration for the artist’s voice. In a very strange way, he reminds me of a young Streisand; perhaps not so much his vocal range or his ability to dramatically tear apart gender roles, and certainly not his ability to enchant and entrance viewers and audiences alike, but certainly because his music speaks to me in an oddly similar way. That being said, I still think that Grenade is one of the worst songs ever written, even though it gets stuck in my head every time I have the misfortune of hearing it.

In stark contrast to the lyrics of the aforementioned Pop artists is a certain Beyonce Knowles single from her I am…Sasha Fierce album.

The piece, If I Were a Boy, is a lyrical representation of a girl’s broken heart that discusses the merits and demerits of being a woman, especially when it comes to the double standards that are used to judge males and females on their behaviour. Throughout the song, Beyonce’ discusses how, should she have been born male, her actions and choices would be the antithesis to the almost lewd behaviour that many males deem the norm. The song is told from the point-of-view of a girl with a broken heart at the hands of an adulterous male who may be her husband, or boyfriend (or even a close male friend who has lost her trust) and is an incredibly powerful piece to listen to. Within the span of its introductory minute, the song deals with gender issues including public appearance, adhering to social norms, and existing within preconceived social conventions. If my words indicate any bias towards Beyonce, allow me to quell the speculation: I truly think that Beyonce is one of the most powerful artists to exist (whether female, or male), and I genuinely believe that she will continue to be so.

Interestingly, the accompanying music video provides a visual representation to bring the music together. Starring Knowles as a female police officer, and NFL player Eddie Goines as her loving husband, the video works with all of the stereotypes and social paradigms that exist within the realm of a misbehaving spouse, except that the genders are reversed. While normally one would expect the man to be the cheater, and the woman the one cheated on, the video shows Beyonce as the adulterous spouse. Until the climax of the video where the role reversal is revealed and the cheater unmasked, the viewer watches as Beyonce flirts with her coworkers, ignores phone calls from her husband, ignores him at breakfast as he dotes on her, and so forth. Obviously, the song’s message is made incredibly clear for any listener who couldn’t discern the theme from the lyrics alone. In every sense of the word, the music video is a short film, and while there is little dialogue present, the lyrics fill the gaps almost perfectly.

Compared to the previously discussed Pop artists whose lyrics can be summed up as catchy and almost insulting to any listener, Beyonce’s words have meaning and substance. They resonate with the listener and provide a story with all the necessary elements to entertain their audience, and they strongly deliver. I’m not saying that If I Were A Boy is Beyonce’s best song, because it isn’t, but it’s definitely a good song, with strong lyrics and equally strong music to back it all up. It remains catchy, but is also hauntingly poetic, and while it can’t be denied that it is just another tiresome love song, it’s a fantastic tiresome love song. It’s because of this that my point isn’t “I dislike Pop music,” because I love Pop music. Ironically, I almost have to like Pop music specifically because it’s Popular. If I didn’t like Pop, it wouldn’t be Pop so much as Unpop, and the radio wouldn’t spend so much time trying to hammer in the point that I should be listening.

I digress, however, because my point isn’t that I dislike Pop music; my point is that I dislike Pop lyrics, compared to the very catchy music that forms the tunes to some absolutely abysmal lyrics. Therein, incidentally lies the problem: the songs are written to be catchy, and it’s very rare that well chosen lyrics form catchy songs, especially when left in the hands of money hungry recording studios trying their best to brand and franchise another artist that, without the Disney label, would simply be in school studying basic algebra like every other student their age.

At one point, I considered mentioning that the typical song is now three minutes and 30 seconds long, and not very many good stories can be told in such a short time, but then I realized that the length of a composition has nothing to do with it’s ability to bring tears to the eyes of its listeners. At two minutes and 57 seconds, for example, Etta James’ At Last still manages to bring a teary whisper to my eyes in the short time it has to do so. It’s certainly no eight minute Stairway to Heaven or even a 26 minute long Shine On You Crazy Diamond, pieces with lengths that rival those of television shorts and programs, respectively, but it still gets the job done. A wonderful story is weaved in a short time, with strong lyrics to make a strong point.

It’s not that music is getting worse, because it’s not. On an astounding level that mirrors the direction the film industry has taken, music has evolved to suit two markets: the niche that is was original designed for, and everyone else. If an artist hopes to succeed, they have to make sure their work is good, because otherwise, they’ll be discussed and absolutely shredded within the public domain in opinion pieces such as this one. Yes, drivel still manages to float to the surface, and yes, it’s given some time to be analyzed further, but the truly good productions continue to be the ones that grab the attention of the public. The truly good artists are the one’s whose lyrics are well written, and it’s these artists that generally do well overall.

I suppose I have little to complain about since, given enough time, the bad artists will disappear, and their work will be nothing more than a small stain on an otherwise impeccable table clothe of Music History, but, until then, I really do wish that every recording artist would be scrutinized with the same fine-toothed comb that allows the genuinely “Good” artists to survive.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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