First off, in the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, I must admit that I was raised on Tom Waits songs. Yes, the singer/songwriter who has given us such great lines as:
- Paws his inside P-coat pocket for a welcome twenty-five cents,
And the last bent butt from a package of Kents,
As he dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes
And marmalade thighs with scrambled yellow hair.
- the classified section offered no direction
it’s a cold caffeine in a nicotine cloud
now the touch of your fingers
lingers burning in my memory
I’ve been 86ed from your scheme
I’m in a melodramatic nocturnal scene
I’m a refugee from a disconcerted affair
as the lead pipe morning falls
and the waitress calls
- Well he came home from the war
with a party in his head
and modified Brougham DeVille
and a pair of legs that opened up
like butterfly wings
and a mad dog that wouldn’t
he went and took up with a Salvation Army
who played dirty water
on a swordfishtrombone
he went to sleep at the bottom of
and he said “gee, but it’s
great to be home.”
- He has no friends
But he gets a lot of mail
I’ll bet he spent a little
Time in jail…
I heard he was up on the
Roof last night
Signaling with a flashlight
And what’s that tune he’s
What’s he building in there?
What’s he building in there?
So it takes a lot to make me go “hmm?” when I’m listening to music these days (okay, so I will also admit to it taking me at least two playings of each Waits album before I totally get all his lyrics 😉 )
What is music these days? Catchy “beats” created on electronic boxes awash with switches and dials where the lyrics leap at you? Real instruments played with heart where the lyrics are just along for the ride? MOR combinations of riffs and lyrics that are so formalistic you can swear they must have come out of a MIT-created hit song generator?
Yes, the current musical scene does appear rather bleak from my lyrical seat in the stands. Is there hope for us after all? For your consideration, I present the following:
- “I’m a happy idiot waving at cars”
- “When I say nothing I say everything”
- “We all sing along but the notes are all wrong”
- “Why do you only call me when you’re high?”
- “Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you
And Stephen Hawking can’t explain you
Rosetta Stone could not translate you
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words
I couldn’t put it in a novel
I wrote a page, but it was awful”
- “I’m on a train, going nowhere
I ran away, to make you care
This ain’t my house, this ain’t your home
Not when I’m feeling, this alone”
(TOTR, Jack White, Matt&Kim, Arctic Monkeys, Weezer, Royal Blood)
What do you think? Me? I’m going back to listen to my Waits albums and maybe dip into some old school hip-hop (Naz and Rakim, anyone?)
Keep challenging your musical perspectives!
A lyrics person myself. Despite its pop catchiness, don’t discount the lyrics to Royals by Lorde. If you didn’t know the song, you’d give them a second look:
But every song’s like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair
It’s the “tigers on a gold leash” phrase that does it for me.