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Nonsensical lyrics work?
Old 30th June 2019
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Nonsensical lyrics work?

I'm searching some hit songs and looking at their lyrics to get better at songwriting... I really like Blur and Gorillaz -- but their hit lyrics rarely make sense. I mean look at this:

"Windmill, windmill for the land
Turn forever hand in hand
Take it all in on your stride
It is ticking, falling down
Love forever, love has freely
Turned forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?"


OR

"When I feel heavy metal
(Woo-hoo) And I'm pins and I'm needles
(Woo-hoo) Well, I lie and I'm easy
All of the time but I'm never sure why I need you
Pleased to meet you
I got my head done
When I was young
It's not my problem
It's not my problem"


How does this work? Isn't it a bit ridiculous? How can these songs make no sense at all lyrically and be hits?
Old 30th June 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 

The first one makes sense, using a windmill as a metaphor for the endlessly turning ups and downs of love.

The 2nd one i spent a few minutes trying to figure out, but turns out the lyrics were a hangover rambling they decided to just roll with.

https://www.cbcmusic.ca/posts/18325/...ar-anniversary
Old 30th June 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
 

as a songwriter you free associate

the random thoughts that come to you during a particular emotional state of mind can form the basis of song lyrics

you can shape those thoughts with poetic forms/devices or you can just go with their raw eccentricities

i prefer poetics. the raw form just seem lazy and uninteresting to me (albeit the initial raw thoughts can come in some beautiful poetic form)
Old 4th July 2019
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cheguevara93 View Post
I'm searching some hit songs and looking at their lyrics to get better at songwriting... I really like Blur and Gorillaz -- but their hit lyrics rarely make sense. I mean look at this:

"Windmill, windmill for the land
Turn forever hand in hand
Take it all in on your stride
It is ticking, falling down
Love forever, love has freely
Turned forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?"


OR

"When I feel heavy metal
(Woo-hoo) And I'm pins and I'm needles
(Woo-hoo) Well, I lie and I'm easy
All of the time but I'm never sure why I need you
Pleased to meet you
I got my head done
When I was young
It's not my problem
It's not my problem"


How does this work? Isn't it a bit ridiculous? How can these songs make no sense at all lyrically and be hits?
It isnt about making sense. Its about
how cool the words sound with the
music. Many words just SOUND cool.
Or names..Van Halen, for example, sounds
like some kind of buzz bomb dropped from
a fighter jet.

Google “Jabberwocky”. It’s a poem from
Alice in Wonderland. The words make no
sense..but it sounds cool to speak them,
because they roll off the tongue easily
and rhythmically.

What do the words to every Pink Floyd or
Yes song mean? The beauty of “nonsense”
words is they can mean whatever YOU think.
Old 4th July 2019
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Polich View Post
It isnt about making sense. Its about
how cool the words sound with the
music. Many words just SOUND cool.
Or names..Van Halen, for example, sounds
like some kind of buzz bomb dropped from
a fighter jet.

Google “Jabberwocky”. It’s a poem from
Alice in Wonderland. The words make no
sense..but it sounds cool to speak them,
because they roll off the tongue easily
and rhythmically.

What do the words to every Pink Floyd or
Yes song mean? The beauty of “nonsense”
words is they can mean whatever YOU think.
Jabberwocky actually tells a coherent story -- about a fantastic world and often using fantastic, invented, or mangled words, to be sure.

It's a play on the old epic poems, though quite brief by those standards.

Quote:
JABBERWOCKY
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Old 4th July 2019
  #6
Lives for gear
 
12ax7's Avatar
 

I've always wanted to meet Jon Anderson:

My first question would be: "Why did those mountains go to all the trouble to come out of the sky only to just stand there?"
.
Old 5th July 2019
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
I've always wanted to meet Jon Anderson:

My first question would be: "Why did those mountains go to all the trouble to come out of the sky only to just stand there?"
.
Exactly.
Old 5th July 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Zyzygis's Avatar
 

“Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower”... anyone?
Old 5th July 2019
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cheguevara93 View Post
I'm searching some hit songs and looking at their lyrics to get better at songwriting... I really like Blur and Gorillaz -- but their hit lyrics rarely make sense. I mean look at this:

"Windmill, windmill for the land
Turn forever hand in hand
Take it all in on your stride
It is ticking, falling down
Love forever, love has freely
Turned forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?"


OR

"When I feel heavy metal
(Woo-hoo) And I'm pins and I'm needles
(Woo-hoo) Well, I lie and I'm easy
All of the time but I'm never sure why I need you
Pleased to meet you
I got my head done
When I was young
It's not my problem
It's not my problem"


How does this work? Isn't it a bit ridiculous? How can these songs make no sense at all lyrically and be hits?
It only "doesn't make sense" when you decontextualize it by separating it from the music. It doesn't exist independent from the music and isn't supposed to.
Old 5th July 2019
  #10
Lives for gear
 
12ax7's Avatar
 

Sometimes (even years later), you may find that something you initially thought was "mere nonsense" turns out to actually be incisively poignant!

...So clean this thread up, else we all might end up in jail!
(Is there gas in the car?)
.
Old 5th July 2019
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
Sometimes (even years later), you may find that something you initially thought was "mere nonsense" turns out to actually be incisively poignant!

...So clean this thread up, else we all might end up in jail!
(Is there gas in the car?)
.
Yep. People miss stuff all the time. I'm Blue by Eiffel 65. Melancholy, existentialist and poignant as hell. Our House by Madness. Everybody seems to think it's just an upbeat romp but it's one of the saddest songs ever written on the passage of time, memory, and loss imo.
Old 24th July 2019
  #12
Lives for gear
 
badmark's Avatar
So this YouTube link is lying when it promises 'Pandora with lyrics' but the syllables of mystery can probably be found somewhere:



If you want to know the deep stuff about how nonsense language works, or can be made to work, this book is the place to go: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-.../dp/1138697060

One shortcut to a different kind of sense is, if you have a second language, writing lyrics in that.
Old 24th July 2019
  #13
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave.R View Post
as a songwriter you free associate

the random thoughts that come to you during a particular emotional state of mind can form the basis of song lyrics

you can shape those thoughts with poetic forms/devices or you can just go with their raw eccentricities

i prefer poetics. the raw form just seem lazy and uninteresting to me (albeit the initial raw thoughts can come in some beautiful poetic form)
Yep, gotta start by mouthing vowels/random words...free association like you say.
Some singers/writers choose to be vague as they dont wish to reveal their inner thoughts
example
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KnYw4EwYGc


Pull him away
Jealous so with me
Go there for new
For new things there
Singing of a famous street
I want to love, I've all the wrong glory
But is it Heaven or Las Vegas?
But you're much more brighter than the sun is to me
He's a hustler
It's a role he'll never make suit
Hang on to this
Stay and stay and fail and fail
Pull him away
Jealous so with me
Go there for new
For new things there
Singing of a famous street
I want to love, I've all the wrong glory
But is it Heaven or Las Vegas?
But you're much more brighter than the sun is to me
Reaching this itch in my soul
Is like any good playing card
Must be why I'm thinking of Las Vegas
Why it's more brighter than the sun is to me
Carnivals are bluster loud
I'm dizzy so I go under the 'Big Dipper'
Cum fantasy for a carnival
How fitting before a wedding
Singing of a famous street
I want to love, I've all the wrong glory
But is it Heaven or Las Vegas?
But you're much more brighter than the sun is to me
Reaching this itch in my soul
Is like any good playing card
Must be why I'm thinking of Las Vegas
Why it's more brighter than the sun is to me
Maybe then you will swear
This is hardly personal
I suspect I'm singing to a tune

And still find that beats singing to your sone
Old 1st August 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
 
Carnalia Barcus's Avatar
 

A couple of my favorite tunes are "Rubber Biscuit" by the Chips (covered well by the Blue Brothers) and "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen (covered well by the Ramones), so yeah, nonsense lyrics can work fine.
Old 2nd August 2019
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky View Post
Yep, gotta start by mouthing vowels/random words...free association like you say.
Some singers/writers choose to be vague as they dont wish to reveal their inner thoughts
example
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KnYw4EwYGc


Pull him away
[...]
I have to say that while the lyrics don't fall into conventional sentences and the story is veiled and presented in an impressionistic series of images and phrases, it's about real life situations and emotions. It's a ways from the "Owl and the Pussycat."

Thanks for posting the lyrics, it was fun to follow along. I'm afraid I'd never puzzled through them on my own. As evocative as the simple sound of the song is, I find these lyrics really bring a nice quality to listening again after many years -- a sort of 'translucence' that lets me see into the heart of the song and its admittedly intoxicating swirl of music.
Old 2nd August 2019
  #16
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
I've always wanted to meet Jon Anderson:

My first question would be: "Why did those mountains go to all the trouble to come out of the sky only to just stand there?"
.
Beat me to it by weeks. YES got a lot of grief from critics about their lyrics from that period. But fans - like me - loved the mystical nature of them. I think they peaked in this area with Topographic Oceans, like this:

Craving penetrations offer links with the self instructor's sharp
And tender love as we took to the air, a picture of distance
Dawn of our power we amuse redescending as fast as misused
Expression, as only to teach love as to reveal passion chasing
Late into corners, and we danced from the ocean
Dawn of love sent within us colours of awakening among the many
Won't to follow, only tunes of a different age, as the links span
Our endless caresses for the freedom of life everlasting


Magic.

Or, for something almost as opaque but a little less taxing than the interpretation of a footnote from the autobiography of a yogi , and little more kick-ass, there's always:

Old 2nd August 2019
  #17
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
I have to say that while the lyrics don't fall into conventional sentences and the story is veiled and presented in an impressionistic series of images and phrases, it's about real life situations and emotions. It's a ways from the "Owl and the Pussycat."

Thanks for posting the lyrics, it was fun to follow along. I'm afraid I'd never puzzled through them on my own. As evocative as the simple sound of the song is, I find these lyrics really bring a nice quality to listening again after many years -- a sort of 'translucence' that lets me see into the heart of the song and its admittedly intoxicating swirl of music.
They do start to make some kind of sense after a second reading
Her delivery/diction when just listening makes them sound vague as she really pulls and stretches the vowels.

On a side note. I always liked how Edward Lear managed to get as many rhyming words for the sound of "Swat" in his Poem "The Akond of Swat"
iirc... Akond is a leader in the area named Swat somewhere in Pakistan. I used to read it to my kids as it has to be read at a particular metre/rhythm. The end of each line is emphasised.

http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ll/akond.html
Old 2nd August 2019
  #18
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mbvoxx's Avatar
coo coo ca joo
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