Music & Lyrics, Rock & Country
Mus-ic: The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. Music can take us to places of extreme euphoria, give us solace by relating to other's misfortunes, tell us about flights of fantasy, explain situations, ease our minds, make us laugh. It's purposes are endless and multifaceted. Some people like music for the way it makes them feel. Some like it for the beat (again: the way it makes you feel), to hear mastery of a musical instrument, and on and on... I don't really have to explain why people like music. The point is, most do.
Lyr-ic: Of or relating to a category of poetry that expresses subjective thoughts and feelings, often in a song like style or form. The words of a song.
What's more important, a good lyric or a good melody?
It really depends on who you ask, and what they value. It's been my observation that country music fans value a good lyric over a good melody. At it's best, country music is storytelling genre. It's primarily lyric driven music. On the other hand, rock seems to be more music driven. That's not to say that there are exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, country is more lyric driven, and rock is more music driven.
I do speak from some experience on this. I think there are some wonderful Pop and Rock songs that contain great lyrics, but I've CO-written with various writers in both the country and the rock fields. There is a noticeable difference in the amount of time spent on story and lyrics in a country song. It could take days or months to come up with a lyric that all the writers are happy with. In rock, however, most of the writing time is spent on the music: arrangement, guitar solos, drum grooves, etc.
The one thing I've taken from collaborating with other great country writers is how they work a lyric until it's almost flawless. That doesn't mean they get it right every time, but they do get it right a lot of the time. I think these values make for a more concrete song. Solid as a rock. An impregnable fortress against the critiques of the toughest publisher. Well, at least that's how it's supposed to work.
Rock & or Pop, on the other hand, has a different set of values. Generally speaking, Rock & or Pop are more youth based forms of music. It's marketed to younger people. There's a definite emphasis and value with regard to the cool factor. What is the cool factor? Well, it could be just about anything that's rebellious, inane, risque', sexy, or controversial. In country this is more of a no-no. In country being politically correct is more the norm. It's getting less so today, due to the industry executives targeting a youthful market, but for the most part country is something you could play for your mom. In rock & pop, even in R&B and Hip Hop, the values take a definite turn towards social taboos. To be bad is to be good, to rage against the machine of the status quo is cool. Again, these are just general observations on my part. I think each form of music has it's place, but country values seem more family based, more traditional values based period. You just don't hear a lot of rock/hip hop songs about the wife and kids. You almost never hear them sing about their church or their Mama. In fact, rock places a sort of value on non-values. Even the music is more ambiguous, less clear. Don't you remember when you were younger, having to try and "figure out", what a song was about? You know, the hidden meaning. In country that's almost never the case. They spell it out clear. Regardless as to whether you agree with the song or not, at least you know where they stand.
I suppose it makes sense that country is less ambiguous. Historically, country music's fans have been older and more conservative. I think that's fair to say, even with today's emphasis on youth based marketing. With rock, the opposite holds true. Give me something to rebel against and I'll write you a song. As I've said before in other articles, I think it all has a lot to do with age appropriate behavior. If you're young, with plenty of free time, and if all your bills are paid for, you probably have the free time to listen to an ambiguous rock song and wonder about what it all means. You might even have time to contemplate the injustices that have been done to you and the world, and speak against them. However, if you're just too busy making a living and feeding a family, you don't have time to dig for a deeper meaning to life's mysteries. You realize that, yes, Mom and Dad weren't so bad after all. They were just trying to make a living so their kids would have it better than they had. You want your music right up front, sans the ambiguity, just something nice to listen to with a nice story. My friend, it sounds like you've just gone country.
Still more stuff...
- Being taken seriously.
- How my father became a star.
- So, you wanna' be a country star?
- Who do you like better, Garth or Gershwin?
- You'll eat what you're served...
- The Media: Out with the old, in with the new.
- It's great exposure.
Thoughts on some of the people I've played with or known.
- Charlie Rich
- Freddy Fender
- Smokey Robinson
- Jo-El Sonnier
- Randy Meisner
- Billy Swan
- Flaco Jimenez
- Augie Meyers
- Doug Sahm
- Jerry Lee Lewis
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