OuttaCtrl
When life goes a lil' bit crazy! :-)

Lyric(s) or Not, Here I Hum

Ok, so I’m sat here trying to work out what my first post should be about. As usual, I have some music on in the background and me and my shockingly bad singing voice decide to chip in.

This particular song reminded me of a discussion with a friend a few weeks ago about whether dance songs are better with or without lyrics. To my surprise, I found that most people who have a preference tend to prefer the lyricless (if that’s not a word, I’m making it one) tracks. Now it’s fair to say that most people know of a song with shockingly-bad lyrics – Pass Out (Tinie Tempah) comes to mind – but I think people secretly love those songs even more because of it. And if you had the instrumental version, I doubt they would be anywhere near as popular. So why does this not apply to Dance music?

Side thought: Is it better for your housemates if you play cheesey music really loud to drown out singing, or better to listen on your headphones with just your voice audible? I’d be interested to know what people think. After performing a little experiment (by recording what can be heard in both situations), I can safely say I’m never singing along to music with my headphones in again. :mrgreen: Anyhooo…

Personally, I think lyrics perfectly complement Dance music. Firstly, they help people remember a song – as embarrassing as some might find singing along to their favourite tune is, it takes a pretty confident individual to attempt to reproduce the synth riffs of their latest rave track (from my own experience, people think you’re a little “special” :mrgreen:). Lyrics also provide some sort of participation or variation to the tracks when you’re on the dance floor which can be quite important if you find the evening is starting to drag. I doubt people would disagree with me so far, as this applies to most music. So why is Dance any different? I believe it’s because there is a something about lyrics that I suspect most people don’t consider for Dance tracks. Just like in other genres, the lyrics are often designed to reach out to people and give them something to relate to1.

In this case, the line I found myself murdering was…

“I wanna know your name… You just kill me, could you at least do that?”

No marks for naming that track. Grammatically it doesn’t really work, but syntactical criticism aside – eh? So I try and make out the next line which is only just decipherable…

“I wanna know your name… Or better yet, stand there – just do that!”

Now you could easily argue that these lyrics were quite obviously an after-thought and considering the lyricless version came out first, I’d be inclined to agree.

But let’s try and give the lyricist the benefit of the doubt and hope he wasn’t just given a syllable quota and and some vague requirement of a rhyming attempt. We have three phrases (four if you include the monosyllabic title).

Now the jury’s out on this One (pun intended) but I would probably interpret this as some guy (male voice) who is put in a situation where he’s in awe of a newly found one-true-love and doesn’t know what the hell to do. He wants to know more, but feels the situation is so hopeless he’d rather end his life than endure the torment. However, he realises the stupidity of his last thought and is happy to just be in her presence regardless of the state of their relationship. Although quite specific, I think a lot of peeps would have been there to some extent, albeit hopefully a little less bipolar. 8)

I’d suspect most people mock Dance lyrics at face value because of their simplicity and repetition, but given only a few lines some songs are able to describe or narrate quite complex or deep emotions. This is particularly true with early Dance songs that have a lot more lyrics. Heck, they may even have verses!!! 😯 90s classics such as Show Me Love (Robin S) and Rhythm of the Night (Corona) are prime examples. Maybe that’s why DJs mix Robin S into almost all other club hits.

As we move into the early 2000s, lyricists seem more able to say what they want to in fewer words, e.g. Better Off Alone (Alice DeeJay). Maybe the industry changed to a pay-per-word invoicing scheme – who knows? 😕 Probably the most extreme example is Get Get Down (Paul Johnson). Excluding the onomatopoeic “Whoo!”s and “Ooo!”s, a lot of peeps believe it only has one monosyllabic lyric: “Down”. In fact, he says “Get” quite a few times but this is usually masked by a few jabs of a relatively high piano chord. Now I’m not really saying this particular song has any deep or significant meaning (although I suppose if one spent long enough choosing the monosyllabic word, a committed poet might stand a chance). But the Alice DeeJay track certainly describes a particular feeling.

Lyrics seem to have lost their appeal in a lot of the club scene recently (particularly with relatively new genres such as DnB and Dub-Step) but despite Dance having diverged into many different genres since the 90s (House, Trance, Euphoria, Electro-House), artists thankfully still realise the importance of lyrics. I think there was a line in The History Boys where Hector describes poetry as someone reaching out of the page and taking your hand. So next time you hear one your favourite Dance tracks, give the lyricist the benefit of the doubt and you might be pleasantly surprised that you feel that hand reaching out from your sub!!! :mrgreen:

Over and outtactrl!


1Oasis are a prime counter-example to this. The lyrics to a lot of their songs are infamously scattered and random, yet their music is incredibly popular.

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