Saturday, 16 March 2013

Lyrical Ballads

00:00:00 Posted by Ashley Lister , , , , 9 comments

 by Ashley Lister

A third year undergrad recently posted a poll on the Dead Good Poets’ FaceBook page. The poll can be found by following this link: /http://www.facebook.com/groups/10150320397700001/ and I know she’d appreciate any further votes and opinions that can be added. The student is interested in finding out whether song lyrics can be classed as poetry (and vice versa).

My response to this question has been: “It depends on the song.” If anyone wants to know what I mean, study the lack of poetic content in the following:

Gangnam Style – PSY 

(translation)
Oppa is Gangnam style
Gangnam style
A girl who is warm and humanly during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist
I’m a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

OK, you might argue. But that's a song in translation. It's unfair to comment on poetry or lyrics that aren't being conveyed in their original language. Culturally they might be more meaningful in their original form.
So I'd ask you to consider this example:

Cheeky Girls (performed by The Cheeky Girls)

Cheeky girls…………
Ooh boys cheeky girls
Ooh girls cheeky boys
Ooh boys cheeky girls
Ooh girls cheeky boys
Ooh boys cheeky girls
Ooh girls cheeky boys
Ooh boys cheeky girls
Ooh girls cheeky boys

I never ever ask where do you go
I never ever ask what do you do
I never ever ask what’s in your mind
I never ever ask if you’ll be mine
Come and smile don’t be shy
Touch my bum this is life.

Oooooh

We are the cheeky girls
We are the cheeky girls
You are the cheeky boys
You are the cheeky boys
We are the cheeky girls
We are the cheeky girls
You are the cheeky boys
You are the cheeky boys

Hhmm cheeky cheeky


Yes, you might argue, but again there's a language barrier here. Perhaps Pinky and Perky (NB - Ashley, check the correct names of the Cheeky Girls before posting this blog) who do not have English as their first language, were unfamiliar with the words they were singing. This example includes repetition, rhyme, sound structuralism and an example of a tripartite reduplicative. But, personally I think this is proof that song lyrics cannot be universally compared with poetry.

However, if you’re still not convinced (and this is one of my personal NSFW favourites):

F**k the Pain Away by Peaches

Sucking' on my t*tties like you wanted me
Calling me, all the time like Blondie
Check out my chrissy behind
It's fine all of the time
What else is in the teaches of peaches?
Like sex on the beaches, Huh? What?
[REPEAT]

Huh? Right. What? Uhh
Huh? What? Right. Uhh
[REPEAT]

SIS IUD, stay in school 'cause it's the best
IUD SIS, stay in school 'cause it's the best
IUD SIS, stay in school 'cause it's the best
IUD SIS, stay in school 'cause it's the best

Sucking' on my titties like you wanted me
Calling me, all the time like Blondie
Check out my chrissy behind
It's fine all of the time
Like sex on the beaches
What else is in the teaches of peaches? Huh? What?

F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away
F*ck the pain away. F*ck the pain away


Call me a snob but, if any of those above are considered poetry, they are surely examples of bad poetry.

NB - and if you're looking for examples of good writing, check out the blog for this student: http://www.megansyearofthedragon.blogspot.co.uk/ 
Reactions:

9 comments:

Colin Davies said...

It may be, and I think these are good examples, bad poetry, but it's still poetry. Like a bad cup of coffee is still a cup of coffee, and The Only Way is Essex is still on my BLOODY TELLY! So in away, all songs are poetry just not all songs are good poetry.

I do like "enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee"

Ashley R Lister said...

Ooh! Good point.

But bad poetry fails to fulfil the high standard that we expect from poetry (in that it should be aesthetically pleasing or spiritually satisfying or stylistically engaging on some level other than because of its exemplary badness).

And I know that doesn't fully address your argument but it's all I can come up with before I have another three coffees.

Standard said...

I answered yes but they're not the same. Something like E-Bow The Letter and Nightswimming by REM or New Birds by Arab Strap I think can be classed as poetry but then again the delivery is poetic, For the record I love 'Fuck the Pain Away' :)

Standard said...

As a song, not a poem :) I think the question what is poetry is a bit like, what is art or what is punk. Impossible to answer as it's completely subjective. For me, I listen to music for poetry more than I read or listen to poems - the whole deep and meaningful chin-stroking reaction to poetry puts me off. My favourite poets are Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe, Elliott Smith, Ghostpoet, Ritchie Edwards, Trent Reznor et al - I could barely mention five poets that affect me the same way...

Ashley R Lister said...

Standard,

Of those three, I think F*ck the Pain Away is also my favourite.

Funnily, the poetry within lyrics is one of the reasons why I can't concentrate on writing if music with lyrics is being played within earshot. I find I'm too busy listening, arguing, considering and accepting the lyrics, rather than focusing on my own internal monologue.

Ash

Cerridwen said...

Love this blog. I personally think there should be poetry in music, putting lyrics in means they should invest some effort into the meaning. I agree with Standard - i often listen to music for poetry. It's about wading through the shite :P

An example of poetry in music for me is Carnival of Rust by Poets of the Fall.

Lisa McFleeca said...

I answered yes on the questionnaire... and feel like I have to remind you of some ethereal and beautiful lyrics that remind us of the amazing things we can do with words... (not for kids, this link...)

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/prodigy/firestarter_20111666.html

I mean if that isn't poetry, what is? ;-)

Great post ash, I think there's something special about the lyrics although the music was migraine inducing!

L :-)

Ashley R Lister said...

Cerridwen,

It's just a shame there's so much shite to wade through - and that the real shite seems to be the most popular stuff.

(I googled the Carnival of Rust lyrics and I'd agree: that's poetry).

Ashley R Lister said...

Lisa,

I can imagine those lyrics being read at the next poetry event. I won't tell you who I can imagine reading them - but I can imagine them being performed on the mic.