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Old 03-29-2005, 10:49 PM   #1
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To read or not to read...that is the question...

When you get a new CD do you read the lyrics (provided they are included)? Or do you like to just listen to the song without reading the lyrics and only check lyrics if you really can't figure them out by listening? And if you do read them, do you read them only with the song, or do you read them seperately? Do you find reading them helps you "get" the song better?


I listen to so many artists that don't include lyrics with the CD that I don't even look for them anymore. I will look for them occasionally when I hear something that I know just can't be right, or when I want to write a section down to illustrate a point, but for the most part I don't really bother with them.



(weirdly enough I was one of a group who just bought the original handwritten lyrics book to a favorite album.... go figure. cool piece of memorabilia though. )
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Old 03-29-2005, 10:55 PM   #2
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I've noticed I dont pay as much attention to them as I used to.

There's no real rhyme or reason to whether or not I check out the lyrics while listening though. Sometimes I do, sometimes I dont. No real consistant reasons behind why or when.
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:11 PM   #3
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I'm a lyric junkie. Actually there are many songs I like mainly 'cause of the lyrics. So, if the lyrics are provided and I can't make it out just by listening I'll look it up.

To add another question to this thread: Do you usually like a song by the lyrics or the music? (It's obviously a combination of both, but which do you value more?)
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:15 PM   #4
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I used to be much more lyrics obsessed than I am now. It just depends on the artist. If it's Tori Amos or Wilco or somebody else whose lyrics are generally important to me, or someone known for being a great lyricist, I usually sit down with headphones and lyrics right from the beginning. For everyone else I tend to learn the lyrics from repeated listenings and check them when I'm unsure. It just depends, though. Even with Tori on her last record and the new one I've been listening more than reading so that's really changing for me in the last couple of years.
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:17 PM   #5
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I tend to like lyrics (even if I don't often read them), especially kind of abstract ones, but I also have favorite songs and even entire albums which are all instrumental. Awful lyrics can kill a song for me really quick.

And it's true...when I was younger I used to go right for the lyrics. And I would be angry when they weren't included. Now I think I trust my instincts more, if that makes any sense.
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:18 PM   #6
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I've turned way more into a 'music before lyrics' type, though this isnt the case with every song/artist.
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by u2popmofo
I've noticed I dont pay as much attention to them as I used to.
Yeah, these days, when I get a new album, I'll pull out the booklet, thumb through it, smell the fresh ink (God, that shit is intoxicating), stick it back in there, and stuff it in a box or somewhere.

Lots of reasons for that. The major one is that I rip all my music to my computer as soon as I get it. CDs scratch too easily. If I want a copy in my car, I'll burn one instead of using the $20 copy. Mini-Discs come with those protective condoms; how come even the next generation audio formats like DVD-A and SACD don't do that? Except that the record execs probably want your CDs to scratch so you have to buy news ones. It's a conspiracy.

Second most important is that a lot of artists don't do anything incredibly interesting with their booklets. Maybe some weird artwork, but that's it.

Third is that I don't listen to music for the lyrics. I'll catch some good lines after hearing song a few times, but overall, it isn't important to me anymore. How many artists actually have something to say anyway? Some of the best song lyrics are simply collections of disparate ideas. After I listen to it enough, I'll form my own meaning of the song, based as much on the words as the music.

I used to want to know what the artist meant by his words, but as I've grown older, I don't think that's as important as what I think they mean. That's what art's all about, right? It's an artist's response to his world. But the artist's world is different from mine; when you consume a piece of art, you kind of make it your own and meld it with your own experiences.

That said, sometimes the visual imagery of an album cover and its booklet and the musical imagery and the lyrical imagery can come together in a remarkable way. A good example is The Joshua Tree; the desert imagery not only fits with the rootsy undertones of the music but works as a metaphor for the emotional starkness and isolation expressed in the lyrics.
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by typhoon

I used to want to know what the artist meant by his words, but as I've grown older, I don't think that's as important as what I think they mean. That's what art's all about, right? It's an artist's response to his world. But the artist's world is different from mine; when you consume a piece of art, you kind of make it your own and meld it with your own experiences.

I know what you mean. And I've heard artists say essentially the same thing -- that a song has more meaning to the listener when the lyricist's meaning isn't set in concrete. I heard one guy say he's had fans tell him what a song means to them and he said that sometimes even he likes what they get out of it more than what he was originally thinking. I think songs, once they are shared with an audience, become more than what they started out as. Well good songs anyway. Some dreck is still just dreck, no matter how many people hear it.
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Old 03-30-2005, 02:11 AM   #9
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i check them when i think i'm mishearing something or flat-out can't tell what's going on. i used to sit down after buying an album and read through the lyrics as i was first listening to songs. as i started buying more and more music (and a lot of it without lyrics printed in the booklets ), but i haven't done that in a long time.

i read through everything else, though. through all the thank yous and credits.


i've always been more about the music first, lyrics second. that doesn't mean i can listen to blatantly rascist bands or anything, there is a difference. but i am quite capable of liking songs a hell of a lot without having a clue what the singer is saying.
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Old 03-30-2005, 02:51 AM   #10
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I'm mostly a "sound" person and when I respond emotionally to a song it's usually the music or the singer's voice that touches me. With singers like Bono, Tori Amos or PJ Harvey I honestly couldn't care less what they're going on about - I tend to listen to their singing almost as if to another instrument. When they do come up with a good lyric, I can appreciate it if I think about it, but for me it's just not where the whole appeal lies.

I have become more aware of the lyrics in the recent years, ever since my English got good enough for me to discern them, but there's only a handful of artists whose lyrics I really pay attention to. I'm usually indifferent to abstract, impressionist, stream-of-consciousness lyrics or the sort of vague, universal lyrics that Bono often writes; I tend to like the lyrics with a strong narrative, story-telling element to them (the reason I love Nick Cave's lyrics so much).

And I've noticed that I never really meld the artist's lyrics with my own experiences, and as a consequence I can't say that many song mean a lot to me, lyrics-wise. I mostly remain an observer or listener on the "outside" of a song, so to speak.
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Old 03-30-2005, 06:38 AM   #11
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I rarely buy albums anymore (download instead), so this is kind of hard to answer, but if I like the album very much at all, I'll at least look at the booklet once or twice.

As for the music vs. lyrics thing, I have to say I absolutely like lyrics more, no question. Music is important too, but good lyrics can overcome bad music, imo. I really enjoy lyrics, especially wordy, eccentric ones (see: my love of Beck, the Shins, Wilco, Beastie Boys, Ted Leo, Bright Eyes).
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Old 03-30-2005, 08:04 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by joyfulgirl
I used to be much more lyrics obsessed than I am now. It just depends on the artist. If it's Tori Amos or Wilco or somebody else whose lyrics are generally important to me, or someone known for being a great lyricist, I usually sit down with headphones and lyrics right from the beginning. For everyone else I tend to learn the lyrics from repeated listenings and check them when I'm unsure. It just depends, though. Even with Tori on her last record and the new one I've been listening more than reading so that's really changing for me in the last couple of years.
I totally agree with you joyfulgirl. If it's an artist in which the lyrics are integral I put on the noise reducing headphones and go to town reading them, or looking them up. Most bands I'll just learn them through repetition unless I can't figure a spot out.
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Old 03-30-2005, 12:55 PM   #13
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I think it would be really fascinating to see the results of a study comparing different people's brain scans as they listened to both familar and unfamiliar pop vocal songs. (Or country, gospel, whatever--probably any genre would work, as long as it didn't stray too far from familiar musical structures.) I bet there would be major individual variations in the amount of activity in speech processing areas--high in people like bayernfc or elevatedmole who are 'lyrics junkies,' low in people like Saracene or me who tend to hear the singer's voice as another instrument.

Saracene, I also grew up hearing a lot of music in an unfamiliar language--the rembetika records of my Greek grandmother, who lived with us--and I wonder if early exposure to such a situation might not have a big effect on how your brain 'processes' lyrics more generally. Then again, I guess most children hear lots of songs (and even sing along) well before they're theoretically capable of comprehending the lyrics, regardless of language.

Sorry if this is veering off-topic, indra. I'm kind of an egghead...
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Old 03-30-2005, 04:17 PM   #14
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I used to be really into the lyrics and would always read through the booklet while listening to it for the first time -- now as I've got less time (and that sounds like a horrible reason, but it's true) I tend to just listen to the album unless it's something that I think the lyrics are an integral part of the music -- Bright Eyes' Lifted album is the one I last did that with, I think.
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Old 03-30-2005, 05:51 PM   #15
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When I first buy a CD, I'll flip through the liner notes as I start playing it but won't read the lyrics just yet. I'll wait for the whole album or at least most of it to sink in and then look at some lyrics, esp. if the album has a central theme of some sort (like concept albums). I remember listening to Green Day's American Idiot for the first time and being blown away by Jesus of Suburbia. From that moment, I was following the lyrics almost all the way to the end. So yeah, it depends.

On which I prefer, lyrics or music.. I have to say music takes a preference and always has. Somebody said that good lyrics can save a song that sounds bad. I would say that good music that gets you singing and stays in your head more than saves the song if it has bad lyrics. Case in point: Elevation. Love listening to it and doing the whoo whoo... mediocre lyrics.
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