I’m often asked by my songwriter/artist friends to give my thoughts on their new releases. I’m happy to do so, but when they wait until they have a finished (and usually released) master, there’s not likely much I can offer beyond “sounds great”, because IT’S ALREADY OUT THERE.
Let’s put that aside for a moment, and imagine that these artists had the power to replace the released recording with a revised one. In this case, what one thought can I offer that would be useful in most of the cases? HELP ME UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU JUST SANG.
I just listened to a track that came strongly recommended by a devoted new fan of the band. Here’s a clue, though – this fan couldn’t say enough about how much they loved the sound of the banjo. They didn’t say how they were moved by the thoughts and ideas in the lyrics. In fact, they didn’t mention the lyrics at all. Why? Because neither they nor I could figure out what 90% of the lyrics were.
I’ll give you a sense of how this great-sounding song spoke to me. Here’s my transcript of the lyrics as I heard them after a few listens:
Sidewalks tro len forthenaire
A bone with Bradley lonely light
In an El Camino 84
iPhone in the 8-track door
Mask between that there and us
Burning in the loneliness
Her loneliness is all there was
Stuck mother word cacaush
On tanghangle tongues half-lit
Why higher’s fall and shooting sparks
We caw the jistervit…
And I’ll be honest, in the repeated listens involved in transcribing these lyrics, they began to make more sense – enough to write what you see above. At first, I didn’t even catch as many recognizable words as this.
Perhaps with a few more listens, I’ll catch more of the words. But here’s my point – if it takes more listens to figure out what you’re singing, then your words have managed to evoke ZERO emotional interest from me. Your banjo had better sound frickin’ amazing if you’re going to get me to listen enough times to figure out your message.
So the gist of my rant is this – IF YOUR SONG HAS WORDS, PLEASE LET ME HEAR THEM. It’s no different than having a conversation with your friends, or telling a joke. If you’re not invested in helping me understand the brilliance of what you’re saying, then don’t bother saying anything. Just play the damn banjo.
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