Music and Lyrics

I think there are two types of people, those who believe that you can group everyone into two types of people and those who don’t. Sorry, but I had to make that joke early in this post. I do think there are two types of people when it comes to music, those who listen for the lyrics and those who don’t. Some people listen to the beat of a song or the melody and enjoy it. They know there are lyrics, but they don’t use the lyrics to identify with the song. My wife is one of these people. She will love a song and be able to hum along with it, but mostly the melody, not the lyrics. Even if she hums the lyrics she might not know the actual words. I should also mention that she is a musician that can still play the piano without practicing since childhood. She just happens to identify with the melody of songs more than the lyrics.

I am just the opposite. I might not even like a song’s melody but if I like the lyrics I will connect with it. I will end up thinking of lines or verses and trying to decide what the artist means or was thinking when they wrote it. Unlike my wife, I will know there is a melody but I will often struggle to remember it without the lyrics that go with it. I love music and have played many instruments but I always preferred the lyrics. I often know every word to songs I like and can remember them even if I haven’t heard the song in years. I will laugh when this happens because imagine what I could remember if I didn’t dedicate so much space in my memory for words of long forgotten songs!

Even so, I end up being caught off guard from time to time by lyrics of songs that I have sung along with in my car for years. The other day I was listening to Jimmy Buffet sing “Far Side of the World” when he sang this: I believe in song lines, Obvious and not. I’ve ridden them like camels to the most peculiar spots. They run across the oceans, through mountains and saloons. And tonight out to the dessert, where I sit atop this dune. I know that these lines mean something to Jimmy Buffet and me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s two different things. I am sure that Jimmy Buffet has ridden camels and traveled the world singing his songs. Me, not so much, but I have traveled the worlds in his and others’ songs and they have also become the soundtrack of my life. A random trip through this song and I found myself thinking about those lines like I had never had before.

That is part of the beauty and truth of music to me. It’s amazing that two completely different people can share similar emotions through words and melody. The artist feels an emotion and tries to capture it. That attempt is heard by each member of the audience slightly differently. My experiences can cause me to hear one message while your experiences can shape the message into something different. I think that is why one song can mean so much too so many different people who all derive something slightly different from it. I think it’s also why some people may not like a song when others love it. I always think of Billy Joel’s song “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” when I think about this. People love to play this song at weddings, always enjoying the classic movement where Billy Joel sings “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends on your mood tonight.” I think people forget the other movement of the song. Mr. Joel sings about Brenda and Eddie and how they progressed from falling in love right through their eventual divorce. Not my choice for a song to hear right after getting married, but I have heard it at almost every reception I have ever gone to.

These days another song I keep hearing and keep thinking about is the fun. song “Some Nights” I listen and each line seems to cut right to the center of the different topics on my mind, mostly my writing and how others feel about it. I hear the lyrics and I just can’t help thinking that some nights I hope that people read this blog and enjoy it, identify with the posts and look forward to new ones. Some nights I hope that people tell their friends about this and that more and more people read and enjoy the posts. Some nights I hope that this all fails, that no one pays attention and that I don’t have to write anymore. There is a certain leap of faith in throwing yourself out into the internet and there are times where I hope I fail because then I can stop. At the same time, I don’t want to stop if people are listening and enjoying what I have to say. I want to entertain people and I want to deliver some type of positive message. Some nights I want to build a castle, some nights I just want to quit.

Then there are the lines about someone’s ghost. There are so many ghosts in everyone’s past. I know there are people that I would love to read some of my posts, to be able to explain long ago times to. To let them know that I still see them sometimes, and that they are still a part of what and who I am, whoever that is on any given day. They’re gone, and that is the way it is, so there are also times where I think that I am glad they never listened and I am thankful for the distance.

My favorite part of the song is the defiant tone; you know this isn’t over for the singer. There are nights he wants to stop, and there are nights he wants back, but he will go on. He’ll sing again tomorrow. I know it has to be the same for me. I’ll try again tomorrow. I’ll write again tomorrow. I’ll post again next week because even though it’s a little scary to write about yourself someone might be listening and need to hear whatever it is that I have to say. They might not, but I still feel like I should say it anyway, even if it’s just for me.

Here are the lyrics to the song “Some Nights” by fun.

“Some Nights”
Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights I call it a draw
Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
Whoa oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Whoa oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Most nights I don’t know anymore…
Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh,
Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh

This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?
Why don’t we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype
Save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked,
But here they come again to jack my style

That’s alright (that’s alright)
I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am
Oh, who am I? Mmm… Mmm…

Well, some nights I wish that this all would end
‘Cause I could use some friends for a change.
And some nights I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights I always win, I always win…

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh
Whoa oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Whoa oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Most nights I don’t know… (oh, come on)

So this is it. I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of that for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?

(Come on)

No. When I see stars, when I see, when I see stars, that’s all they are
When I hear songs, they sound like this one, so come on.
Oh, come on. Oh, come on. Oh, come on!

Well, that is it guys, that is all – five minutes in and I’m bored again
Ten years of this, I’m not sure if anybody understands
This one is not for the folks at home;
Sorry to leave, mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?

My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she call “love”
When I look into my nephew’s eyes…
Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from…
Some terrible nights… ah… [“nights” is confirmed by the band’s Twitter page]

Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh,
Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh

The other night you wouldn’t believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up but we’d both agree

It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance… Oh…
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance… Oh…

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5 Responses to Music and Lyrics

  1. julia says:

    Ok, this one made me cry (but then, I’m sensitive…not too hard to accomplish..) because I relate to it so hard. “Some Nights” is one of my favorite songs — I get a little emotional whenever I hear it.

    Your opening line isn’t a joke to me; it’s a truth. (FYI – I’m a “those that don’t.” Also, I’m a lyrics AND melody person. I understand you fully regarding how the words and melody relate to each other. Sometimes, if I can’t think of one, I can’t remember the other either,)

    Your paragraph on fun., starting “These days” — that is what I am feeling, too. Afraid to keep doing this blogging thing because its putting yourself out in the universe in a very vulnerable way. I’ve learned not to hate, and not to hang on to anger, but that doesn’t mean others have; there are a few ghosts from my past that might still feel those negatives toward me. Might think I was the same person I was 20, 15, 12 years ago. (I’m not, in my opinion). I worry about the outcome of confrontational individuals. But then, I also worry that not enough people are seeing it/will see it. That queer divine dissatisfaction Martha Graham was referring to. You’ve got it. I’ve got it. I believe anyone writing has got it.

    But the desire and will to write and connect with others is strong and will be what keeps me going on mine.

    My response has grown too long; music — good stuff. All the points you’ve made — I agree and have observed some of the same. Solid, enjoyable post.

    • Joe Johnson says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, but I didn’t mean to make you cry! I don’t really mind about people being negative because most won’t be bothered with my little blog. Anyone who takes the time to read through and comment probably wouldn’t waste their time on being trollish. I worry more about writing and no one connecting or caring.

  2. myriamloor says:

    I’m so glad to have found this post because it tells me that I am not as weird. I too listen to lyrics. My coworkers don’t understand why I only like a song if I connect to what I think the song writer is saying to me. I don’t think there’s a song I’ve liked that I have not paid attention to the lyrics and try to decipher the meaning.
    Yup, I’m in that group of peopl

  3. yceblu says:

    Once again you hit the mark! In Music & Lyrics you show how two parts of your world come together to color the whole. Very thought provoking!

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