Lyrics, My Frenemy
Words and I are not friends.
Okay, so it's not that we're not friends. We are civil to each other in public, but secretly we plan each other's demise.
Because you see, I am a bit of a perfectionist. And words take a lot of work to get right. You can't just slap some lyrics down and put some music under it and call it art... We call that pop music.
And I don't know... I always feel that when I spend time with a song to get the music and scoring and texture just right, it's worth it. But working with words just bothers me. I could really spend hours on a 2-measure phrase and feel totally justified when it comes out beautiful. But I never feel like I spend enough time with the words. They always turn out sounding awkward and contrived to me.
I think that's my biggest problem. I can work and work and work on music until it sounds beautiful and organic and like it just works. But when I work and work and work at lyrics, they sound like I worked and worked at them. Should I just spend a little more time with them? Or am I already working too much? I don't know... but words and I are not friends.
There ends up being three ways I get around my hatred:
1) I don't work on words at all. I write what comes naturally at first, and the only changes I really make are rhythmic changes. Then I just let them sit for a while, and I will perform the song in private for months until new, better sounding lyrics present themselves. I've had some success with this method, but it takes a LONG TIME.
2) I write the music first, get it perfect, and then let the music dictate how the lyrics will go. I fill in lyrics almost the way you'd fill in a crossword puzzle. I have a structure laid out (okay, two verses, a chorus, a bridge) and I decide basically what I'd like to communicate for each verse, then I slowly find words that are aesthetically pleasing when set to the pitches I've already written. Then I try to form sentences around all of these. I don't know how efficient this process is, but it's certainly faster than option 1, and it's a bunch more fun for me. I love puzzles, and this method seems less like I'm forcing sentences and more like I'm solving the riddle of the perfect lyric. Easily my favorite.
3) But the easiest way to have good lyrics is to have someone else write them. I've never worked with someone who can put lyrics to my music... so I generally do it the other way around. I find a poem or a sentence or something that really resonates with me... something that sings itself... and then I just write the music around it. It's sort of cheating, because for me it seems like all the hard work has already been done for me. But I am still pretty happy to take the musical credit for it.
(Of course, there is always option 4 - write instrumentals! Then there are no worries at all!)
What is an element of your job that you struggle with more than others? How do you get around your own shortcomings when trying to accomplish goals?
Let's accomplish something impossible together,