The Power of Words
Jerry Lucky Commentary June 2012
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2012 All Rights Reserved
I wanted to follow-up on last month’s commentary about the power music has on our emotions
with a few words about the power words have on us as well. I recently read a review of a prog disc
where the reviewer made particular mention of the artist’s lyrics and how he felt this particular artist
was getting a little too preachy. He felt the artist lost some credibility by crafting his words into too
strong a political message. Interestingly it was an artist I tended to not always agree with lyrically.
But I started to think about this.
We normally see this kind of finger wagging reserved for those who write lyrics of a more overt spiritual leaning. In this case the message was more left of centre politics.
We all tend to see ourselves as in the centre. We tend to share the same views as our friends and it’s easy to think “everyone” thinks the same as we do. In doing this we tend to ignore context because that helps reinforce our own personal centeredness. We don’t like to see ourselves as having beliefs on the fringe and yet the hard truth is none of us is really that centred. We just like to think we’re ok and not have to worry about justifying our position one way or the other.
There is a long standing idea that when it comes to lyrics in songs the words are best when they’re ambiguous and left up to our own interpretation. I’ve heard this tenant expressed many times by both artists and critics, however as I’ve matured in life and gained years of life experiences, I’ve come to disagree with this idea. I would far sooner have someone write from the heart something I disagree with than simply try to dance-around the issue and “hope” that he or she gets me to see their point. I’m going to suggest that’s the cowardly way out. Tell me what you think…tell me how you feel…don’t mince words and then let’s have an honest, open and civil debate. I may not always agree with you, but that’s ok.
The danger as I see it is that if writers feel they need to disguise what they’re trying to say or worse yet are forced to write ambiguously, we are the losers as ideas becomes pale and bland and interpreted or misinterpreted through our own false “centred” belief set. I have to ask, where is the debate about an idea…where is the discussion about differences…where is the exchange of views…and in some cases…where is the winning over of another’s views?
I would far sooner listen to someone’s views and know precisely where they stand than try to decipher their message without a decoder ring. We don’t all see the world the same way, why do we try to hide that?
As for lyrics becoming too preachy, well we see that with everyone from poets to songwriters to novelists. Define preachy? My Oxford dictionary says it’s an individual giving advice or trying to persuade another on what is right or wrong. Seems to me every side can be accused of doing that. Some bands preach about rising up against “the man” or capitalism…some bands preach about “free love” or sexual abandon…some bands preach restraint of emotions…some bands preach no restraint, just full expression…some bands preach a belief system…some bands preach no-belief system. Keep in mind that from its very beginnings rock ‘n’ roll has preached a form of rebellion against authority. Everyone has something they’re preaching.
I’m of the firm belief that in human terms there is no one-size fits all solution for the world’s problems. The left has some great answers as does the right. People of faith bring something valuable to the table as do those without. We learn from listening to what someone else has to say. But if all we listen to are the things we agree with…how do we grow?
Now I’m not suggesting for a minute that everyone who says something is right. The strict rules of logic will quickly demonstrate that we can all be wrong about everything…but we can’t all be right about everything. It is through the sharing of ideas that things become plain.
So I’m all for artists writing how they see the world plainly. Sometimes I will agree with things they say and other times I may disagree with how they see things. But that’s OK. That is the essence of tolerance; accepting the difference of opinion even though we may disagree with it. We can simply agree to disagree.
At least that’s what I think.