If you wish that your songs had better lyrics, and you’re actively working on improving that aspect of your songwriting, that is definitely time well spent. Meaningful, powerful lyrics will likely be studied and admired long after practically any other element of songs.
In the writing of more poignant lyrics, it’s worth noting that meaning and meaningful are often regarded as two separate concepts. Meaning can be as mundane as defining when it comes to words and phrases. But when we talk about something being meaningful, we’re not generally talking about definitions; we’re usually talking about message, and that is (or should be) something far more powerful.
If you’re trying to make your lyrics a much more important part of your songs, you need to read “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process.” It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle”, and right now, it’s FREE.
Even bad lyrics can be defined. But finding the message within a lyric means focusing on a song’s purpose for existing in the first place. And we tend to rate a song based at least partly on how powerful the message is.
Different people can take different things away from the same song. And even songwriters themselves can be a bit hazy on what the actual message is. When Paul McCartney wrote “Blackbird”, he has variously described the lyrics as being a meditation about a blackbird while meditating in Rishikesh, India, but also as a commentary on race riots in 1960s America.
I’m not diminishing the necessity and power of a song’s message to say that ultimately, if different people take a different message away from a song, that’s usually OK. Having said that, songwriters might feel considerable frustration when a politician re-purposes a song for their political campaign — a kind of message that was never intended.
How to Inject Meaning Into a Song’s Lyric
The writing of meaningful lyrics requires considerable forethought. It’s very unlikely you’ll come up with something powerful if you rely totally on stream of consciousness writing.
To be sure that listeners can hear something meaningful in the lyrics to the song you’re writing, consider the following:
- Write an essay about your song’s topic. Get your thoughts straightened out, and be clear about what you think and feel on a particular topic.
- Consider opposing views. One of the best ways to sort out your own thoughts on something is to play devil’s advocate, and consider, if possible, a contrary position on your song’s topic.
- Write one sentence that sums up your viewpoint or position. This sentence could or should be the summation of what your song’s chorus or refrain is trying to say.
- Create word lists. This could be one big list, but if your song is a verse-chorus design, you might write one list for verse-style words (observational, less emotional), and another for chorus-style words (emotional, powerful).
As you work this way, be sure that your words are common and conversational in style. People will remember words that are the kind they’d use in conversation.
The more you practice this kind of lyric-writing, the better you’ll get at writing lyrics that have a strong message. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempts seem like they’re missing the mark. With practice and diligence, you’ll keep improving with each song you write.
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