Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Yeezus conundrum
If the music has lyrics, they matter.
Some people do them better than others, some put more care and effort into them than others do, some words may seem more prominent or salient than others do. But the same goes for the music. Simply put: If there are words to the music, I'm not going to ignore them.
The balance between the music and the words is another matter. Rarely has a song won me over on the strength of its words alone, whereas the other way around is the norm, I would say, for most people.
A strong lyric – be it witty, thoughtful, wise, true, or simply a well put or cleverly written string of words – will most surely enhance a songs impact. Conversely, a weak lyric – ignorant, stupid, bigoted, or simply a weakly put together string of words – will likely stick out like a sore thumb, and possibly taint or ruin an otherwise decent song. If the songs bad to begin with, then hey... (Dumb lyrics is another matter. Dumb lyrics can work masterfully set to music, and the examples are too many to start listing here).
Then there is the question of voice, which is another matter. Randy Newman is the master of giving voice to people with, let's say, views people like me are less likely to sympathise with. Sometimes to spite them, other times (see e.g. "Rednecks"), they effectually highlight the silliness of either side of the isle.
I've not made up my mind regarding Yeezus yet, and the conversations around the Internet and, to a lesser degree, printed press have been hard to ignore. There are some things on the album that grate, and it's not really the music. With the above in mind, the next few spins of Yeezus should prove interesting.
Bonus reading: Man in the Mirror: the politics of Yeezus (added June 21st, 2013)