World Poetry Month: Song Lyrics by Eric Keizer
As poetry editor for Our Write Side, it would only be fitting for me to offer a poetry lesson of my own.
To round out World Poetry Month, I figured I would do a piece on song lyrics. I have written a few songs, and love the idea of my poetry put to music- and that truly is what most song lyrics are. How do songwriters create lyrics? Well, most of the time, they work closely with musicians- or are musicians themselves, but for me, a guy who couldn’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow, I try to “hear” the tune in my mind.
As you think of the tune you’d like to hear your lyrics wrapped in, try to think of a story you’d like to convey. Maybe you’d like to relay a story about a “cheating heart”, or maybe you’d just like to share about how happy you’re feeling. Maybe you just want to tell a special someone how you feel about them. Whatever the subject of your song is, remember that most songs only last somewhere between 2:30 and 4:30 minutes. You’re going to have to be concise.
While most song lyrics rhyme, remember that they don’t necessarily have to. However, unless you’re writing the entire song, (including the music!) you’ll find that sticking to a pretty standard rhyme scheme will help you write a catchy tune. The exception to this is the “hook.” According to Wikipedia:
“One definition of a hook is “a musical or lyrical phrase that stands out and is easily remembered.” Definitions typically include some of the following: that a hook is repetitive, attention-grabbing, memorable, easy to dance to, and has commercial potential and lyrics. A hook has been defined as a “part of a song, sometimes the title or key lyric line,that keeps recurring.”
Alternatively, the term has been defined as the foundation of commercial songwriting, particularly hit-single writing”, which varies in length from the repetition of “one note or a series of notes..to a lyric phrase, full lines, or an entire verse. The hook is ‘what you’re selling’. Though a hook can be something as insubstantial as a ‘sound’ (such as da doo ron ron), “ideally should contain one or more of the following: (a) a driving, danceable rhythm; (b) a melody that stays in people’s minds; (c) a lyric that furthers the dramatic action, or defines a person or place.
While some melodic hooks include skips of an eighth or more to make the line more interesting, a hook can be equally catchy by employing rhythmic syncopation or other devices. A hook may also garner attention from listeners from other factors, such as the vocal timbre or instrumentation, as in the case of the Beach Boys‘ use of an Electro-Theremin in “Good Vibrations“. Some hooks become popular without using any unusual elements. For example, in the song “Be My Baby“, performed by The Ronettes, the hook consists of the words “be my baby” over the conventional I-vi-IV-V chord progression of the chorus. Hooks in hip hop almost always refer to the chorus between verses; as in the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby“, “check out the hook, while my DJ revolves it”, that lead into the chorus itself.”
Here are the newest song lyrics I have written. I hope they inspire you to try your hand at songwriting- and maybe even win yourself a Grammy!
Darkness overtakes me
Can’t wait anymore
I start to run for miles and miles
Stand outside your door.
If heaven is a place on earth,
all I can see,
I will take you in my arms
Make your love save me.
We’ll make it last tonight.
Come and hold me close now baby.
make me feel all right.
We’ll make it right tonight.
Forgive the past,
We’ll make through.
For all eternity.