I had a fun conversation about music tonight, and because I can’t think of anything in life without relating it to a movie, it made me think of the (very fitting) Hugh Grant classic “Music & Lyrics.”
It particularly made me think of an argument between Sophie (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Hugh) about the importance of melody versus lyrics. Sophie says that “a melody is like seeing someone for the first time – the physical attraction… But then, as you get to know the person, that’s the lyrics – their story, who they are underneath. It’s the combination of the two that makes it magical.”
Now if you didn’t think I could find some great brilliant wisdom to live by in a Hugh Grant movie, you clearly don’t know me very well. I think that line does a fantastic job of summing up the importance of melody and lyrics.
Back in the day (and occasionally more recently) I would write “song lyrics” and save them to a difficult-to-find folder on my computer (for security/avoiding embarrassment reasons). I put the quotes around “song lyrics” because I have no musical talent whatsoever, despite what the professor of my “Intro to Keyboarding” class at PLU may have said. I’m a drummer for a reason. My “lyrics” will in all likelihood (unless God suddenly strikes me with the brilliant ability to play piano or guitar… Less likely things have happened, although I’m not sure it would be accurate to say that stranger things have) remain simple words on a computer screen hidden away from all view.
But of course I’m a sucker for reliving my past and wondering what the heck I was thinking, so tonight I ventured into that semi-hidden folder and read through a bunch of my “songs.” And you know what? Some of them were bad. I mean really bad. Unfortunately none were as awesomely bad as Alex’s “Love Autopsy” from the movie (Figuring out you and me is like doing a love autopsy / They could operate all day long and never figure out what went wrong).
But at the same time, there were several that still struck a chord (see what I did there? That’s as musical as I get) in my heart. The lyrics themselves probably aren’t good, but I still remember how I felt when I wrote them. In some cases I still feel that way.
That made me even more introspective, because really what better thing is there than sitting on your bed thinking about yourself? How about writing about this process in a blog post for the entire world to read? Well, you fell for it so I have no pity.
I’ve always known that I was not a melody guy. I really enjoy music, and as someone who took part in band all through high school I can enjoy music that has no lyrics. But when it comes to the music I listen to on a regular basis, the lyrics have always been the key for me. I rarely like a song the first few times I hear it; it is not until I pick up enough of the words to realize that it is speaking to me that I am drawn in.
But tonight I thought about Sophie’s quote and realized that it goes beyond that. It’s not just that I’m not a melody guy; I’m not a melody. I’m lyrics.
I’m trying to think back to a single time in my life when I made a great first impression. I’m not saying this to be self-deprecating; I honestly don’t think I’ve ever made a particular strong first impression. It’s not who I am. Most people who meet me only briefly would assume I’m a complete introvert who never talks. Most of my friends and family probably wish that were the case.
I want to know people’s stories. Maybe it’s the writer in me. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been burned enough times by shallow relationships that I go to the opposite extreme.
Tonight I read back through my past and found some humor and enjoyment in the process. I then proceeded to my fantastic iTunes library (almost 15,000 songs strong!) and searched through some of my favorite songs. Every one of my favorite songs reached that status based on the lyrics, not the melody.
I think this might be why I love karaoke so much. The songs I love touch my heart with their words. They are not my songs, but they reach me and move me. By singing them karaoke I have a chance to make them mine. I may not have written the song, but I can perform it from the heart as a tribute to what it means to me.
Now that’s probably a bit too deep to justify my love of karaoke, considering my favorite songs to karaoke are corny and awesome and are not actually the “favorite” songs I’m describing. But it was a good thought.
We need that surface-level appeal to force us to search deeper. If I hear a song that disgusts me musically, I will never spend the effort to figure out the lyrics. And without a melody, my lyrics will never be a song.
Music touches our hearts in ways that words alone simply cannot. That’s why people claim to relate to musicians so well, even though they will never meet the musicians and their lifestyles and beliefs are probably radically different. That’s why people always develop crushes on musicians, almost as if it’s a rite of passage.
It wouldn’t be right of me to talk so extensively about music, lyrics and falling for musicians without mentioning the late, great Davy Jones of the Monkees. So many women have confessed that Davy was their first celebrity crush. Heck, the sentiment was so common that they actually themed one of the classic “Brady Bunch” episodes around Marcia’s “love” for Davy.
Davy had a lot in common with the character Alex in “Music & Lyrics.” They both fit that stereotyped mold of the teenage heartthrob singer. Maybe we’re all just daydream believers, but without music and lyrics how would we ever know?