Poetry and lyrics are not the same. They are brothers, and both equally gifted in conveying meaning. But poetry is handicapped by metre. Where lyrics can rely on the music to help with tone and ambiance, poetry can only rely on itself.
That being said, lyrics have replaced the once popular poetry as our preferred means of delivering the message. Whether it’s our ability to Party in the USA (see, I’m hip with the kids) or an 80s rock ballad, lyrics have invaded our modern pop culture. We see them quoted in school books, and in pretty typefaces on young-adult walls. Sometimes a single phrase is just what you need to evoke your day’s emotion. They’re little bites of written perfection. Just like poetry.
Some song writers are better poets than others. Leonard Cohen being a prime example – the writer of the most perfect song in the world. Cohen is not only a songwriter and a poet, he’s a perfectionist. 40 verses of poetry for one song. And even then, when it was first released, its brilliance just wasn’t seen.
There is just something all too depressing about the original. It’s too heavy, too weighted by its own meaning, and just too dark. It needed something more to work its way into our hearts.
Enter Jeff Buckley, a singer-songwriter who covered a cover. His beautiful voice and sultry guitar made the song so simple and stunningly beautiful. If you haven’t figured it out, I love this song – I love Buckley’s version and I have never heard better. Because his is so raw that the lyrics just wrap around you until every breath your drew is Hallelujah.
And now, believe it or not, there are at least 300 versions.
Sometimes genius is created over night. Like Under Pressure by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury – banged out after a bender. Sometimes it years in the making. And the world is a better place for both.