Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lyrics Versus Melody

As previously discussed, rap has undergone a change. It began in the "La Di Da Di" style by Slick Rick, with a simple beat-boxing background, and evolved to works like Warren G's "Regulate" where the melody was arguably more important than the lyrics. 

Today, rap exists in many forms. In some cases, the lyrics become the focal point, and in others, the melodies and beats are more important. The argument in many of these posts have been over what the artists specifically say in there songs. While some times it is true that the meaning comes from the specific words, often times, however, the purpose of these songs come instead from the the overall feeling that the listener comes away with at the end, frequently, given by the beat. In fact Christopher Lirette himself said that sometimes when poets listen to poems they do not over analyze them; instead, they listen for enjoyment and at the end say that was a good poem. If poets do that for poems, a form of lyricism that is usually read slowly and dramatized, tempting people to look at each work and phrase specifically, why then can we not use this same technique for rap music, a form of lyricism that is usually spoken rapidly making it nearly impossible to even understand each word unless you have the lyrics. It is very difficult to argue that Sean Paul wants anyone to focus on each specific word in his song "Temperature" as they are nearly incomprehensible. This song/video can be viewed here:

Yet, this same song makes me want to dance. In "Temperature", Sean Paul could have been talking about drugs, sex, or violence. Were it not for the music video, I probably would have had no idea But at the end of the song, I am left with an excited feeling as my heart is pumping and my feet are moving.

Furthermore, according to, the sixth best way to relieve stress is to listen to music, not necessarily the suggested calming music, but the music that is soothing for you. The cite goes on to say, "Playing music in the background, even though you are busy in some other activity and are not aware of the music, also reduces stress." This is probably why so many people listen to music while they are doing homework and spending time with friends. In a specific case, when I listen to rap music and do my homework, I must be focused on my work for any of it to get accomplished. Therefore, I cannot be focused on the specific words of the song and I end up swaying to the rhythm of the song while focusing on my homework. I am sure that this is not an isolated case. In these cases, the student is not worried about whether the rapper is talking about smoking or pillaging villages, or even raping, because the words are not thoroughly being thought about. In these cases, what becomes important is the melody.

While I do not feel that the lyrics of rap song should be discredited, as they hold importance, there are certain situations to pay more attention to them than others. For instance, in class, and on assignments, the lyrics should be closely discussed and thought about. Furthermore, when the lyrics become the focal point of the song by a less important melody, similar to Slick Rick's "La Di Da Di," the lyrics hold more importance. However, when the melody becomes stronger than the lyrics, or when the songs are used as background for another activity (i.e. dancing, homework, sports) it is not the lyrics that are as important, but the melody and the overall feeling that the listener comes away with at the end of the song.


  1. I agree that lyric-centered songs vs. melody-centered songs bring about different feelings. The difference is based around the listeners preferences or mood. For example, if I am sitting on the couch at home by myself, I would prefer a song focused on quality lyrics. Whereas, if I was at a dance party, I am all about the melody and beat of the song. Neither type of song is better or worse, and they are not mutually exclusive.

    In this song, there is a strong focus on lyrics as well as a catchy melody.

  2. I also agree with what you're saying. I feel that the idea of lyrics vs. melody really depends on the time and place that a song is heard. Beat-dominant music is perfect for, let's say a party, but would I really choose to listen to it when I'm simply relaxing? Then again, lyrics can also add to the party and dance aspect if they are easy enough to understand without paying much attention. Of course these types of lyrics aren't usually as profound and complex, but that's not their job; It's to get us pumped, and it works.


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