A moo point, basically …

Arbit/ Random

The anatomy of a song

with 6 comments

a.k.a. A confession about how I typically listen to music

The song below (Otherside, Red Hot Chili Peppers) is an excellent song. I must have listened to it quite a few times, quite often in a loop.

It might come as a bit of a shock then (well, at least a mild surprise) that I don’t really know the lyrics to the song. Sure, I know the ‘how long how loooong will I fly …’ or ‘… take it on the other side’ portions. But that’s more or less the extent of my lyrical eloquence. Besides, to be honest, I’m quite sure the song will be about one/more/all of the following –

Angst/ drugs/ Rock-n-Roll/ Chillin’ (or killin’) like a villain/ More dope/ Suicide/ Broken hearts/ Kinky stuff. Pretty much like most RHCP songs, I guess. So, drawing wisdom from the song where it says somewhere in the middle – ‘… Once you know you can never go back …’ – I’ll take my chances and stick with ignorance.

I will, however, claim to be quite well placed to identify pretty much every note, every drum change, every cymbal beat and probably every instrument used in the song. Try waking me up and going ‘aaaaaaaa … aaaaaaa … aaaaaa’ like the guys in the background do towards the end, and I’ll recognize the song. Unless I’m really pissed or if you’re an exceptionally bad singer – then, all bets are off.

The way the bass guitar is used to not just give the song some volume (of the mass x density or the nice-bouncy-hair type) but also to give it direction by making its presence felt without grabbing too much attention. I invariably like songs which do  justice to the bass guitar, in fact. Case and point – With or without You, U2.

Then there’s the way each stanza builds up to a crescendo, with more instruments and then the harmony/chorus all combining quite nicely. The way the opening notes keep persisting through the whole song. That’s what I end up humming every time – the opening notes (twang, twang twing twing …) or the wailing mentioned previously in the context of a challenge. This does end up irritating people in my vicinity (when I do the humming bit), but whatcha’ gonna do ’bout it? Every time the song ends, I resolve to pay attention to the lyrics the next time.

And it’s not just this song – every rock song that I like is a song whose lyrics I probably never know- I end up humming/ murmuring something which is at most phonetically similar to the actual lyrics (or at least in meter). Contrast this with Hindi film songs or any ‘Pop’ song, and I usually get the lyrics the first time. Unless it’s a Himes songs, ’cause then I don’t need to listen to the song at all – a glance at the song title gives away half the lyrics right away.

Is it because my grasp of the English language is poor? Maybe. Consistent poor performance in CAT Verbal Ability tests do point in that direction.

Is it because my grasp of the English rock language is poor? Quite likely.

Is it because Hindi film songs have less intricate music and/or better lyrics vis-a-vis English rock? Highly unlikely. At the risk of offending purists, though, I will say that the two are fairly on par.

Is it really that important? Moooo


Written by sujaybedekar

March 30, 2010 at 3:47 am

6 Responses

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  1. That’s really interesting. (I love RHCP!) However, it reeeaallly, reeaaallly bugs me when I don’t know the words to a song. Maybe it’s because I like to sing? (People around me don’t like me singing, I guarantee it. ;)) But I guess also if you play an instrument, you have a more sensitive ear and can pick up on the notes?
    Or you simply drill it into your head by listening to it thousands of times…(as I’ve done so many times before. xD)

    Screwed Loose

    March 30, 2010 at 3:55 am

    • Yeah, it used to bug me a bit before, but I later realized that it’s better this way – I enjoy what I enjoy the most, and at the same time don’t get depressed as I don’t know what the guys are trying to say 😛
      more than playing any instruments, I guess you need to have a ear for these things, that’s more important. (I don’t play anything, btw)


      March 30, 2010 at 4:08 am

      • That is true. ^,^ /And/ sometimes catchy lyrics get in the way of “actually” liking a song. I’ve had that happen before…8*D
        And, I guess that’s right. An ear for this kinda stuff can really help. Some people have it, some don’t. (Cite: I cannot tune anything by ear. At. All.)

        Screwed Loose

        March 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm

  2. Funny.. I can totally relate to this..it took me about 5 minutes to realize I had this song on my ipod and I must have listened to it a zillion times without remembering one word. It was only when I saw RHCP, did I realized how lame I was! I was just telling the other day to a friends that I can totally sing a hindi song at a karoke place even if I have listened to it just once, but I would have to download the lyrics and practice a lot if I had to do the same for an english song.I think for me its more of a mind block..I just listen to the music and dance to the beats, sometimes even sing a line..but seldom try and remember the lyrics..Maybe its all because of the reasons you mentioned, so simply because I have A.D.D..


    March 30, 2010 at 7:02 am

  3. I agree on the lyrics part! Read http://suyashss.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/toh-baap-ban-jaye/ for more details.


    March 30, 2010 at 9:17 am

  4. @snehal – join the club 🙂
    @suyash – great minds. think alike. clearly 😛


    March 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

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