I love words. I especially love words when they convey more than just their denotation, when they are combined to create something greater than their individual meanings. That’s why I love reading novels and short stories and poetry, and it’s why I really love song lyrics. My husband knows all too well how I will pick apart and obsess over song lyrics. Most recently, he has seen me do this over all the songs in Hamilton. I’d listen to the songs and then text him insights or phrases that grab me. My favorite song from that musical is “Burn”, and Jim said he knew it would be as soon as her heard the line, “You have married an Icharus. He’s flown too close to the sun.” And he was right (although that line actually only cemented my love for that song — the lines that actually hooked me were, “You built me palaces out of paragraphs. You built cathedrals.” To me, that is what words can do, especially when paired with music — build palaces and cathedrals.
I always wonder what the backstory is in song lyrics that catch my attention. The first song I did this with was the song “Fortress Around Your Heart” by Sting. To this day, I wonder what happened between the people in the song that caused them to separate and what he did that was so bad that she had to build a fortress around her heart.
Another song I wonder about is “The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe. I remember saying to my brother once, “I wish I knew what happened in this song,” and his response was, “I don’t know, but it was something bad.”
I have always wanted to write the backstory for “Hands Tied” by Scandal. To me, it’s such a sad song that tells a story. I once tried to write a story based on that song — and it was awful! But It allowed me to act on an urge, and maybe someday I can write a better story based on that song.
Sometimes it’s not the story but the figurative language that speaks to me. “Over When It’s Over” by Eric Church does that for me. The metaphors in that song are so relatable and evocative. I’ve thought it would be a great way to teach metaphor to students.
These are a mere sampling of my song lyric obsessions. If you’ve got any songs with lyrics worth obsessing over, I’d love for you to share them with me!