Wed 5 Mar 2008
Everyone has a talent or two, some are pretty mediocre at best such as being able to remember certain “entertaining” facts which they can bring up at every available opportunity while others may be good at sports which enables them to entertain others and earn a fortune in the process.
This ability must rank pretty high on the list of best talents to have, but for me the best gift to have must be the ability to write songs and music.
Imagine you have done something wrong to upset a loved one, the next night you are due to play a concert in front of several thousand people including that loved one, so you whip up a new tune to show them what they mean to you and you are sorry - what better way to apologise?
Similarly you find the love of your life, or have a baby and suddenly you have a new song or indeed a whole album of material waiting there - and having songs written about you (assuming they show you in a good light!) must be the best feeling in the world.
I love songs that have a meaning or a story behind them - I’d much rather listen to a song that gives you an insight into how the singer was feeling at that time, then some load of pop-py trash.
Bands like Oasis are probably best known for their big songs like Rock n Roll Star, Cigarettes and Alcohol, etc but personally my favourites are the stripped out songs with words that actually mean something like Half The World Away, Talk Tonight and Sad Song.
Invariably these songs are also the most heartfelt and therefore also the ones which usually show the saddest of emotions - it seems easier to write a meaningful song explaining why you are sad or upset rather than full of joy for some reason!
One song that goes against the grain is Flowers in the Window by Travis which explains singer Fran Healey’s joy at his wife’s impending pregnancy, but the majority of songs that strike a chord with me seem to be the sadder ones. Not that they make me feel sad as such, it’s hard to explain but I can almost empathise with them for some reason and understand the whole point behind the song.
A lot of songs in the charts these days seem to be all about the music (which is important), and the lyrics are a bit of an afterthought, especially in dance music, so it’s refreshing when someone comes along and has something real to say.
The band who have fulfilled this, for me at least, in recent years would be Keane, with their second album Under The Iron Sea in particular. The friendship between the band members was strained to say the least during the lead up to recording and that is reflected in the lyrics to several songs on the album. The main writer, Tim Rice-Oxley, is not the lead singer in this case and most of his anger and frustrations are pointed at the singer, Tom Chaplin - it must be really strange for Tom to be singing words which were initially intended to be directed at him.
The standout track lyrically and musically is Hamburg Song although this is in no way commercial hence it not being released as a single, but there are several songs on the album which really are excellent - Tim’s songwriting is well above most others at the moment.
Another album I listened to again lately was Snow Patrol’s latest offering and again there are several songs on there which have really strong lyrics. Chasing Cars is a very powerful song, and was a pretty big hit when released as a single with it being one of the rare songs which fits into both categories of being excellently written and also commercial.
It was actually listening to their song You Could Be Happy that made me think songwriting must be the greatest gift. At first listen it seems to be a lovely little song with a great tune and pleasing melody to the lyrics, but on closer listen it turns out to be a very thought provoking and powerful song.
Hopefully the writer, Gary Lightbody, hasn’t really been through as many disasterous relationships as his songwriting would suggest!