Hit Me Baby One More Time

Usually, when people talk about musicians whose lyrics are the embodiment of poetry, people like Bob Dylan or, well, 50 Cent get all the credit. And, you know, deservedly so. But today, I thought I’d write about someone whose songs don’t typically get ranked in the same category as the aforementioned musicians. Yeah, I’m going to talk about Britney Spears.

I know, you think I’m probably joking, but I’m totally not. Because seriously — she has some really good songs! I know she doesn’t write them herself or anything, but whoever does the writing deserves some credit for the accurate capture of life itself. (Maybe it’s Barry Manilow, since he writes the songs that make the whole world sing and all.) ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman’? I feel like that every day. It’s because I’m 25.

One of Britney’s latest hits was the song ‘Toxic’. Near the beginning, she sings, “A guy like you/ should wear a warning” and who hasn’t met somebody like that? I’ve met several somebodies like that, and I can say, with total honesty, that when the song gets to the chorus,

With a taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic
I’m slipping under
With a taste of poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic

I know exactly what she means. But then, who couldn’t? Wanting what you shouldn’t, being a junkie for bad, bad love, well, it’s a story so many of us know so well.

And really, isn’t that what poetry is all about? Relating on an existential level with words? Knowing exactly what the poet means, even though you’ve never thought to say it that way before? In some way, I think it is. And have I ever thought of saying, “With a taste of poison paradise/ I’m addicted to you”? Well, not in so many words, no. But do I know what Britney means? Absolutely.

Then there’s ‘I’m a Slave 4U’, which, admittedly, I don’t relate to that much, although I’ve known some people who wished I did. But even though that song isn’t so relatable (to me), it’s easily made up for by ‘Oops… I Did It Again’ which is almost like the story of my life.


Anyway, I’d be remiss if I were to leave out the song that made Britney a superstar, because honestly, I’ve yet to find a better rendering of regret and longing in song form. That’s right. I’m talking about ‘Baby One More Time’. Come on, get the image of the schoolgirl uniform out of your head for a minute and think about this seriously. I know I’ve felt exactly like this at least once in my life:

Oh baby baby
I shouldn’t have let you go
And now you’re out of sight, yeah

Actually, more than once. Definitely. Is there a better way to say this, really?

Shouldn’t have let you go. Exactly.

But there’s more. Because I haven’t even gotten to the chorus yet! Seriously:

My loneliness is killing me
I must confess, I still believe
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

I’m kind of speechless, actually, because what else is there to say? It’s all been summed up so perfectly. Poetry. Of longing.


Those are my thoughts about a few of the (highly underrated, but admittedly totally overproduced) songs of Britney Spears. What do you think about that?

Wait, no, that’s not what I want to ask. What I want to ask is, when it comes to music, are there any songwriters who stand out to you as poets? (Please don’t even start with Bob Dylan because everybody picks Bob Dylan and so, yawn come up with someone else.) What makes their songs stand out to you as poetry? Does the poetic level of the lyrics have any bearing on whether or not you like certain musicians over others?

Come on, kids. It’s April Fool’s Day. But even though I wrote about Britney, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to answer the question.

40 Responses

  1. mis shapes mistakes
    mis shapes mistakes misfits

    Hmm. Britney. Aren’t April Fool’s jokes supposed to be done before noon?


    To answer your question (and I’m also new here so HI!) I guess my favourites would be Tom Verlaine from Television, Jarvis Cocker from Pulp, and Ian Curtis from Joy Division. Maybe even Mark Smith from The Fall, but that might be a bit of a stretch to many..

    some exerpts:

    Jarvis Cocker:

    It’s just like in the old days
    I used to compose my own critical notices in my head
    The crowd gasps at Cocker’s masterful control of the bicycle
    Skilfully avoiding the dog turd next to the corner shop
    Imagining a blue plaque above the place I first ever touched a girl’s chest
    But hold on, you’ve got to wait for the best
    You see you should take me seriously. Very seriously indeed
    Cause I’ve been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen weeks
    Smoking your cigarettes, drinking your brandy, messing up the bed you chose together
    And in all that time I just wanted you to come home unexpectedly one afternoon
    And catch us at it in the front room

    You see I spy for a living and I specialise in revenge
    On taking the things I know will cause you pain
    I can’t help it, I was dragged up
    My favourite park’s a car park, grass is something you smoke, birds is something you shag
    Take your year in Provence and shove it up your arse
    Your Ladbroke Grove looks turn me on, yeah
    With roach burns in designer dresses and thousands of tiny dryness lines beating
    Beating a path to the corner of your eyes

    Tom Verlaine:

    I remember
    how the darkness doubled
    I recall
    lightning struck itself.
    I was listening
    listening to the rain
    I was hearing
    hearing something else.

    Life in the hive puckered up my night,
    the kiss of death, the embrace of life.
    There I stand neath the Marquee Moon Just waiting,
    I ain’t waiting

    I spoke to a man
    down at the tracks.
    I asked him
    how he don’t go mad.
    HE said “Look here junior, don’t you be so happy.
    And for Heaven’s sake, don’t you be so sad.”

    Well a Cadillac
    it pulled out of the graveyard.
    Pulled up to me
    all they said get in.
    Then the Cadillac
    it puttered back into the graveyard.
    And me,
    I got out again.

  2. Ready to Die, Morphine, Reed,
    Ready to Die, Morphine, Reed, DKs

    The image-capturing lyrics of the notorious BIG’s Ready to Die defines the gangsta rap genre. Your correspondent bought the cd as a novelty item after hearing the news of the rapper’s death on Taipei radio and spotting the CD in the local Towers Record branch but never actively listened to it until recently because of lack of TV and erratic internet service now at his home. Any critique of the CD can do no justice because the CD is a concept and works as an autobiography and portrayal of life on the bottom rung of the socio-economic scale.

    After hearing the death of the lead singer of Morphine and coming upon “B Sides and otherwise” in a Taipei Towers Records, snatched it up against wife’s protests and after listening to it, was bowed over by the minimalist music but the lyrics tell a slightly warped Weltanschauung.

    Lou Reed’s Ecstacy has some good lyrics about real life love.

    All the lyrics on the Dead Kennedys’ opener are excellent satire but your correspondent never listens to the one about killing children because it’s too scary to contemplate if one has a child.

    Lyrics weren’t the choice for buying music when your correspondent was younger. The Talking Heads’ lyrics seem like word salad, as do many other pop songs. The lyrics just seemed to be something to be put in there to accompany the loud guitars and drums. Also, your correspondent was less aware then. The saccharine Top 40 love songs could make almost anyone take a vow of silence. Having only discovered jazz in the late 90s, your correspondent prefers instrumentals to the majority of lyrics.

  3. Kids today just don’t readand
    Kids today just don’t read

    and parents just don’t understand . . . who can forget

    “She had opened up three buttons on her shirt so far
    I guess that’s why I didn’t notice that police car
    We’re doing 90 in my mom’s new Porsche
    And to make this long story short, short
    When the cop pulled me over I was scared as hell
    I said, “I don’t have a license but I drive very well officer”
    I almost had a heart attack that day
    Come and found out the girl was a 12 year old run away” . . .

    Or everyone’s favorite video. .

    “Groove is in the heart
    Groove is in the heart
    Groove is in the heart
    Groove is in the heart

    The depth the hula groove
    Move us to the nth hoop
    We goin’ through to Horten
    Hears a who-ooh
    (I) I couldn’t ask for another
    (I-I-I-I-I I)
    No couldn’t ask for another
    DJ Soul (soul) was on a roll
    I’ve been told he can’t be sold
    He’s not vicious or malicious
    Just de-lovely and delicious
    (I) I couldn’t ask for another”
    (Sing it)

    i could go on for sometime here . ..
    the shaggs sang

    “The short people want what the tall people’s got
    And the tall people want what the short people’s got

    It doesn’t matter what you do
    It doesn’t matter what you say
    There will always be
    One who wants things the opposite way
    Oh, the rich people want what the poor people’s got
    And the poor people want what the rich people’s got
    And the skinny people want what the fat people’s got
    And the fat people want what the skinny people’s got

    You can never please anybody in this world”

    Kind of like opening pandoras box, no?

    In true response though I have always thought that lyric was the major part of the pop song and is a major reason I buy CD’S. I have a penchant for the quirky but a couple of artists come to mind. Joni Mitchell and the title track Turbulent Indigo, which has a dozen strong story songs.

    “You wanna make Van Goghs
    Raise ’em up like sheep
    Make ’em out of Eskimos
    And women if you please
    Make ’em nice and normal
    Make ’em nice and neat
    You see him with his shotgun there?
    Bloodied in the wheat?
    Oh what do you know about
    Living in Turbulent Indigo?

    Brash fields, crude crows
    In a scary sky …
    In a golden frame
    Roped off
    Tourists guided by …
    Tourists talking about the madhouse
    Talking about the ear
    The madman hangs in fancy homes
    They wouldn’t let him near!
    He’d piss in their fireplace!
    He’d drag them through Turbulent Indigo

    “I’m a burning hearth,” he said
    “People see the smoke
    But no one comes to warm themselves
    Sloughing off a coat
    And all my little landscapes
    All my yellow afternoons
    Stack up around this vacancy
    Like dirty cups and spoons
    No mercy Sweet Jesus!
    No mercy from Turbulent Indigo.”

    and Ani DiFranco is a poet first and a stage persona second as in

    i’ll sing you a song that starts out descriptive
    and locates a time and a place
    like a dinner table where a whole family
    is just sitting down to say grace
    an old old song that moves into action
    taking its sweet sweet time
    and waits until we all say amen
    again and again in rhyme

    it’s the story of a father and a mother
    who battle each other over nothin’
    with a couple of kids trying to figure
    which way the plot’s spinning
    who’s winning and who is bluffing

    it’s a story as common as a penny, son
    it ain’t really worth anything to anyone

    poor little sore little song
    that aches like a muscle each time that it moves
    sad little song that you play
    and you play and you play
    and you play ’til you lose
    while history is outside writing a recipe book
    for every earthly pain
    this song is inside finger painting dark swirls
    again and again and they all look the same

    cuz what if you come home from school one day
    and you find your whole family’s at war
    and there’s this ominous silence just waiting to be broken
    and there’s secret places for hiding underneath the floorboards
    and everyone seems to be bracing
    for the subharmonic thunder of the next bomb
    and everyone seems to be waiting for the cops to bust in
    with their guns drawn
    at the bleak light of dawn

    it’s a story as common as a penny, son
    i don’t think it’s worth anything to anyone

    there’s two.

  4. No DoubtI was going to say
    No Doubt

    I was going to say Tom Waits, but that’s just as bad if not worse than talking about Bob Dylan. So I decided to consider my closet-love band. I love No Doubt and love Gwen Stefani as a songwriter. I know, some people may think she’s vapid, but who other than Gwen and Andre 3000 could have lain down the raw emotion of Bubble-pop Electric? Who else could have taken it to the backseat like that? That’s some great stuff.

    Another No Doubt ditty that makes the hair on the back of my knuckles stand up is “Bathwater”:

    You and your museum of lovers
    The precious collection you’ve housed in your covers
    My simpleness threatened by my own admission

    And the bags are much too heavy
    In my insecure condition
    My pregnant mind is fat full with envy again

    But I still love to wash in your old bathwater
    Love to think that you couldn’t love another
    I can’t help it…you’re my kind of man”

    Who among us can resist the old bathwater? Certainly not this music/poetry lover!

    This next song is way heavy for me. Seriously. The last chorus is my favorite though and it goes like this:

    Now all those simple things are simply too complicated for my life
    How’d I get so faithful to my freedom?
    A selfish kind of life
    When all I ever wanted was the simple things
    A simple kind of life”

    That’s pretty much the sum of me I think. There you have it. Pop music is nectar of the Gods’ ears.

    Happy April Fool’s Day and just a reminder: my 35th birthday is Wednesday and I’ll be working that day and evening too, so everyone please go party in my place!

  5. Just Because one needs some
    Just Because one needs some fun!

    My first response was to just start in on how much I love Kris Kristofferson. I have always identified with his lyrics. Even when I didn’t even know exactly what they meant. I mean for instance Sunday Morning Coming Down was a favorite song of mine and I had no clue that it had anything to do with “coming down” off a high, because when I first heard it, I’d never been high in my life and we identify with what we know. Anyway, he’s one of my favorites…

    But in the spirit of true fun… I wanted to give a big shout out to a Michigan folk singer who really deserves proper respect. His name is Wally Pleasant. My daughter became a fan when he came to visit the local college and she and her high school buddies went to hear him. You should google him… His music is guaranteed to make you laugh and you will probably identify totally with him…

    Here are a couple samples of from his songs…

    The Day Ted Nugent Killed All the Animals

    Cause he had so much respect for wildlife
    He started tipping over goldfish bowls and chasing Bambi’s mom with a knife
    Which is the equivalent to having so much admiration for an art museum
    That you burn all the paintings as soon as you see them
    It was the day Ted Nugent killed all the animals
    The day Ted Nugent killed all the animals

    Raccoons get in the Garbage
    (Kill ’em)
    Baby seals are too cute
    (Kill ’em)
    Squirrels, yum
    (Kill ’em)
    Orangutans, wang dang that Orangutan
    (Kill ’em)

    He killed them all, big and small
    So he could put their heads up on his wall
    It was the day Ted Nugent killed all the animals

    You can quickly see why we people here in Michigan truly love Wally Pleasant.

    And there’s this one too…

    Cool Guy With a Car

    Well I’m driving down the road in my beat up Ford
    I’ve got a plastic Jesus on my dashboard
    I’m going really fast and using lots of gas
    There’s a guy behind me actually wants to pass
    So I put my foot to that accelerator
    It’s like hey man I’ll see you later

    Cause, I’m a cool guy with a car

    But my very very favorite one is
    Stupid Day Job. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the lyrics posted on the web so I could steal them and post them here. I’m a little vague at times but the lyrics sum up how most people feel about the privilege they have of going in to work every day. The chorus repeats the word “stupid” about a million times and by the time you’ve listened to it a few times you really have the right phrase for the daily grind. If I can get them… I’ll post them in a reply later on to this thread.

    Anyway, my favorite fun guy folkartist song lyricist is Wally Pleasant. Check him out!

  6. Heh. Wally Pleasant. You
    Heh. Wally Pleasant. You know, he also sang, “Bob Dylan was the first Bob Dylan, who was billed as the next Woody Guthrie.” Which is neither here nor there, but yeah. Anyway, here is my personal favorite part of “Stupid Day Job”:

    Well I drink three cups of coffee for that extra kick
    But I still feel crappy
    should’ve called in sick
    My boss says I’m late for a meeting at 10
    looks like I’ll be written up again
    Oh well, it’s just another day
    another dollar
    another nail in the coffin
    another reason to feel smaller
    Sometimes I wish I could just drive off far away
    But my lack of financial security means I’ll have to stay…

    …at my stupid day job.

  7. Well, I can pretty easily
    Well, I can pretty easily resist old bathwater, but then, I have a nearly crippling fear of germs. In any case, happy early birthday!

    (You know, there’s nothing wrong with pop music, because, in the words of Madonna, “music makes the people come together.”)

  8. Hi minfin — well, groove is
    Hi minfin — well, groove is in the heart. Though I do have to wonder about the correlation of groove’s residence in the heart and the location of the groove thing of which Peaches and Herb requested shaking. But maybe that’s just me.

    Anyway, as for your serious picks, I’d be inclined to agree. Though Ani DiFranco is one of those musicians I don’t listen to very often, every time I do, I’m always impressed and end up thinking that I should listen to her more often.

  9. Hi. Welcome to LitKicks! I
    Hi. Welcome to LitKicks! I was unaware of the pre-noon April Fool’s joke rule, but I’ll take it under advisement for next year. Heh.

    As for your picks, do you like the musicians because of the lyrics, or do you like them for other reasons, but find that once you really listen to them, the lyrics are good too? (Did that make sense?)

  10. WW, I think we listen to a
    WW, I think we listen to a lot of the same stuff. Biggie’s “Ready to Die”, anything by Lou Reed … I like your description of Talking Heads lyrics as word salad, which makes me think especially of the “Fear of Music” album in which almost every song was titled with a single noun. I don’t think David Byrne was a great lyricist, but he was a great craftsperson with words.

  11. Hmmm, Annie, I think you’ve
    Hmmm, Annie, I think you’ve provided a long-missing key to the mystery of Jamelah’s personality with the revelation of Wally Pleasant.

    That’s some name, too. I hope the guy gets famous.

  12. Bob, Robert, Chuck, David,
    Bob, Robert, Chuck, David, Ray

    I know there’s nothing highly original about calling Bob Dylan a great lyricist. It’s kind of like calling George W. Bush the president. It’s just a fact, and I’m not trying to earn any points by stating it. But I will state it because I have to: the man can write.

    Other great lyricists on my pantheon? Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead is on the list, with his earthy sense of humor and humble homespun wisdom. Chuck Berry had a novelist’s gift for detail. David Bowie’s lyrics don’t get a lot of attention, but if you think about all the Bowie songs you know you’ll realize that virtually every one of them has a distinctive lyrical message and style. Finally, a real personal favorite of mine is Ray Davies of the Kinks. I think he is a writer more than a songwriter. His melodies are catchy and fun, but he’s there to tell stories and reveal the lives of his characters. I really think his body of work amounts to genius in every sense.

    Oh yeah, and then there’s Britney Spears.

  13. The famous Wally Pleasant!
    The famous Wally Pleasant! Exactly. Actually I think he does pretty well on the college circuit. If you have any interest at all he lists his appearances on his web site. If you see he’ll be at a campus near you, then, by all means, GO! You’ll have a ball.

    Which of course, puts him up the ladder at least one rung above Britney. I don’t think she does the college lecture circuit. She’s way too busy at her new found calling as a wife (and of course her tv appearances, concerts, and all that stuff).

  14. Difficult to say… they’re
    Difficult to say… they’re kind of one in the same in many cases. In the case of pulp, it was a friend reading the above passage to me from a lyric sheet that got me into the music. that and I just think jarvis cocker is one of the better embodiments of “cool”.
    Joy Division, it was probably “love will tear us apart” that got me into them. the irony of the title and the melancholic resignment of the music made me think that there was more going on with them, so it was really both at the same time in that case.
    (the lyrics in that track I think have more to them than at first glance. listing relationship problems and symptoms, followed by a resolute “but love, love will tear us apart again” — it’s kind of like saying “but I’m sure we’ll be together long enough to make each other miserable again.”)

    Television, definitely the music first. if you have the means, find an mp3 or the newer CD release of the marquee moon album and listen to a track called “little johnny jewel”. The whole track has something witty yet unassuming about it. It wasn’t until afterward that I found out just how much influence came from (apparently) symbolist poetry & in particular Paul Verlaine, to the point that the singer of television changed his last name (Tom Verlaine). I could go on forever about music though, so I’ll stop here under the presumption that I have loosely answered your question. 😉

    As for the noon thing… that is what I was always told… maybe it’s a hoser thing. 😉

  15. Pete Townshendwhen i was in
    Pete Townshend

    when i was in high school (late ’80s) a friend introduced me to The Who and, consequently, Pete Townshend. His was the first music that I saw the depth in, especially his solo work. I always felt The Who to be the first “teen angst” band and really influenced the punk rock era — and that was a direct result of Townshend’s lyrics (belted out by Daltrey) and his vicous guitar playing (although he was never a great Clapton/Hendrix/Paige-like soloist, a fact he’s readily admitted). He also was at the forefront of experimental rock (synthesizers and computers), much like his good friend David Bowie.

    If you’ve not listened to much of Townshend aside from The Who, check out his solo albums, like “Empty Glass”, “Deep End Live” and “White City”. Also, his later concept album “Psychoderelict” which is about an era when people can put on body suits and plug into “the grid.”

  16. Why Dylan is always singled
    Why Dylan is always singled out???

    Now at the end of the day, your comments are indisputable. Those lyrics have touched you, and as a budding lyricist (I’ll admit only budding) in a band here in the UK, that is exactly what lyrics should do.

    You pick out Dylan and 50 Cent as examples of singledout lyricists. The reason for this is in my eyes simple. I’ll deal with 50 Cent first, well actually, I think that 50 Cent should be completely overlooked but thats personal opinion. The thing that singles out perhaps (in my eyes) more credible hip-hop artists such as Jay-Z, Nas and actually dare I say it (I consider the man somewhat of a comic genius) Eminem and Dylan is that they completely shifted the focus away from the Music to the Lyrics. None (perhaps Eminem) rate as high as my favourite lyricists, such as Lou Reed, Early Morrisey of the Smiths, Pete Doherty formerly of the Libertines, however when fans look at these acts work, they look first at the lyrics and then at the music. Personally I think this is a mistake. I love Dylan, but thats because I think hes a vastly underatted songwriter (in terms of music, not lyrics). but to shift this focus is so rare, certainly in terms of rock and pop that many hip-hop artists and Dylan are always going to get singled out. The majority of Miss Spears fans will love her for the simple pop hooks, rather than her lyrics, and thats simply a fact.

    For me however, lyrics are simply there to elevate music to a higher level. The music is I would have said about 90% important and the lyrics only 10%. but its these 10% that make truly truly great bands and acts. Its the combination that make lyrics so fascinating to me. Otherwise, its surely merely poetry, which much though I have been moved by many poems, does not have the same direct power as music and lyrcs do in my humble opinion.

    To recommend a ‘poet’ lyricist, that Im not sre has been mentioned, I recommend Mike Skinner – commonly known as the Streets. however this raise another important point. His first album ‘Original Pirate Material’ (don’t bother with the poorer and although I hate using this term negativly, ‘commercial second) is a brilliant depiction of what it is like to be young in Britain. There are elemnts that everybody can relate to, even when he ventures more into discussing the underworld of drugs and crime, although, lets be honest – have you been to Britain recently! Drugs are every day life, its a fact. i digress, my point is the contextuality of lyrics. Dylan’s lyrics don’t appeal to me, nor do Gangsta Rap lyrics as it is difficult for me to identify with such synchronic and diachronic variation. Basically, Dylan is 60’s America, Gangster Rap is underworld america, – neither are Britain in 2005. Which is perhaps why, pop lyrics like Miss Spears do indeed touch so many.

    Id like to finish with my personal favourite lyrics – no coincidence from my favourite song. They, like britney’s are very simple, and yet, combined with the music, catch something that moves me uncontrollably. Ironically the band in question, Oasis are often (justifiably) ridiculed for their lazy approach to lyrics.

    The song is Live Forever.

    The verse goes:

    I don’t really want to know,
    How your Garden Grows,
    Because I just wanna fly,
    Did you ever feel the pain,
    In the morning rain,
    As it soaks you to the bone.

    The two variations on the chorus are:

    ‘Maybe I,
    Just want to fly,
    Wanna live,
    Don’t wanna die,
    Maybe I just wanna breathe,
    Maybe I just don’t believe,
    Maybe youre the same as me,
    We see things they’ll never see
    You and I are gonna Live Forever.

    Maybe I,
    will never be,
    all the things I want to be,
    Now is not the time to cry,
    Nows the time to find out why,
    I think youre the same as me,
    We see things they’ll never see
    You and I are gonna Live Forever’

    I’ll let the lyrics do the talking for themselves rather than eulogise them. I guess simplicity works though! What I would say is, although the lyrics are generally intepreted to be platonic (Brother to Brother as you might expect from Oasis), I find them to be a really powerful love song.


  17. Why only early Morrissey? Or
    Why only early Morrissey? Or were you just referring to the fact that Morrissey’s heyday was a minute ago? I thought “Your Arsenal” was lyrically hot, especially in the cauldron of “Hang the D.J.”

    You know who I forgot to mention? DONALD FAGAN! He’s one of my all time favorite lyricists. It’s not just in his lyrics though. He has that same sort of gift S.M. has: he can deliver some really f-you lyrics against the backdrop of a happy, sweet-sounding melody.

  18. Leonard CohenLeonard Cohen is
    Leonard Cohen

    Leonard Cohen is a genius. I’m slowly coming around to the conclusion that he is a superior lyricist to even Bob Dylan. Maybe. I’m still thinking about it. But one thing that Cohen can do that Dylan can’t do quite as well is communicate the nature of human relationships. Cohen’s best songs have a searingly beautiful outlook on the combination of pain and joy experienced in a relationship, with or without love. And there’s more. His songs are frequently religious in tone. Like Dylan, you can approach his songs on many layers. But Cohen seems to pose a little less, and seems to hit the heart a little more. Dylan likes to fly off on lovely tangents to hit home a point or feeling. Cohen is almost the opposite – he takes the idea and burrows into it until he ends up on the other side of it. Of course, he has an unfair advantage in the poet-labelling game, since he was a published poet and author before he became a singer-songwriter in 1967. His novel ‘Beautiful Losers’ is not just brilliant, it is also completely mind-blowing. But enough yap. Here’s the proof of his genius, in his oft-covered song, ‘Hallelujah’ (compiled from his various live versions):

    Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don’t really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    You say I took the name in vain
    I don’t even know the name
    But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
    There’s a blaze of light
    In every word
    It doesn’t matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    Baby I’ve been here before
    I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you
    I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
    But love is not some victory march
    It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah

    (P.S: On an actual musical and lyrical basis combined, I’d have to say that Joni Mitchell is better than both Dylan and Cohen. But she’s mentioned elsewhere on this board.)

  19. Yes, there is Britney Spears.
    Yes, there is Britney Spears. Despite what the conspiracy theorists say. You know who else is a good lyricist? Hammerstein.

    I’m just saying, yo.

  20. Yeah, Wally Pleasant. I
    Yeah, Wally Pleasant. I don’t know that he’ll ever become famous outside of the coffee house circuit, but his song “Post-Graduate Overeducated Out of Work Blues” should be the anthem of my generation. Or something.

  21. Do you really think that
    Do you really think that about Morrisey? Personally I believe, and I believe the great man has said so himself, That after ‘the Smiths’ that was it. He’d said it all. I like his other lyrics, although I feel hes fallen off the waggon a bit lately. But the debut, surpasses them by far. Id say on lyrics alone, its quite possibly the best album of all time. So comical and yet fuck you! I tell you what though, you made me realise a certain trait amongst all the lyrics I’ve ever loved! Nonchalent, tender always couple wih that Fuck you element. With people like Morrisey the lyrics were the aggressive part and the music was soothing. Live Forever by Oasis, its the fact that its them, coming out with such heartfelt lyrics. Lou Reed is another brilliant example. Beautiful music, horrible dark lyrics, with that all important fu ingredient.

    Fagen, not that I could qualify as an ardent fan, I personally believe has had a career in complete reverse to Morrisey and Lou Reed. His solo stuff is I think, better than Steely Dan. I actually like Karmakiriad as his best album probably! I don’t know much about Steely Dan – would this be considered weird?? Only heard anything of Steely Dan because of my parents. Im only 19!

  22. I always considered Mitchell
    I always considered Mitchell and Cohen, giants that they are, part of the older generation–as they would consider me a kid–so they didn’t come up immediately on my mental radar. Their music I almost never hear now.

  23. I was really kidding about
    I was really kidding about Britney Spears. Really. Though I will admit that there are a couple of her songs on my list of guilty pleasures, I’m not actually a fan.

    In terms of music I do listen to that you mentioned, I still have mixed feelings about Eminem, though I appreciate his wicked humor, and I’ve been listening to The Libertines (Up the Bracket) lately, but I’m not sure if I like it first because of Pete Doherty’s lyrics and second because of the music itself.

    You wrote, “For me however, lyrics are simply there to elevate music to a higher level.” I think that’s true. Though there are some musicians I like because they’re so strong lyrically, even in the cases where I like the lyrics better than the music, I still think that the music is such an integral part of the lyrics’ power that I don’t know how great it would be to separate the two and sit down to read the words in a silent book of poetry. If that makes sense.

  24. A couple influences…I’m
    A couple influences…

    I’m going to jump off my Arrested Development hype for a minute and throw two guys out there. The first is Canadian producer and sometimes songwriter Daniel Lanois. Known primarily for his work on U2’s The Joshua Tree, he’s also produced Robbie Robertson’s comeback album from a few years ago (can’t remember the name), and Dylan’s Time out of Mind. I love his songs, as well, and his lyrics and moods establish an uneasy peace. From Where the Hawkwind Kills:

    “The suburb walls are closing in
    I’ve looked at you and I’ve seen you
    through your curtain

    With a naked eye from not far,
    I’ve shed a tear for you,
    a flowing fountain

    Flaming trees,
    I’m lost in fields of your hair

    From where the hawkwinds kill
    and the blood runs thin
    I’ll go now, fly I will

    From inside the gates of the stripping yard
    I can’t touch you, I can’t feel for this thunder town
    I want you now while my body is young,
    my mind is strong away from thunder town

    From where the hawkwind kills
    and the dam runs deep
    In this land of heaven, not so sweet

    I turn my back to a godless night
    I hear the mighty stranger over thunder hill

    From where the hawkwinds kill
    and the blood runs thin
    I’ll go now, fly I will…

    Over the mountain I must go
    To see the valley below
    Thunder town…”

    A second guy I really like is the Clash’s Joe Strummer, probably mainly because of the influence he had on me in my teens in the late 70s. Also, I love Ginsberg on Ghetto Defendant. From Career Opportunities, this song grabbed my clouded brain and woke me up, driving me from a glitter phase into a punk phase, from which I emerged into my own phase. Is it poetry? I don’t know, but it feels like it still:

    “The offered me the office, offered me the
    They said i’d better take anything they’d got
    Do you wanna make tea at the bbc?
    Do you wanna be, do you really wanna be a cop?

    Career opportunities are the ones that never knock
    Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock
    Career opportunity, the ones that never knock

    I hate the army an’ i hate the r.a.f.
    I don’t wanna go fighting in the tropical heat
    I hate the civil service rules
    And i won’t open letter bombs for you

    Bus driver….ambulance man….ticket inspector

    They’re gonna have to introduce conscription
    They’re gonna have to take away my prescription
    If they wanna get me making toys
    If they wanna get me, well, i got no choice


    Ain’t never gonna knock”

  25. Records..yeah, Britney’s

    ..yeah, Britney’s songs are OK. although she isn’t one of my favorites, she expresses her feelings in a so clear way that severals of her songs were used for me and my pupil of English to do the learning of the language. Besides, beyond the lyrics a little superficial of Mr. McCartney, I think that John Lennon is a big poet. George Harrison, in his songs, had the unique dexterity to express strange feelings. Here, you can find Charly Garc

  26. For the record, I have the
    For the record, I have the Talking Heads’ 1998 Stop Making Sense Special Edition CD and saw the film in the ’80s, saw Byrne when he was in Austin with the Brazilians in the early ’90s, and in ’79, missed the Talking Heads when they were filmed by 20/20 at the now-defunct Armadillo World Headquarters because I went to work so you could say I’m a fan but I didn’t listen to lyrics like I do now or else I wouldn’t have missed out on these by the Taipei band Feiwu:

    cuckoo for Coco [Lee], please be mine, please be mine!
    I spell my name with my Alphabits,
    then it sinks to the bottom!
    that’s all right ’cause I still got a box of Trix,
    then I head for the raisins.
    cuckoo for Coco, please be mine, please be mine!
    [repeat above chorus]
    see her on the TV screen
    love seeing her sing her love songs!
    Then I see hustling her maxi-pads
    and I think what’s the problem?
    [repeat all]

  27. pfff!Next you’ll be raving

    Next you’ll be raving about the lost classic, “Pressed Rat and Warthog” by Ginger Baker and Mike Taylor

    Pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop.
    They didn’t want to; ’twas all they had got.
    Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
    And pressed rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.

    Sadly they left, telling no one goodbye.
    Pressed rat wore red jodhpurs, warthog a striped tie.
    Between them, they carried a three-legged sack,
    Went straight round the corner and never came back.

    Pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop.
    The bad captain madman had told them to stop
    Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
    And pressed rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.

    The bad captain madman had ordered their fate.
    He laughed and stomped off with a nautical gate.
    The gate turned into a deroga tree
    And his pegleg got woodworm and broke into three.

    Pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop.
    They didn’t want to; ’twas all they had got.
    Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
    And pressed rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.

  28. “No bombardeen Buenos Aires,
    “No bombardeen Buenos Aires, no nos podemos defender…”. Do you remember that?

    Yes, Charly is my first one in spanish, no doubt.

  29. Bob Dylan’s TarantulaMy
    Bob Dylan’s Tarantula

    My sister in-law Robin, who lives in Philadelphia, once had a copy of “Tarantula”, which was supposed to be Bob Dylan’s foray into Prose Poetry. Although some parts of the book were pretty good, this particular literary work was hard to follow.

    I wouldn’t say he was a poet. But there were some elements of Poetry within his song writing ability. As song writers, go I was
    actually more of a fan of Donovan,
    and Arthur Lee,(Lead Singer and guitarist for Love).

  30. KKizer, did you ever read
    KKizer, did you ever read Dave Marsh’s biography of the Who? This was really illuminating in explaining the coherent philosophy that underlay everything Townshend wrote. The chapter about his attempted follow up to “Tommy”, which was called “Lifehouse” and eventually morphed into the “Who’s Next” album, was particularly interesting.

  31. ….yeah. I like your
    ….yeah. I like your favorites, but in the end, you made me laugh really!

  32. femme fatalesemerged from
    femme fatales

    emerged from shadows
    to watch
    this creature fair
    boys stood upon their chairs
    to make their point of view
    me, I smiled sadly, for a love
    I could not obey
    lady stardust sang his songs
    of darkness and dismay

    — bowie

  33. Michael McDermottgreat stuff
    Michael McDermott

    great stuff from an unsung, misplaced minstrel out of Chicago…

    “In my world of convergence
    I’m a prisoner only unto me
    While I await for the emergence
    Of the form I shall soon be
    Until then I’ll wait in the museum
    The museum of my mind
    Fate is a wall I must climb

    The hangman, he’s in the shadows
    And he’s looking for something to do
    Until we find who won the battles
    Of the evil and the true
    And the judges, they’re in recess
    Until they receive some sort of sacred sign
    Belief is a wall I must climb

    Have you ever looked at your face so much
    Until it became askew?
    Because the road that’s less traveled is the one
    That leads right back to you
    I’m frightened for I
    Fear that my lack of life is my crime
    I am a wall I must climb”

    –A Wall I Must Climb

  34. Yeah, I read that book. It’s
    Yeah, I read that book. It’s called “Before I Get Old.” Really interesting and it showed what a visionary Townshend was/is.

  35. Interestingly enough, it was
    Interestingly enough, it was spoken word with musical accompaniment. Yes, Pressed Rat and Warthog appeared on Cream’s 1968 double album Wheels of Fire. On that same album are the songs Those Were the Days and Passing the Time, also credited to Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor. The last song on the album, Toad is a Baker composition but has no lyrics.

    Here’s the song list from Wheels of Fire:

    Record One (in the studio)

    WHITE ROOM (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown) 4:56
    SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD (Chester Burnett) 4:56
    PASSING THE TIME (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor) 4:31
    AS YOU SAID (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown) 4:19
    PRESSED RAT AND WARTHOG (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor) 3:13
    POLITICIAN (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown) 4:11
    THOSE WERE THE DAYS (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor) 2:52
    BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN (Booker T. Jones/William Bell) 3:08
    DESERTED CITIES OF THE HEART (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown) 4:36

    Record Two (live)

    CROSSROADS (Robert Johnson) 4:13
    SPOONFUL (Willie Dixon) 16:44
    TRAINTIME (Jack Bruce) 6:52
    TOAD (Ginger Baker) 15:53

  36. Jim MorrisonCan’t any of you
    Jim Morrison

    Can’t any of you remember good ole Jim? “Before I die I want to hear the scream of the butterfly” – well if that isn’t poetry, what is!

  37. Marilyn MansonHey, if you can
    Marilyn Manson

    Hey, if you can do Britney, I can do Manson. Easily dismissed as pure shock rock, there’s actually something there:

    You were my mechanical bride
    A manniqueen of depression
    With the face of a dead star

    Not only does that describe one of my ex-girlfriends, it’s got all those double meanings (star meaning both celestial body and celebrity is a motif that runs throughout the album) and it’s metrically kind of cool as well.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!