The Art Of Great Lyrics

They say the music you grow up with stays with you for the rest of your life. If these studies are correct, I need to pray every day for the kids growing up with Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and the new flavor of the day. I’ll give Demi Lovato a pass for my own kid’s sake, not necessary because she doesn’t belong on the list. It just keeps me from debating music theory with my kid, which is a losing battle at home. And even I admit a little GaGa and Pit Bull in doses isn’t too bad.

I do believe these supposed studies may have merit. When Bon Jovi and Axl Rose start wailing on 80s weekend radio, I do seem to know all the lyrics. Take me down to Paradise City baby, well you know the rest. Heck, I’d probably fail a high school chemistry test today. But I can remember all of these songs.

On a long road trip to Michigan, my wife and I were belting out Bad Medicine. You know, “There ain’t no doctor that can cure my disease.” This song has some of the worst lyrics ever written. There is a reason Jon works in classic songs when he plays this on the road these days. It needs true classic rock to save it. My kid just looked at us and shook his head. He was right. It was pathetic. Still, I love it because they are also the best lyrics ever written. Take that, children of the next generation. Yeah, I’m being hypocritical.

There is another phenomenon that takes over in music. When you have success, a hundred copycat bands follow. I also know most of the lyrics to Def Leopard, Quiet Riot, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Poison, Metallica, and name the other band of your choice from the era. Eventually, you have so many bands who have the same sound differentiation becomes impossible. Then, a new era comes along and ends it for everyone. Smells Like Teen Spirit was the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs of 80s music. I heard Curt Cobain on the radio today. It did make me a little sad. It’s terrible to see a star shine a bit too bright and burn out early. My kid asked who he was and if he would have a new album out anytime soon. Sadly, we won’t. We’re only left with the occasional B Side which may indeed show itself one day. Sometimes life is unexplainable.

Then, we have the bands who do their thing. These are the true greats. My kid asked me who the Counting Crows sound like. Well, the answer is they sound like the Counting Crows. They will never be accused of having cliché lyrics. Adam Duritz was two credits shy of completing a degree in English at Berkley. The lyrics are layered. It makes great music. It’s a shame we haven’t had an original Counting Crows album in six years. This is also a blessing. There is no influence from the flavor of the day.

Somewhere Under Wonderland marks a return for the band. I’ve been listening to the first four songs for the past week (Yes, it was an early iTunes release). They are some of the best from the band. I listened to the rest this week. I didn’t think they could get better. Really, Palisades Park and God of Ocean Tides are works of art. Then, I listened to Possibility Days, the last and best song on the album. I replayed it five straight times. Rarely, has there been a song like this. You can hear the pain in Duritz’s voice. If you haven’t heard Rain King from New Amsterdam Live at Heineken Music Hall (one of the truly great live albums), take a listen. You can hear the same undertones in his waving voice here. The lyrics, piano and haunting voice create a blend that makes the perfect song. As a side note, all of the Counting Crows concerts of this summer are now available on their website. I don’t get to see as many concerts as I used to-it’s good to have the opportunity to at least listen in for a bit.

Now, if you really want to understand pain, there is also Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album. My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me, tell me where did you sleep last night. In the pines, in the pines where the sun don’t ever shine … I’m not sure where Courtney Love was the night before, but Curt surely wasn’t happy about it. I can tell he asked her just like that too. Hard to believe he was wearing a grey cardigan at the time. He looked almost too calm before getting going. True emotion.

After you listen to Possibility Days five times over, you will want to make that phone call to say I love you or how much you miss someone just to finish the day. Make it great. Don’t let it slip away. Now, that is a message in music. Enjoy the album because it is outstanding. We haven’t heard new music from the Crows in years. And there are few albums made like this one out in the wild these days. True artists are few and far between. Lyrics are a thing of the beauty and the music ain’t too bad either.