What is music worth?

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Main Question or Discussion Point

What is music worth??

I was just pondering...

I'm a REALLY big music fan - I love almost every type. Although I live in South Africa, I watch the charts from around the globe just to hear what is new and what these artists are trying to say. After all, music is an artform which gives artists a platform to make their voices heard to a wide-ranging audience.

Anyway, what I wanna know is: What is all the music worth? Should we really be listening to what's being said in the lyrics of songs? When a teeny-bopper band sings about love, do we listen to them? Should we build temples to praise the literary power of Michael Stipe or Dylan? And, should we "build our lives" around the message that a song gives? A lot of people become engrossed in songs - like it was written exclusively about their particular issue. Is this wrong or what?

My viewpoint kinda comes from Oasis "Don't Look Back In Anger"

Please don't put your life in the hands/ Of a rock 'n roll band/ Who'll throw it all away
There is a paradox there, isn't it? :confused: :confused:

Any views??
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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there are great quotes in songs. I can say that i'm very much times just singing the songs in my mind, and i enjoy it. Two of my favourite quotes are
"if i'm killed by the questions like a cancer
then i'll be buried in the silence of the answers
by myself"
from the song "By myself" of Linkin Park

or "and all the routes we have to walk are blinding
and all the lights that light the way are blinding"
in the song Wonderwall by Oasis

music is fun
 
  • #3
jimmy p
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Music is my life. I found it is one of the only things that I deeply care about. I always have a CD on somewhere.

For me, a lot of the lyrics in songs I listen to, I try make connections with so that it will mean more to me. And also, I try to feel the music. To me a good artist will really connect the song and the music. With most teeny bopper songs, they sing about love but the music isnt right. A song like Poison's "Life goes on" is a good example of the mix. The lyricist wrote some moving lyrics about love when the other person is gone, which coincided with a tragedy where the guitarists long time girlfriend died in a car crash. The two linked together well and produced a powerful and emotional song.

I dont build my life around music, I build music around my life.
 
  • #4
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Shahil said:
Anyway, what I wanna know is: What is all the music worth? Should we really be listening to what's being said in the lyrics of songs?
I think it's OK to listen to music and enjoy the effects, as long as you realize they're just effects and not truths.
 
  • #5
hypnagogue
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Appreciating lyrics can only enhance your enjoyment of the music. Good lyrics are like poems set to music. You don't always have to agree with the message of a poem to enjoy it. If you want to get the full experience of the music, you should listen to the lyrics, and if they strike a chord with you, all the better-- if not, that's fine too. You don't have to model your life after art in order to appreciate art.
 
  • #6
chroot
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You can't really say what music, as an entire art form, is worth. Some music is garbage, and some music is simply awe-inspiring. Of course, different people will judge a given piece differently. And thus we get launched into the old inherent beauty vs. perceived beauty philosophical argument.

Strangely enough I don't seem very adept at understanding the lyrics in many songs. I simply can't tell what words the singer is actually saying! So I honestly rarely pay much attention to lyrics, and just enjoy the instrumentals.

- Warren
 
  • #7
MathematicalPhysicist
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chroot said:
Strangely enough I don't seem very adept at understanding the lyrics in many songs. I simply can't tell what words the singer is actually saying! So I honestly rarely pay much attention to lyrics, and just enjoy the instrumentals.

- Warren
same here.
especially in metal bands where you cant understand the singers who wish to scream out loud. :eek: :yuck:
 
  • #8
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chroot said:
Strangely enough I don't seem very adept at understanding the lyrics in many songs. I simply can't tell what words the singer is actually saying!
Aside from bad enunciation, the majority of lyrics don't actually mean anything. He mentioned Michael Stipes of REM above. Stipes specializes in lyrics that seem like they must mean something, but actually don't.

"That's me in the corner!
That's me in the
Spot
Light,
Losing my religion.
Trying to keep
my eye
on you.
But I don't think that I can
Do it.
Oh no, I've said
Too
Much.
I've set it up."

It sounds extremely pointed and meaningful, but actually says nothing at all.

I'm not sure, but I think the Beatles started this, and it's especially apparent on The White Album.
 
  • #9
hypnagogue
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A lot of Stipe's lyrics are red herrings, and that song is somewhat ambiguous, but it doesn't mean nothing at all. It's about obsession from afar, and the emotional conflicts involved (in the mold of 'Every Breath You Take'). 'Losing my religion' itself is an actual term that means something like 'at my wit's end.'

In any case, lyrics don't need to tell coherent stories to be worth listening to. The imagery the evoke or the poetic nature in which they're thrown together alone might be enough to make them worthwhile. Case in point, even if you think 'Losing My Religion' has no meaning, you can still appreciate the beautiful couplet 'The lengths that I would go to / The distance in your eyes.'
 
  • #10
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hypnagogue said:
A lot of Stipe's lyrics are red herrings, and that song is somewhat ambiguous, but it doesn't mean nothing at all. It's about obsession from afar, and the emotional conflicts involved (in the mold of 'Every Breath You Take'). 'Losing my religion' itself is an actual term that means something like 'at my wit's end.'

In any case, lyrics don't need to tell coherent stories to be worth listening to. The imagery the evoke or the poetic nature in which they're thrown together alone might be enough to make them worthwhile. Case in point, even if you think 'Losing My Religion' has no meaning, you can still appreciate the beautiful couplet 'The lengths that I would go to / The distance in your eyes.'
No, I think it actually means nothing at all. It may be that he meant for it to mean something, but if so, he didn't succeed.

I don't think he did want it to have a specific meaning, though, because the more of a rohrshach quality any song has the more people can impose their own personal meaning on it.
Many, many singers and groups do this, but he is particularly good at it. The lyrics to "Man In The Moon" are another example. The song seems like it must have such a specific meaning, but it actually doesn't mean anything in particular. It's the old Eisenstein technique: put two things together and present them to people and people will assume they are connected. Andy Kaufman, Moses, Newton. Connect the dots as you please.

Don't get me wrong. I really like alot of REM songs. I have several of their tapes. They evoke a definite mood, are imbued with an attitude, and there are definite images in the lyrics that are evocative:

"Here's a truck stop, instead of St. Peters'"

That line really cracked me up. I didn't mean to give the impression that REM was a bad group, and not worth listening to. I just meant to point out the peculiar phenomenon of how their lyrics so strongly seem to mean something, without actually meaning anything.
 
  • #11
hypnagogue
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They do mean something, even if some room is left for interpretation. Even the most vivid and straightforward piece of prose leaves things to the reader's imagination.

What conditions must be met for a set of lyrics to mean something anyway? And what makes you a better judge than any other listener, let alone the author?

I'm not taking offense to anything you're saying, I'm just puzzled over how you can insist that the song has absolutely no meaning. It might be a loose sketch, but even a loose sketch has some meaning.
 
  • #12
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hypnagogue said:
They do mean something, even if some room is left for interpretation.
This is what the concept of a rohrshach test is all about. The more room for interpretation the less meaning a thing actually has.
What conditions must be met for a set of lyrics to mean something anyway?
The authors intended audience must be able to understand it as the author intended it.
And what makes you a better judge than any other listener, let alone the author?
I didn't say I was a better judge than any other listener. I think Stipes intended for these songs to be obtuse but to seem like they weren't. I don't think he is presenting a message, but an attitude. The less specific he is about the message, the more people who can buy into the attitude.
I'm not taking offense to anything you're saying, I'm just puzzled over how you can insist that the song has absolutely no meaning. It might be a loose sketch, but even a loose sketch has some meaning.
It has a meaning in the sense that "the medium is the message". They have atmosphere and mood, but the lyrics, which seem to have some meaning just beyond your reach, don't.

If you look at "Night Swimming" and "Everybody Hurts" it's clear that he is perfectly capable of writing coherent songs, whose meaning isn't obscure. Why aren't all his songs that way? I don't think he wants them to be.
 
  • #13
hypnagogue
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Even though the song has some ambiguous lines, I think the core idea of the speaker's infatuated, unspoken obsession over an unrequiting person makes itself pretty evident. I think anyone who has the lyrics written out in front of them would be able to figure that out, provided knowledge of the colloquial term 'losing my religion.'
 
  • #14
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Consider this, Hypnagogue, consider this: the hint of the century. Consider this: the slip that brought me to my knees. What if all these fantasies come (something) around? And now I've said. Too much.
 
  • #15
hypnagogue
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I didn't say every part of the song was unambiguous. :tongue2: Consider relevant excerpts:

The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up
 
  • #16
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Those lyrics are clearly abut a boy trying to keep up with his distant, controlling father's expectations.
 
  • #17
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I'm sorry. Those lyrics are clearly about a girl in crisis over her alcoholic mother.
 
  • #18
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Whoops, wrong again. I just realized its about a father trying to deal with the shame of his daughter's bipolar disorder.
 
  • #19
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Sorry. This is obviously about a war survivor taking care of a war buddy who came back not quite right in the head.
 
  • #20
hypnagogue
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All those interpretations have a common thread, don't they? The speaker's preoccupation with a person who is unrequitingly distant, with the added complication of the speaker's being hesitant to say what's on his mind to this person. Maybe a bit abstract, but still not completely formless.
 
  • #21
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Sorry, I meant to say this song is clearly based on Les Miserable and is Jean ValJean singing about the heartless prosecutor stalking him through his life for the crime of having stolen a loaf of bread.
 
  • #22
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Sorry. I believe this is based on Kafka's The Trial where the character is held pending a trial on charges they refuse to reveal to him.
 
  • #23
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Actually, this song is clearly inspired by The Silence of the Lambs and is an expression of Clarice Starling's anxiety in her confrontations with Hannibal Lecter.
 
  • #24
hypnagogue
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Would you argue that the following piece of text is meaningless?

"Jimbo was a tall man, about 6'2". He had a big crooked nose, a handlebar moustache and a scar running from his forehead to his cheek. His hair was a shaggy mess, and his eyes shone with intensity."

Pretty straightforward in its meaning, right? Nonetheless, you could draw infinitely many portraits of Jimbo that follow that description. Words don't have to be so precise as to rule out all but one interpretation in order to be meaningful. They just need to provide some set of constraints on the interpretation. A meaningless lyric would set no constraints on the interpretation. Clearly, however, we can't interpret this song as being about a happy cat enjoying his meal, or even a scorned lover who comes to reconcile his differences with his love. Any interpretation must fit the general constraint of a speaker who is obsessed with a certain person who is emotionally distant from him, but who hesitates to express what he wishes to say, and so on. There is a story going on here, even if it is painted in very high level terms without specifying the particulars.
 
  • #25
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I agree that there are billions and billions of interpretations we could rule out, such as the happy cat, but that still doesn't necessarily get us an idea of what it does mean.

I don't get your obsessed lover interpretation from it at all. The specific part you quoted is the closest to that, but every other interpretation I suggested for those lines fits just as well. If we include the rest of the lyrics, the part you quoted just becomes more ambiguous. I have always had the impression that the person speaking in the part you quoted was afraid of the "you" he addresses, the way one is afraid of someone dangerously unpredictable. To me the "you" is not someone the speaker wants to possess, but an emotional burden they wish would clear up: a monkey on their back. The relationship of a lover, or would be lover never occured to me.

I agree there are parameters built into the song such that we can rule tons of things out. But I don't agree with you on what can be ruled in. That being the case, and since we are neither of us insensitive to language I think it is because Stipes knows how to write lyrics that sound like they mean much more than they actually do.
 

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