I’ve been writing songs for a long time, and I’m pretty much of the mindframe that anything goes as long as it winds up sounding cool. I mean, if you can put a keytar and a tuba into a funk metal song and it’s got scat jazz vocals and it all ends up sounding awesome, well, that’s the result. It’s awesome. There should be no reductivity when it comes to music. You’d be an idiot to dislike something simply because a component of it was a style or instrument or style you’ve decided that you don’t like. Case in point, Kna’an’s song “If Rap Gets Jealous” features Kirk Hammet on guitar and is a full on rap/metal fusion song. That’s not something I generally get behind, but in the case of this song, it’s awesome, and I’d be a fool to not like it simply because of some preconceived idea about what should or shouldn’t be paired with rap or metal.
Similarly, there’s room to like parts of songs that are otherwise terrible. Take the song “last resort” by Papa Roach. The song is dumb, the band is dumb, the lyrics are stupid, the production is the sonic equivalent of a cheap plastic sports car covered in spoilers and decals, but fuck me if that main guitar riff isn’t totally FACE MELTINGLY KICK ASS. There’s just no way to deny it.
It’s finding shit like this that will ultimately make you an interesting songwriter. You should never be dismissive of something because it’s not cool. I mean, so, for example, you find that riff in Last Resort. It’s an amazing riff surrounded by poop. Well, here’s what you do, rip off that riff and put it into a song that you think is cool. That’s the fucking secret of success. To once again paraphrase Picasso, “brilliant minds create, geniuses steal.” Look at Willie Nelson, one of the greatest singer songwriters of all time. His entire vocal delivery and even guitar playing style is stolen. The way he waits, lilts until the very last possible minute, kind of singing almost slower than the beat of the music, being very, very cavalier with the idea of rhythm, that’s all stolen from Billie Holiday. He’s admitted it in interviews, and once you know that, it’s shocking how obvious it is, but the amazing thing is that since he recapitulated smooth parlor room crooning into fireside singalong/guitar soloing, it becomes its own cool thing. That’s pretty much the most important thing about making anything, songs or not. There’s really nothing that hasn’t been done, and there’s a zillion things out there that are awesome, but they definitely haven’t all been applied to whatever you’re trying to do, be it a computer game or a new way of delivering gasoline or a funk song. So yeah.
There is, in fact, only one thing in music that I can’t stand, and that’s a certain lyric that is for some dumb reason pretty pervasive in popular music. That lyric is “I don’t care.”
I think it’s fucking stupid on a lot of levels. Firstly, I deplore the idea of creative expression based on a lack of passion. That’s ridiculous. If you don’t care, songwriter, why did you write a song about it, and more to the point, why should I care? What impetus is there for me to empathize with the idea that you can’t be bothered to feel one way or the other about something? It’s stupid, it’s lazy and it’s, in general, a phrase that people constantly misuse. People say “I don’t care” when they mean “I don’t like that” all the time, and people say “I don’t care” when they mean “I’m desperately empty inside” both of which are GREAT hooks for an emotional response to a song, but “I don’t care?” fuck you, man. I don’t care either. Get out of here with your lazy gen-y songwriting bullshit.
Okay, so full disclosure, I definitely sing a song that’s out there for public consumption that prominently features the line “I don’t care.” It’s called “Sick of this Place” and it was performed by my old band, Slapstick. Here’s the thing, firstly: those lyrics were not written by me, and secondly, I was 18 when we recorded that song and it was, in fact, that very song that made me realize how much I despised that lyrical choice. I don’t know, man. I just think it’s terrible. That’s the one place where I reserve prejudice, is for songs that feature the phrase “I don’t care”. Pretty funny that I care so much about apathy, eh?
Is that galactic poetry?
Nah…grumpy old man wanna-be talk. And with that, I’m off to serve sandwiches to assholes.