March 19, 2012
At a recent professional development session, we were discussing what qualifies as "text." It came as no surprise that all participants agreed song lyrics qualified. And why not? Well-written song lyrics exemplify clear, concise writing. In a few short lines, the lyricist defines entire relationships much the way the picture-book author has to convey an entire story-arc in thirty-two pages. Both types of writing require a certain economy of text that forces the writer to choose only the most precise words. Taylor Swift is excellent at this. Cheryl Klein has pointed out that in Ms. Swift's lyric, "You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter," we learn about three people and two relationships in one line. That's a lesson in writing we all could learn.
I was thinking about this, and lyrics as text in general, when I was driving and Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know came on the radio. I wondered, is this a better break-up song than Natalie Cole's classic, Someone That I Used to Love? Is it just a copy?