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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I love cliches


Most songs have some kind of cliches in them. But some are good
and some are bad.

The way I look at it there are three types of cliches.

1. The 'lazy songwriting' cliche. Overused and bland.

ie 'Into these open arms'

2. 'Popular sayings' cliches. Words and phrases that have become part of modern language.

i.e. 'Getting by' or 'Picking up the pieces'

3. 'Cliches in waiting'. Phrases which haven't made it into the mainstream yet, but you are able to use in a song because a/ You are so hip and know about this stuff or b/ You made it up and it will become mainstream once the song is a global number one smash. Or something.

Of course it goes without saying that I can't stand number one cliches. This doesn't bode well for my radio listening pleasure as around ninety percent of songs have lines such as 'I want your love' or 'Break these chains' scattered around inside their feeble constructs. Grim.

Number twos I like a lot. I've written lots of songs based around a common phrase such as 'Getting by'. These little expressions of everyday life can hide a lifetime of pain in so few words. If someone said to you they were 'Getting by', that's also their way of saying that 'Life's really tough I can't pay the rent what's it all about I'm thinking of ending it all'. Or something. Ok, it may not be the beginnings of a death-metal song. But it could be an RnB tune about a single mum.

Number threes. The reason I include this is because it is people like us who actually create these cliches in the first place. If you write something that becomes well know, it becomes a cliche instantly. If it becomes very well know, anyone else who was to write that would immediately look like they had no imagination. Or be sued, depending on your geographical persuasion.

Creating your own cliches-to-be is great fun. Coming up with little phrases that are partly your own can really move your song idea along. They are so small and vague they can mean a variety of different things and are a great springboard for new ideas for songs.

When I'm out and about in the big wide world I am constantly listening to people talk, when the radio is on peoples turn of phrase can immediately plant a song idea in my head and the tv also is a great place to brush up on your own personal definition of 'wazzuuup'.

It's almost impossible to avoid cliches, and that's where 'taste' comes in. I won't even bother on these pages to ever try and describe what that means. However, there are only so many words in the human language that rhyme with 'maybe' and 'baby' is one of them. If cliches sound nice I always use them without worrying about it too much.

I guess the simple test is this. Be as harsh on your own material as you are with everyone else's you hear around you. And if you find yourself groaning at your own lyrics so much that you can't hear the original idea of the song, you've got bad cliches.

10:10 PM in Lyric writing | Permalink


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