Lyrics

Lyrics

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Encyclopedia
Lyrics are a set of words that make up a song
Song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist
Lyricist
A lyricist is a songwriter who specializes in lyrics. A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-composer, who composes the song's melody.-Collaboration:...

 or lyrist. The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form
Musical form
The term musical form refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, and it describes the layout of a composition as divided into sections...

, articulation
Articulation (music)
In music, articulation refers to the musical direction performance technique which affects the transition or continuity on a single note or between multiple notes or sounds.- Types of articulations :...

, meter
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

, and symmetry
Symmetry
Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection...

 of expression. The lyricist of traditional musical forms such as Opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 is known as a librettist
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

.

Lyric derives from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word λυρικός lyrikos, meaning "singing to the lyre". A lyric poem
Lyric poetry
Lyric poetry is a genre of poetry that expresses personal and emotional feelings. In the ancient world, lyric poems were those which were sung to the lyre. Lyric poems do not have to rhyme, and today do not need to be set to music or a beat...

 is one that expresses a subjective, personal point of view.

The word lyric came to be used for the "words of a song"; this meaning was recorded in 1876. The common plural (perhaps because of the association between the plurals lyrics and words), predominates contemporary usage. Use of the singular form lyric to refer to a song's complete set of words is grammatically acceptable. However it's not considered acceptable to refer to a singular word in a song as a lyric.

Poems as lyrics


The differences between poem and song
Song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

may become less meaningful where verse is set to music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, to the point that any distinction becomes untenable. This is perhaps recognised in the way popular songs have lyrics.

However, the verse may pre-date its tune
Tune
Tune may refer to:* A melody* A tune-family* A tune , a short piece of instrumental music, usually with repeating sections, and often played a number of times* British slang term, often said when referring to a piece of music that is enjoyed...

 (in the way that "Rule Britannia" was set to music, and "And did those feet in ancient time
And did those feet in ancient time
"And did those feet in ancient time" is a short poem by William Blake from the preface to his epic Milton a Poem, one of a collection of writings known as the Prophetic Books. The date on the title page of 1804 for Milton is probably when the plates were begun, but the poem was printed c. 1808...

" has become the hymn "Jerusalem"), or the tune may be lost over time but the words survive, matched by a number of different tunes (this is particularly common with hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

s and ballad
Ballad
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many...

s).

Possible classifications proliferate (under anthem
Anthem
The term anthem means either a specific form of Anglican church music , or more generally, a song of celebration, usually acting as a symbol for a distinct group of people, as in the term "national anthem" or "sports anthem".-Etymology:The word is derived from the Greek via Old English , a word...

, ballad
Ballad
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many...

, blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, carol
Carol (music)
A carol is a festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance-like or popular character....

, folk song, hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

, libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

, lied
Lied
is a German word literally meaning "song", usually used to describe romantic songs setting German poems of reasonably high literary aspirations, especially during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, and Franz Schubert and culminating with Hugo Wolf...

, lullaby
Lullaby
A lullaby is a soothing song, usually sung to young children before they go to sleep, with the intention of speeding that process. As a result they are often simple and repetitive. Lullabies can be found in every culture and since the ancient period....

, march
March (music)
A march, as a musical genre, is a piece of music with a strong regular rhythm which in origin was expressly written for marching to and most frequently performed by a military band. In mood, marches range from the moving death march in Wagner's Götterdämmerung to the brisk military marches of John...

, praise song
Praise song
Contemporary worship music is a loosely defined genre of Christian music used in contemporary worship. It has developed over the past sixty years and is stylistically similar to pop music. The songs are frequently referred to as "praise songs" or "worship songs" and are typically led by a "worship...

, round
Round (music)
A round is a musical composition in which two or more voices sing exactly the same melody , but with each voice beginning at different times so that different parts of the melody coincide in the different voices, but nevertheless fit harmoniously together...

, spiritual
Spiritual (music)
Spirituals are religious songs which were created by enslaved African people in America.-Terminology and origin:...

). Nursery rhymes may be songs, or doggerel
Doggerel
Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability in the 1630s.-Variants:...

: the term doesn't imply a distinction. The ghazal
Ghazal
The ghazal is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 6th century...

 is a sung form that is considered primarily poetic. See also rapping
Rapping
Rapping refers to "spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics". The art form can be broken down into different components, as in the book How to Rap where it is separated into “content”, “flow” , and “delivery”...

, roots of hip hop music.

Analogously, verse drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

 might normally be judged (at its best) as poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, but not consisting of poems (see dramatic verse).

Copyright and royalties

See Royalties

Currently, there are many websites featuring song lyrics (e.g. www.lyrics.com). This offering, however, is controversial, since some sites include copyrighted lyrics offered without the holder's permission. The U.S. Music Publishers' Association
Music Publishers' Association
The Music Publishers Association of the United States is a music publishing organization based in New York City. Founded in 1895, the MPA is the oldest music trade organization in the United States...

 (MPA), which represents sheet music companies, launched a legal campaign against such websites in December 2005, the MPA's president, Lauren Keiser, said the free lyrics web sites are "completely illegal" and wanted some website operators jailed.

Lyrics licenses could be obtained in North America through one of the two aggregators; Gracenote
Gracenote
Gracenote, Inc., formerly called CDDB , is a company that maintains and licenses an Internet-accessible database containing information about the contents of audio compact discs and vinyl records. It provides software and metadata to businesses that enable their customers to manage and search...

 Inc. and LyricFind. The first company to provide legal lyrics was Yahoo, quickly followed by MetroLyrics
MetroLyrics
MetroLyrics is a lyrics-dedicated website, founded in 2002. It is the highest trafficked lyrics website in the world, with 48 million+ unique users per month and 125+ million page views per month, and is the 3rd largest music site in the US and Globally...

. More and more lyric websites are beginning to provide legal lyrics, such as SongMeanings.

Many competing lyrics web sites are still offering unlicensed content, causing challenges around the legality and accuracy of lyrics. In the latest attempt to crack down illegal lyrics web sites a federal court has ordered LiveUniverse, a network of websites run by MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, to cease operating four sites offering unlicensed song lyrics.

Academic study

  • Lyrics can be studied from an academic perspective. For example, some lyrics can be considered a form of social commentary
    Social commentary
    Social commentary is the act of rebelling against an individual, or a group of people by rhetorical means, or commentary on social issues or society...

    . Lyrics often contain political, social and economic themes as well as aesthetic elements, and so can connote messages which are culturally significant. These messages can either be explicit or implied through metaphor or symbolism. Lyrics can also be analyzed with respect to the sense of unity (or lack of unity) it has with its supporting music. Analysis based on tonality
    Tonality
    Tonality is a system of music in which specific hierarchical pitch relationships are based on a key "center", or tonic. The term tonalité originated with Alexandre-Étienne Choron and was borrowed by François-Joseph Fétis in 1840...

     and contrast
    Contrast (vision)
    Contrast is the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view...

     are particular examples. Former Oxford Professor of Poetry
    Oxford Professor of Poetry
    The chair of Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford is an unusual academic appointment, now held for a term of five years, and chosen through an election open to all members of Convocation, namely, all graduates and current academics of the university; in 2010, on-line voting was allowed....

     Christopher Ricks
    Christopher Ricks
    Sir Christopher Bruce Ricks, FBA is a British literary critic and scholar. He is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University and Co-Director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, and was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford from 2004...

     famously published Dylan's Visions of Sin, an in-depth and characteristically Ricksian analysis of the lyrics of Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

    ; Ricks gives the caveat that to have studied the poetry of the lyrics in tandem with the music would have made for a much more complicated critical feat.
  • Chinese lyrics
    Ci (poetry)
    Ci is a kind of lyric Classical Chinese poetry using a poetic meter based upon certain patterns of fixed-rhythm formal types. For speakers of English, the word "ci" is pronounced somewhat like "tsuh"...

     (詞) are Chinese poems
    Chinese poetry
    Chinese poetry is poetry written, spoken, or chanted in the Chinese language, which includes various versions of Chinese language, including Classical Chinese, Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Yue Chinese, as well as many other historical and vernacular varieties of the Chinese language...

     written in the set metrical
    Meter (poetry)
    In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

     and tonal pattern of a particular song.

Riskiest search


McAfee claims searches for phrases containing "lyrics" and "free" are the most likely to have risky results from search engines.

See also



  • Lyricist
    Lyricist
    A lyricist is a songwriter who specializes in lyrics. A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-composer, who composes the song's melody.-Collaboration:...

    , a lyrics writer
  • Instrumental
    Instrumental
    An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics or singing, although it might include some non-articulate vocal input; the music is primarily or exclusively produced by musical instruments....

    , music without voice
  • Libretto
    Libretto
    A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

    , the name used for the text of traditional music forms like opera