Do you listen to lyrics or music?

Surprisingly for someone who loves words, I never listen to song lyrics. I know they are like poetry, yet for me it is always about the beat and rhythm. People in my classes often ask me what certain lyrics mean, and I had no idea what the words to different songs are. Even really emotional songs (like Black by Pearl Jam) reach me because of the music rather than the lyrics.

Writing this, the only lines I can remember to songs are some lines from The River by Bruce Springsteen, and with all the changing seasons of my life
Maybe I’ll get it right next time 
from Estranged by Guns ‘n Roses.

I wonder what percentage of people listen to the music rather than the lyrics, and vice versa? I wonder if there is any reason for that?

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

5 thoughts

  1. I’ve always loved a good tune, but will try to learn the lyrics to songs with a good tune and lyrics. Now in my late 60’s I can still sing along with every Beatles song, Rolling Stones and Doors songs from the 60’s not so much. I still enjoy listening to instrumental tracks as much as when I was in my tens and teens.

  2. I love song lyrics. As a teenager I bought those monthly publications in the UK that gave the lyrics of songs in the charts. I hate songs where the lyrics are impossible to catch. That said, I also like classical music – orchestras or single instruments – and the music is definitely the main interest in some pop songs such as Ultravox’s “Vienna”.

  3. I do both, I tend to listen to a song for years & sing along phonetically, but now with Spotify & Bandcamp, I’m discovering lots & lots of lyrics to songs I never knew what they were saying. The most fun for me are songs in languages I don’t speak & seeing how the word/phrase structures are so massively different from what I expect them to be. It’s always surprising how few mondegreens I actually have with songs I listen to over & over.

    That said, I have zero musical understanding beyond “i like sproingy bass sounds and bloops” and have synesthesia with music, so it’s not just hearing music for me. It’s very physical. I wasn’t able to listen to any music for several years when I was exceptionally ill & bedridden. I didn’t have the bandwidth for it. Now I’m doing so much better, I’m almost *hungry* for music, though most of what I’m listening to & experiencing live doesn’t have primary vocals.

    1. Totally with you on songs in other languages. One of my favourites is Jacques Brel singing “Marike”. I have a long-standing love of Julien Clerc’s music though I can only semi-understand what is going on.

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