The Words Behind the Words



Its one of our culture’s greatest creations. I think we can all agree that music can truly change the way we feel and perceive the world around us. It can be a catchy tune, somber melody, emotionally resounding lyrics or one of the many other components of a song –  our moods can shift like the ocean tide when we absorb good music.

Before I began my pursuit of a writing career, in hindsight I must admit that I never truly appreciated the creations of artists. Now though, my view of music has drastically evolved. For one, after entering the world of the arts, I discovered a newfound respect for anyone in the creative arena. We all know that creative endeavors aren’t easy, requiring a lot of thought and time – but my level of admiration has grown enormously now that I myself can empathize with the amount of passion, discipline, and commitment that these individuals maintain to provide us with the better things in life. More specifically as a writer, I’ve noticed, is that I now pay particular attention to song lyrics. I make every attempt to not only appreciate the words, but to genuinely perceive their purpose. Perhaps this sounds tacky, but there have been more times than I can count where I have literally been physically impacted when the meaning of a song finally clicks. Its a phenomenon very difficult to describe if one hasn’t experienced it themselves, so if you’d like a better explanation of what I’m referring to, Google the “Stendhal Effect”. Unless this has happened to you as well, of course.

In light of these points, I’d like to use this post as a running project to highlight some of the most significant lyrics I come across. My plan is to point out individual lines or verses that resound more than the rest. The ones that allow an artist’s real, unfiltered feelings to be viscerally exposed. On occasion I might add commentary to explain why I selected a specific lyric, but generally the words should speak for themselves.

So let’s get started.


Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

Oh, but everybody thinks that everybody knows about everybody else.
Nobody knows anything about themselves, cause their all worried about everybody else.

Jack Johnson – Wasting Time

I have to comment here because of how powerful Jack’s writing is. Despite being known for whimsical hits like Bubble Toes, Banana Pancakes, and so on, Johnson is (IMO) one of the most somber, deeply insightful artists to have ever lived. If you read his lyrics, you’ll quickly notice his heart-wrenching views on humanity and how badly he wants a better world. Incidentally, he is constantly involved in philanthropy and other charitable endeavors. Truly one of the most genuine, good people we have.

You’ll be seeing a lot of him as this list goes on.

The message I stress: to make it stop, study your lessons
Don’t settle for less, even the genius asks his questions
Be grateful for blessings
Don’t ever change, keep your essence
The power is in the people and politics we address

Tupac Shakur – Me Against the World

One of rap’s greatest lyricists ever. The passion in his message is insanely deep.

Its a beautiful day,
Don’t let it get away.

U2 – Beautiful Day

Simple, right?

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight

Losing my religion,
Trying to keep up with you

And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough.

R.E.M. – Losing My Religion

I am so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin’ natural, like afro on Richard Pryor.

Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

Another lyrical poet. Even though every rapper EVER brags about how “real” they are…Kendrick actually is. Mad respect for him and a huge personal inspiration.

Won’t admit what I already know
I’ve never been the best at letting go
I don’t wanna spend the night alone
Yes, I need you, and I need to.

Zedd feat. Alessia Cara – Stay

Because who couldn’t empathize with that?

There’s something in the stars, there’s something missing
We’re better off apart, cause I’m out here wishin’
That we can make it right, make it feel good
I’m running out of time, I’m running out of lies

Tell me lies
Fairytales of you and I
Tell me we can make it right
Pretend we’ll never die
Pretend we’re not telling lies

Tell Me Lies – Deorro

A depressingly real song about the dynamic of so many relationships. Check this one out if you have time, its actually a pretty cool tune.

Insidious is blind inception
What’s reality with all these questions?
Feels like I missed my alarm and slept in 
Broken legs but I chase perfection
These walls are my blank expression
My mind is a home I’m trapped in
And it’s lonely inside this mansion

Yo my mind is a house with walls covered in pain
See my problem is I don’t fix things
I just try to repaint

Cover ’em up, like it never happened
Say I wish I could change. Are you confused?
Come upstairs and I’ll show you what I mean

This room’s full of regrets, just keeps getting fuller it seems
The moment I walk in to it is the same moment that I wanna leave
I get sick to my stomach every time I look at these things
But it’s hard to look past when this is the room where I sleep

And I regret the fact that I struggled trying to find who I am
And I lie to myself and say I do the best that I can
Shrug it off like it ain’t nothing like it’s out of my hands
Then get ticked off whenever I see it affecting my plans

NF – Mansion

NF is a young Christian rapper whose up and coming. This entire song is ridiculously heartfelt, and tells the story of how a history of being abused in a broken home led to his tortured mind. Google the lyrics – your jaw will drop at how creative and powerful his writing is. The song is bad ass too.

Oh there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Money don’t grow on trees
I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed
There ain’t nothing in this world for free
Oh no, I can’t slow down, I can’t hold back
Though you know, I wish I could
Oh no there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good

Cage the Elephant – Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

This song is why the original Borderlands has one of gaming’s best trailers.

I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure
Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major

Lukas Graham – 7 Years

I absolutely love this line.

I’m fresh to death, I’m in the zone
I checked my head, but no one’s home
The mood is right, the party’s on
Looks like tonight, I’ll be drinking alone
Fuck everyone else, I’mma party by myself
Do this shit all night, I don’t need nobody else
Fuck everyone else, I’mma party by myself
Higher than a kite with nobody but myself

Blowing up my cell but I don’t think I’mma answer!

Party by Myself – Hollywood Undead

Because this song is hilarious and great for the pregame while you’re getting ready.

Why don’t the newscasters cry when they read about people who die? 
At least they could be decent enough to put just a tear in their eyes 
Mama said 
It’s just make believe 
You cant believe everything you see 
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies 
On the news tonight

Jack Johnson – The News

This song is about how much BS “the world” feeds us, and how its numb to the real atrocities occurring throughout.

Slow down everyone 
You’re moving too fast 
Frames can’t catch you when 
You’re moving like that 

Jack Johnson – Inaudible Melodies

I assume that third line is a metaphor for how we live so fast-paced that we’d show up blurry on a photograph (pretty creative analogy). But his point is to slow down, relax, and enjoy life. Good advice.

Ever since I been alone I’ve been thinking back
Listenin’ to your autotune in my mike-phone making us laugh
You know the past was a blast but it never could last
Pretty sad when your love got a separate path
Used to read when there’s nothing to do
But it’s funny, doing nothin’s never nothin’ when it’s somethin’ with you

Lil’ Dicky – Molly

People know Dicky for being the “funny” rapper (a white Jewish kid, go figure lol). But this is one of few “serious” songs, and its sad AF. Its about the girl he loved and dated prior to his rise to fame, and how it destroyed their relationship. Its clear how much she meant (and still means) to him when you read the lyrics. That last line though…

Brendon Urie’s part is amazing, on a side note (lead singer of Panic! At the Disco).

Everyone knows what went down
Because the news was spread all over town
And fact is only what you believe
And fact and fiction work as a team
It’s almost always fiction in the end
That content begins to bend
When context is never the same 

I was reading a book 
Or maybe it was a magazine 
Suggestions on where to place faith 
Suggestions on what to believe 
But I read somewhere 
That you’ve got to beware 
You can’t believe anything you read 
But the good Book is good 
And that’s well understood 
So don’t even question 
If you know what I mean 

Jack Johnson – It’s All Understood

This song is about the prevalence of gossip a superficiality in pop culture, and how most of what people believe is grounded in baseless rumor. Just another one of his sad observations of the world. And not to critique religion, but I like how that last line (which is brilliantly delivered as if it were an ellipses) is a subtle slight to blind faith.


Thanks so much for reading!

To be continued…

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