You Can’t Spell Fame Without Me

Sure a catchy title, no?

I mean its kind of right

Said before, I’m sure it’s so

But came to me tonight

 

Some day an agent reading a

Submission (one of mine)

Will finish it and be like “Shit!”

“This author I must sign!”

 

But then the intern (her name’s Pam)

Will come say “Time for lunch!”

As the agent says “Oh damn,”

Sets me back in the bunch

 

Getting back, she sits right down

And scratches her blank head

Says “Where was I?” with a frown

Then starts to tweet instead

 

Yes it funny, though its true

This tale that came to be

The future first is said like “few”

And fame, ends with a “me”

Top 10 (Word) Plays

We all know that athletes get highlight reels every week so we can see the coolest plays in a given sport in case we missed them. Well, I thought I’d show some love to the sportsmen/women of word-smithery. Anyone who’s read my work before is fully aware that I’m consumed (and possibly obsessive) over the craft, so I thought this would be a fun little exercise.

What I’ve done is combed through my playlists and such to try and listen for the cleverest uses of language. Basically the most creative puns, double entendres, rarely used words, etc. You know, stuff that makes you think “damn that was a sick line” as you rewind to hear it again.

I never paid attention to this stuff before I got into writing myself, so maybe some of you will appreciate the closer look. And obviously there are like a trillion examples I could list here, so feel free to comment if you have some of your own you like. So without further adieu (in no particular order)!

1. Post Malone – Congratulations

Everything custom like I’m at the border
If you fuck with winning put your lighters to the sky
How can I make cents when I got millions on my mind?  

I really like this dude, because he has an amazing story and worked ridiculously hard to make it. The line when he spins “how can I make sense” by using cents in reference to the money that motivated him is brilliant. It stuck out to me the very first time I heard it, and still does. Oh, and the border line (no pun intended) is a good one too.

2. NF – Real

That nurse came into my room, she told me I’m sick in the head
I’m in hip-hop’s hospital bed with a pad and a pen and a brace on my neck
They told me that I’m never leaving. Why? I am as ill as it gets

Man, NF. What do I even say about this kid? He’s just now (finally) exploding into the rap scene with his recent track Let You Down going triple platinum. The quality and nuance of his writing, coupled with his completely fresh perspective (he’s a Christian rapper who doesn’t curse, rapping about the difficult issues we all face) has placed him in my top 3 all time artists. Plus, he has the darkest backstory ever and the death of his mother is one of his most significant driving forces – precisely the situation I find myself in. This particular line, however, stood out to me because of the clever usage of “ill” as both an ailment and it’s slang interpretation. Quick note, I might actually do one of these Top 10 lists for him alone because his writing is truly on a level that very, very few people can compete with. Expect to see a lot of him in the foreseeable future.

3. Eminem – Killshot

How the fuck can him and I battle?
He’ll have to fuck Kim in my flannel
I’ll give him my sandals
‘Cause he knows, long as I’m Shady he’s gon’ have to live in my shadow

I mean come on. The feud between now-blowing-up (mainstream) newcomer  Machine Gun Kelly and Eminem is one of the most entertaining back and forth’s since Biggie and 2Pac. It’s breathed life back into hip hop, and was a much-needed non-political headline dominating news feeds just weeks ago. While MGK’s Rap Devil was a more than just a solid punch, Em’s Killshot…well, killed it. The track is jam packed with some of his best writing since the old days of Slim Shady. This reference to his original identity literally casting a shadow is simply an incredible bar. Truly great wordplay.

4. Rachel Platten – Fight Song

Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

Yeah, I know. No homo, alright? Its a good song! Anyway, Rachel’s writing in this song (which is about battling depression) is just amazing. Her meaningful lyrics probably explain why Fight Song peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top 100, doing precisely what the line here says she would do – make an explosion. What a beautiful story she can now tell, as the impact she achieved inspiring women with this song is huge.

5. Witt Lowry – Let Me Know

I guess that’s what we were taught
We open up depending on how many drinks we have bought
He wants your head and its ironic, he doesn’t care ’bout your thoughts
You’re one more drink away from drowning, feeling empty and lost

I often wonder what really it is that I offer you
At least you feel my touch, even if it’s just when I walk on you
Alone but together, we always make it less than it seems

It’s funny how if you have feelings, you’re weak, so we say less than we mean
Your hands on my chest, you whisper, “What do you want to do next?”
Our generation’s taken love out of sex, and so the question is left      

You probably haven’t heard of Witt before (if you have I applaud you for finding good music). At the moment he’s still more of an emerging YouTuber, but recently has been gaining a lot of traction; starting his first tour just last year. His writing is similar to NF’s in terms of relating to everyday struggles, but he’s a bit more brash with his language. Let Me Know is perhaps one of his hardest-hitting accounts regarding dating as it is today. Witt’s lyrics here pour out his soul’s dark, depressing, yet so bone-chillingly real reflection of how many relationships in today’s world are shallow and superficial. The title and chorus is a reference to his plea for people to share their deepest, genuine feelings with one another – rather than projecting the fake facades we’re all so familiar with. The title & chorus make this evident: if you love me, Let Me Know.

As for these verses, the first line I highlighted probably shouldn’t need much explanation as to the double meaning he achieves; one which I think will particularly resonate with women who can relate to such men. The included the second because its such a concise statement that conveys so, so much. This track hits so hard that you should check it out like, now.

Let’s call it our halftime break: YouTube: Let Me Know by Witt Lowry

6. Hailee Steinfeld & Grey (feat. Zedd) – Starving

I didn’t know that I was starving ’till I tasted you
Don’t need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo
By the way, right away, you do things to my body
I didn’t know that I was starving ’till I tasted you

This is just a really fun song. While the lyrics weren’t written by the artists, they’re still meaningful. Short and simple, that first line takes a creative spin on the concept of our appetite for love. Good writing!

7. Elle King –  Ex’s & Oh’s

I had a summer love down in New Orleans
Kept him warm in the winter, left him frozen in the spring
My, my, how the seasons go by

This is another fun one. The tune is so catchy, in fact, that its easy to overlook the nuance and depth to the writing (also not by the artist). Even the title itself is clever; playing on exes and the XXOO hug/kiss acronym. This verse here I liked because of the juxtaposition between the two seasons and relating them to her treatment of the ex. Very smart scribbling in this track.

8. Julia Michaels – Heaven

Love’s my religion but he was my faith
Something so sacred, so hard to replace
Falling for him was like falling from grace

All wrapped in one, he was so many sins
Would have done anything, everything for him
And if you ask me, I would do it again

It makes sense that Julia’s songs are full of great writing; she began her career in 2010 as a songwriter for major headliners such as Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes, Justin Beiber, and countless other pop stars. Her growth in the industry has been a heartwarming tale, as in 2017 she finally released her very own single for the first time. The smash hit Issues peaked at #11 on the Top 100, launching her from songwriter in the shadows to singer in the spotlight. Her 2018 single Heaven, featured in (the basically soft-core porn) Fifty Shades Freed, is about the love/hate effect that “bad boys” tend to have on women. The lines I pointed out showcase Julia’s amazing ability of using imagery to convey her feelings and messages. One critic even praised her skills saying that “Michaels manages to summarize the entire Fifty Shades franchise in just two lines: ‘They say all good boys go to heaven / but bad boys bring heaven to you‘”. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on moving forward.

9. The Revivalists – Wish I Knew You

I wish I knew you when I was young
We could’ve got so high
Now we’re here it’s been so long
Two strangers in the bright light

Oh, and I hope you don’t mind
We can share my mood, yeah
Two strangers in the bright light
I wish I knew you, I wish I knew you
Oh, I wish I knew you when I was young

Ugh. This is such a beautiful, yet so freakin’ sad, song. As the music video illustrates, its about two emotionally-hurting elderly people finally chance meeting at the end of their lives; immediately connecting on a visceral level. Written by a team of songwriters, the lyrics capture the full spectrum of feelings during their encounter: inexplicable elation as they spend the whole night dancing under the stars, to tear-jerking sadness felt wishing they had more time to spend together now that they’ve found the person they’ve been searching for their entire lives. Oh, and the “share my mood” line is a really cool one.

If you haven’t heard this one, definitely check it out.

10. Andrew Lloyd Webber – Damned for All Time/Blood Money

I came because I had to, I’m the one who saw
Jesus can’t control it like he did before
And furthermore, I know that Jesus thinks so, too
Jesus wouldn’t mind that I was here with you

I have no thought at all about my own reward
I really didn’t come here on my own accord
Just don’t say I’m
Damned for all time

I couldn’t write a top 10 lyric list without including Andrew. Not only because of the obvious (his use of language is incredible), but this musical has a very special place in my heart because the 1970 original was my mother’s favorite film ever. The nostalgia and memories that sweep over me when I listen to the soundtrack almost always bring a tear or two to my eye. As far as the lines I highlighted, I could just have easily pulled them from any song on the entire album, as they all have powerful wording. This one I liked because it really casts a light on Judas’s perspective, and how he genuinely wanted to do the right thing by turning in the man he idolized. What’s more, the wording reflects that Judas knew exactly how much Jesus loved and understood him, even going as far as to say he knows he will be forgiven for betraying him. Such a very strong portrayal of the depth in their relationship.

So there you have it, peeps. That’s my take on the Top 10 Plays on Words taken from my limited peek into some playlists. There’s so much more I could say, but for brevity I’ll save that for another time.

Thanks for listening, and happy writing!

The Words Behind the Words

meaning_of_music_emotion

Music.

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…