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!