Hello all,
When it comes to song lyrics, there is a lot to discuss. I have some plans for future posts on the subject, but first, as a kind of warm-up for the later questions, I’m wondering what peoples’ favorite lyrics are. I have many, but here are a few that stand out:
From Downtown Train by Tom Waits:
“The downtown trains are full with all those Brooklyn girls. They try so hard to break out of their little worlds, but you wave your hand and they scatter like crows. They have nothing that will ever capture your heart. Theyr’e just thorns without the rose…”
And from Houses in Motion by Talking Heads:
“For a long time I felt without style or grace, wearing shoes with no socks in cold weather…”
I’d like to know peoples’ reasons, either intellectual or emotional, for remembering and loving the lyrics they do. Very curious…
Tom Waits
Talking Heads


  1. Daisy
    February 23, 2007 at 3:09pm
    I'm going to take a different tack: great lyrics from not-great songs. My favorite, from the otherwise forgettable country song "I Don't", representing the little-explored intersection of religious music and kiss-off songs: You say I should stay with you That Jesus forgives you You pray I will, but I won't The difference is Jesus loves you, I don't
  2. ruth
    February 23, 2007 at 8:27pm
    wow...I just heard "Burning Room" this week, and listened to it over and over. Great lyric. And Danielle Peck's "I Won't" knocked me out when I heard it, more like an R&B torchsong gut-punch, although I think the "Jesus forgives you, I don't" had been written by someone well-known before. The holy kiss-off! Totally agree re so many factors influencing reaction. Including comfort of seat when listening or who's humming it in your ear while slow dancing, as well as what creepy person likes the song and what felony a band member was found guilty of.
  3. Ruth
    February 24, 2007 at 12:28pm
    Something on lyrics and a question re QUALITY Final? thoughts on lyrics mattering bigtime: Bob Dylan Bruce Springsteen Joni Mitchell and rap...I mean, you can't be segmenting rap based on the how can you make distinctions without considering the content of the words? Another thought. There are plenty of Americana and alt-rock artists who sound SO similar to one another. The big distinction to me is that some write great lyrics with a particular character to them...that doesn't matter in how you program? I'm also really curious what role "quality" has in Pandora. Given that you listen to heaps of music and not everything makes the initial cut to be included on your playlists...who determines the criteria for "quality"? What standard is it based on, and is it by genre? And then once you've decided to include that the last time quality is a factor in grouping songs? If you include songs on the Billboard Top 10, even if they are truly awful, how do you justify NOT including everything else that's at least THAT good? Just curious. Or maybe I'm thinking, hm, I can point to at least some songs mine are better than...:-)
  4. Michael Zapruder
    February 24, 2007 at 12:53pm
    thanks again everyone for all the comments and cool ideas. interesting observation on great lyrics from bad songs, ashley. as for the role quality plays in pandora, we strive to be as quality-oriented as we can. the way we justify including everything on the big charts regardless of quality is that from the historical perspective, hit songs are songs that exist more or less as facts in the cultural landscape. think of something like "who let the dogs out" or the bears' "super bowl shuffle" (I'm not sure if we have that or not, but I'll check). those songs may not be great songs, but wouldn't you agree that they belong in our collection? for music that is registering on the public's consciousness in a large way (i.e., the billboard charts), we don't need to make a quality evaluation. and it turns out that those songs are also the points of entry into discovering lesser-known songs and artists, and so they belong in the collection from that perspective, too. as for evaluating the quality of unknown music, as the comments above prove, it's not a simple task. the questions we hold in mind as we listen to submission are things like: would this song be a satisfying song to discover? would this song be the worst song on a station of similar music? would it be the best? would it raise or lower the level of quality on a playlist of musically similar works? has this artist earned a place in our collection based on a solid niche fan base? there are many others of course. it's an inexact thing, and within that, we strive to include as much quality music as we can. cheers, mz
  5. Ruth
    February 25, 2007 at 7:39am
    Oh, I think that Pandora's including the charting or really popular songs as a lead-in to similar but worthy-of-being-discovered songs is a terrific service to all concerned. Still, without considering the content of lyrics in country or folk songs, it's like judging the quality of and organizing cars based on paint colors. Color's a factor, but... Truth is, though, Pandora's still better than all the alternatives!
  6. High Fye
    February 28, 2007 at 9:45pm
    A flip of the dial is this good! See the stone set in your eyes See the thorn twist in your side And I wait for you => Go lightly from the ledge babe Go lightly on the ground => I'm dancing barefoot Heading for a spill Some strange music Drags me in Makes me come off, like some Heroin/e => She runs through the streets With her eyes painted red Under black belly of cloud in the rain In through a doorway she brings me White gold and pearls stolen from the sea She is raging She is raging And the storm blows up in her eyes She will... => Just like Sister Ray said I'm searching for my mainline I couldn't hit it sideways I couldn't hit it sideways just like .... Sister Ray says => rub my nose in icing sugar smooth as when this cold and deadly blade kisses the fruit so soft and gently beating under your skin => My baby's so vain, she is almost a mirror and the sound of her name sends a another shiver down my spine => Our house, in the middle of our street Our house, in the middle of our Something tells you that you've got to move away from it => Under the Milkyway tonight => Under blue moon I saw you So soon you'll take me Up in your arms Too late to beg you or cancel it Though I know it must be the killing time Unwillingly mine => Buffalo and Bison => The sun is high up in the sky and I'm in my car Drifting down into the abattoir Do you see what I see, dear? <= Ballyhoo and Bedbugs Bedbugs and Ballyhoo (oops! It's almost this good!) Thanks PaulBobPattiPaulLouRobertNickSteveSteveIanIanNickIan
  7. MVC
    March 05, 2007 at 9:07am
    Soundgarden: "I'm raining icepicks on your steel shore." Just one of many great lyrics from the band.

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