Lyrics are words that make up a song usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended musical composition such as an opera are, however, usually known as a "libretto" and their writer, as a "librettist". The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of expression. Rappers can also create lyrics (often with a variation of rhyming words) that are meant to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung.
"Lyric" derives via Latin lyricus from the Greek λυρικός (lyrikós), the adjectival form of lyre. It first appeared in English in the mid-16th century in reference, to the Earl of Surrey's translations of Petrarch and to his own sonnets. Greek lyric poetry had been defined by the manner in which it was sung accompanied by the lyre or cithara, as opposed to the chanted formal epics or the more passionate elegies accompanied by the flute. The personal nature of many of the verses of the Nine Lyric Poets led to the present sense of "lyric poetry" but the original Greek sense—words set to music—eventually led to its use as "lyrics", first attested in Stainer and Barrett's 1876 Dictionary of Musical Terms. Stainer and Barrett used the word as a singular substantive: "Lyric, poetry or blank verse intended to be set to music and sung". By the 1930s, the present use of the plurale tantum "lyrics" had begun; it has been standard since the 1950s for many writers. The singular form "lyric" is still used to mean the complete words to a song by authorities such as Alec Wilder, Robert Gottlieb, and Stephen Sondheim. However, the singular form is also commonly used to refer to a specific line (or phrase) within a song's lyrics.
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The differences between poem and song may become less meaningful where verse is set to music, to the point that any distinction becomes untenable. This is perhaps recognised in the way popular songs have lyrics.
However, the verse may pre-date its tune (in the way that "Rule Britannia" was set to music, and "And did those feet in ancient time" has become the hymn "Jerusalem"), or the tune may be lost over time but the words survive, matched by a number of different tunes (this is particularly common with hymns and ballads).
Possible classifications proliferate (under anthem, ballad, blues, carol, folk song, hymn, libretto, lied, lullaby, march, praise song, round, spiritual). Nursery rhymes may be songs, or doggerel: the term doesn't imply a distinction. The ghazal is a sung form that is considered primarily poetic. See also rapping, roots of hip hop music.
Analogously, verse drama might normally be judged (at its best) as poetry, but not consisting of poems (see dramatic verse).
In Baroque music, melodies and their lyrics were prose. Rather than paired lines they consist of rhetorical sentences or paragraphs consisting of an opening gesture, an amplification (often featuring sequence), and a close (featuring a cadence); in German Vordersatz- Fortspinnung -Epilog.For example:
When I was a child, [opening gesture] I spoke as a child, [amplification...] I understood as a child, [...] I thought as a child; [...] But when I became a man, I put away childish things. [close] - 1 Corinthians 13:11
In the lyrics of popular music a "shifter"is a word, often a pronoun, "where reference varies according to who is speaking, when and where", such as "I", "you", "my", "our". For example, who is the "my" of "My Generation"?
Currently, there are many websites featuring song lyrics. This offering, however, is controversial, since some sites include copyrighted lyrics offered without the holder's permission. The U.S. Music Publishers' Association (MPA), which represents sheet music companies, launched a legal campaign against such websites in December 2005. The MPA's president, Lauren Keiser, said the free lyrics web sites are "completely illegal" and wanted some website operators jailed.
Lyrics licenses could be obtained worldwide through one of the two aggregators: LyricFind and Musixmatch. The first company to provide licensed lyrics was Yahoo!, quickly followed by MetroLyrics. More and more lyric websites are beginning to provide licensed lyrics, such as SongMeanings and LyricWiki.
Many competing lyrics web sites are still offering unlicensed content, causing challenges around the legality and accuracy of lyrics.In the latest attempt to crack down unlicensed lyrics web sites a federal court has ordered LiveUniverse, a network of websites run by MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, to cease operating four sites offering unlicensed song lyrics.
Lyrics can be studied from an academic perspective. For example, some lyrics can be considered a form of social commentary. Lyrics often contain political, social, and economic themes—as well as aesthetic elements—and so can communicate culturally significant messages. These messages can be explicit, or implied through metaphor or symbolism. Lyrics can also be analyzed with respect to the sense of unity (or lack of unity) it has with its supporting music. Analysis based on tonality and contrast are particular examples. Former Oxford Professor of Poetry Christopher Ricks famously published Dylan's Visions of Sin, an in-depth and characteristically Ricksian analysis of the lyrics of Bob Dylan; Ricks gives the caveat that to have studied the poetry of the lyrics in tandem with the music would have made for a much more complicated critical feat.
A 2009 report published by McAfee found that, in terms of potential exposure to malware, lyrics-related searches and searches containing the word "free" are the most likely to have risky results from search engines, both in terms of average risk of all results, and maximum risk of any result.
Beginning in late 2014, Google changed its search results pages to include song lyrics. When users search for a name of a song, Google can now display the lyrics directly in the search results page.When users search for a specific song's lyrics, most results show the lyrics directly through a Google search by using Google Play.
"Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written in 1772 by English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725–1807). Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He had grown up without any particular religious conviction, and was conscripted into service in the Royal Navy. After leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy. This moment marked his spiritual conversion but he continued slave trading until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether. He then began studying Christian theology.
Alcaeus of Mytilene was a lyric poet from the Greek island of Lesbos who is credited with inventing the Alcaic stanza. He was included in the canonical list of nine lyric poets by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria. He was a contemporary and an alleged lover of Sappho, with whom he may have exchanged poems. He was born into the aristocratic governing class of Mytilene, the main city of Lesbos, where he was involved in political disputes and feuds.
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word hymn derives from Greek ὕμνος (hymnos), which means "a song of praise". A writer of hymns is known as a hymnist. The singing or composition of hymns is called hymnody. Collections of hymns are known as hymnals or hymn books. Hymns may or may not include instrumental accompaniment.
A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetition and variation of sections.
A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.
Lyric poetry is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. It is not equivalent to song lyrics, though they are often in the lyric mode. The term derives from a form of Ancient Greek literature, the lyric, which was defined by its musical accompaniment, usually on a stringed instrument known as a lyre. The term owes its importance in literary theory to the division developed by Aristotle between three broad categories of poetry: lyrical, dramatic, and epic.
Chinese poetry is poetry written, spoken, or chanted in the Chinese language. While this last term comprises Classical Chinese, Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Yue Chinese, and other historical and vernacular forms of the language, its poetry generally falls into one of two primary types, Classical Chinese poetry and Modern Chinese poetry.
"John Brown's Body" is a United States marching song about the abolitionist John Brown. The song was popular in the Union during the American Civil War. The tune arose out of the folk hymn tradition of the American camp meeting movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. According to an 1890 account, the original John Brown lyrics were a collective effort by a group of Union soldiers who were referring both to the famous John Brown and also, humorously, to a Sergeant John Brown of their own battalion. Various other authors have published additional verses or claimed credit for originating the John Brown lyrics and tune.
The "Battle Hymn of the Republic", also known as "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" outside of the United States, is a lyric by the abolitionist writer Julia Ward Howe using the music from the song "John Brown's Body". Howe's more famous lyrics were written in November 1861 and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. The song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of the age with the American Civil War. It is an extremely popular and well-known American patriotic song.
Contemporary worship music (CWM), also known as praise and worship music, is a defined genre of Christian music used in contemporary worship. It has developed over the past 60 years and is stylistically similar to pop music. The songs are frequently referred to as "praise songs" or "worship songs" and are typically led by a "worship band" or "praise team", with either a guitarist or pianist leading. It has become a common genre of music sung in many churches, particularly in charismatic or non-denominational Protestant churches with some Roman Catholic congregations incorporating it into their mass as well.
A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in poetry; the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the villanelle, the virelay, and the sestina.
"On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at" is a folk song from Yorkshire, England. It is sung in the Yorkshire dialect, and is considered the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire. According to tradition, the words were composed by members of a church choir on an outing to Ilkley Moor near Ilkley, West Yorkshire.
Strophic form – also called verse-repeating form, chorus form, AAA song form, or one-part song form – is a song structure in which all verses or stanzas of the text are sung to the same music. The opposite of strophic form, with new music written for every stanza, is called through-composed.
Anacreon was a Greek lyric poet, notable for his drinking songs and erotic poems. Later Greeks included him in the canonical list of nine lyric poets. Anacreon wrote all of his poetry in the ancient Ionic dialect. Like all early lyric poetry, it was composed to be sung or recited to the accompaniment of music, usually the lyre. Anacreon's poetry touched on universal themes of love, infatuation, disappointment, revelry, parties, festivals and the observations of everyday people and life.
Song structure is the arrangement of a song, and is a part of the songwriting process. It is typically sectional, which uses repeating forms in songs. Common forms include bar form, 32-bar form, verse–chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the 12-bar blues. Popular music songs traditionally use the same music for each verse or stanza of lyrics. Pop and traditional forms can be used even with songs that have structural differences in melodies. The most common format in modern popular music is introduction (intro), verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and outro. In rock music styles, notably heavy metal music, there is usually one or more guitar solos in the song, often found after the middle chorus part. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or a solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.
Parody music, or musical parody, involves changing or copying existing musical ideas, and/or lyrics, or copying the particular style of a composer or performer, or even a general style of music. Although the intention of a musical parody may be humour, it is the re-use of music that is the original defining feature.
Poetry as an art form predates written text. The earliest poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, employed as a way of remembering oral history, genealogy, and law. Poetry is often closely related to musical traditions, and the earliest poetry exists in the form of hymns, and other types of song such as chants. As such poetry is a verbal art. Many of the poems surviving from the ancient world are recorded prayers, or stories about religious subject matter, but they also include historical accounts, instructions for everyday activities, love songs, and fiction. Many scholars, particularly those researching the Homeric tradition and the oral epics of the Balkans, suggest that early writing shows clear traces of older oral traditions, including the use of repeated phrases as building blocks in larger poetic units. A rhythmic and repetitious form would make a long story easier to remember and retell, before writing was available as a reminder. Thus many ancient works, from the Vedas to the Odyssey, appear to have been composed in poetic form to aid memorization and oral transmission, in prehistoric and ancient societies. Poetry appears among the earliest records of most literate cultures, with poetic fragments found on early monoliths, runestones and stelae.
Jewish music is the music and melodies of the Jewish people. There exist both traditions of religious music, as sung at the synagogue and domestic prayers, and of secular music, such as klezmer. While some elements of Jewish music may originate in biblical times, differences of rhythm and sound can be found among later Jewish communities that have been musically influenced by location. In the nineteenth century, religious reform led to composition of ecclesiastic music in the styles of classical music. At the same period, academics began to treat the topic in the light of ethnomusicology. Edward Seroussi has written, "What is known as 'Jewish music' today is thus the result of complex historical processes". A number of modern Jewish composers have been aware of and influenced by the different traditions of Jewish music.
Political verse, also known as decapentasyllabic verse, is a common metric form in Medieval and Modern Greek poetry. It is an iambic verse of fifteen syllables and has been the main meter of traditional popular and folk poetry since the Byzantine period.
Greek lyric is the body of lyric poetry written in dialects of Ancient Greek. It is primarily associated with the early 7th to the early 5th centuries BC, sometimes called the "Lyric Age of Greece", but continued to be written into the Hellenistic and Imperial periods.
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