Music or lyrics?

Publication date: September 17, 2015.

Listen to your favorite song and really focus on what you hear. Which musical element hits you first, the instrumentals or the lyrics? Which one do you connect with more? For years people have debated over the importance of lyrics to music and vice versa.

Earlier this week in his Writing about Music class, Professor Tartaglia asked, “what would music be without lyrics? Would taking away the lyrics change the song completely?”

I found myself pondering this question for the rest of the day and decided to ask fellow Albrightians their opinions.

Maybe it’s because I am a fan of lyrics, but I was surprised to see that most people prefer music to lyrics.

When asked which one is preferred, Abbie Pincus said, “I prefer the music because it is the foundation of the song while most lyrics are up for interpretation.”

Similarly, Sarah Boothman said “If a song has a good beat I’ll most likely fall in love with it.”

Justin Hoffman, a musician himself, said that “Notes are what make a song pop. In movies there are tons of orchestral scores that go unheard but they were still one of the most important parts of silent films back in the day. Listen to the music in your favorite movie and notice how it fits the mood.”

On the other hand, we have lyrics that often put a story to the melody. There are students like Darren Gilbert, Abby Lehman, and Paige Thomas who all agreed that lyrics are always the first thing they hear.

I know a good lyric will always send chills down my spine and I’ll admit that I tend to analyze them a little too much to find the meaning. If I can relate to a song’s lyrics, chances are I’ll listen to it for hours.

I did find some students who fell on the neutral side of the debate. Savannah Peck said, “For me, the music always sets the mood for the song and initially attracts me. But if the lyrics aren’t up to par with the music and are meaningless, then the piece as a whole is as well.”

Paul E. Wyatt said, “It depends on the genre. Metal, bluegrass and classical I listen to for instrumentation. Punk, electronic, country and rap I listen to for the lyrics.”

Listen to your favorite song again. Except this time, if it has lyrics, listen to the instrumental version. Does it sound the same? Would you still be able to discern what the song is about?

In the end, it all depends on personal preference and what your mind is attracted to first. Music and lyrics will always be of equal importance, but it’s up to you to decide which element you fall in love with first.


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