The Lost Art of Singer Songwriting

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The lost art of singer/song writing – is there a place for it in today’s pop music? In 2008, the British singer Adele sang “Make You Feel My Love”. The release charted at number 4 in the UK; and has little over 52 million views on Youtube. In 1997, Bob Dylan wrote a song named “Make You Feel My Love” which didn’t chart. In today’s popular music, it is clear that the art of song writing is not held in the same esteem as it was in decades prior to now. Popular performers for today’s masses only perform their songs; they do not write their own material. This begs the questions, where are the singer/songwriters? Why are they not known? Are they even needed? A great song should have the power to stick in the minds of those who hear it. Songs such as Imagine, Unchained Melody, Ring of Fire and Blowing in the Wind have not only sold millions of copies, but withstood the test of time. These songs are defined as classics, and this is not just down to the melody; but the lyrical content. Each of these songs carries a specific message that is not spat out in an obnoxious manner – but more offered to its audience if they care to listen. This is why Lennon, Dylan and Cash are all deemed, both critically and personally, to be the greatest songwriters. A singer songwriter is a musician who writes and performers all of their own material, such as Bruce Springsteen. In the opinion many, the greatest songwriters of all time are that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles. To be a great songwriter, one would need to produce several songs that not only relate to people on a number of different levels; but sell thousands of records and are remembered for years to come. The Beatles did this with Yesterday, Hey Jude, Let it Be and Help. McCartney and Lennon are perfect examples of singer songwriters, they wrote their own material and performed it, and as a result they are deemed legends by critics and have had one of the greatest influences over popular music. Popular music today does not feature the likes of McCartney or Lennon, instead it hosts the likes of Carly Rae Jepson and Cheryl Cole. The lyrics to songs in the current charts do not appear to have as much meaning or passions to that of the charts in say the 60’s. For example, in the Beatles Let It Be McCartney sang “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be”. These lyrics are ambiguous and meaningful, in comparison to Jepson’s lyrics in Call Me Maybe which are “hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe”. Both songs are and were popular with the public and charted well, but it is clear that the lyrics are not as important in the latter. Why, then, has the importance of the lyrics to a song slowly deteriorated? There have been many changes to popular music over the last 20 years. There has been a rise in the use of technology, such as auto tuning software which essentially gives anybody and everybody the ‘talent’ needed to become a pop star. With the availability of this kind of software, the need for the ability to write a meaningful song is no longer so important as it would have been prior to the use of computers. The exploitation of auto-tune has lead to a rise in the number of songs in which the lyrics are either extremely simplistic or are only there to demonstrate the effects of auto tuning, such as Rebecca Black’s Friday; there is a strong argument that if a musician is a good musician, then they would not need to use pitch correction software. Furthermore, not only has auto-tuning dwarfed the importance of singing, it has damaged the need for a song to use meaningful lyrics, thus contributing to the ‘death’ of song writing in the modern age. Furthermore, the availability of computers has not only lead to auto tune software, but also the exploitation of loops and computer generated beats; allowing music to be written without the need for serious lyrics. Lyrics to...
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