Writing insights revealed by country twang

country music

Usually, I take a music video and dissect the lyrics to look for writing insights, which is interesting and fun.

Click with your mousity mouse to see what I did to the music video and lyrics for ELECTRIC AVENUE, because it is not only fun, but educational.

Then go see what I did with Vanilla Ice and ICE, ICE BABY.

OK. Now we get all serious. Because I am using the lyrics to a country song, and I’m not making fun of it, despite my severe twang allergy.

Good music — and good writing — have the same patterns. Songs start slow, build up, bridge to  the chorus, return to the melody and build to a crescendo. They bring the audience on a journey.

The greatest guitarist in the world would bore you into a coma if he repeated the same riffs.

Variety is good.

Repetition can be powerfully boring, or powerfully good, depending on how you use it. If you do use repetition, it must have a purpose.

Country songs like this are great study for writers. Why? Not because they’re all sad songs where your pickup truck died, your wife left you for your best friend and your dog hates you. They’re useful because country songs tell a story in about 200 words, a story you can understand and dissect. I can point out the setups and payoffs. You can see the heroes and villains, the reversals and the climax.

By contrast, most pop songs feature lyrics that don’t have any real structure or story. 

Also, you can hear and understand country lyrics without a cheat sheet.

Three other good examples of country songs with great lyrics and minimal twang, if you are also allergic like me: LOVE STORY by Taylor Swift, Traveling Soldier by the Dixie Chicks and damn near anything by Lady Antebellum, who are flipping brilliant.

No matter what you write–novels or newspaper stories, screenplays or speeches–it’s worth remembering that writing needs to be like music. You need an interesting intro, a melody, a chorus and a crescendo. You need variety AND repetition.

So: watch this cheesy home-made music video. Listen to the lyrics, and read them on your magical screen that shows you words and moving pictures from anywhere on the planet.

See how Bucky the Covington has clear setups and payoff, and how he cleverly, and beautifully, uses repetition with a purpose.

The words in the chorus change slightly each time, yet the meaning is quite different. And while the writing itself is a tad clunky, my God, the structure, it is glorious. My only wish is that I owned a cowboy hat so I could take it off and salute you, Bucky.

I’LL WALK by Bucky Covington

We were 18, it was prom night.

We had our first big fight.

She said, Pull this car over.

I did and then I told her, I don’t know what you are crying for.

I grabbed her hand, as she reached for the door.

She said …

I’ll walk.

Let go of my hand.

Right now I’m hurt, and you don’t understand.

So just be quiet.

And later we will talk.

Just leave, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

It was a dark night, a black dress.

Driver never saw her, around the bend.

I never will forget the call,

or driving to the hospital,

when they told me her legs still wouldn’t move.

I cried, when I walked into her room.

She said …

I’ll walk.

Please come and hold my hand.

Right now I’m hurt, and I don’t understand.

Lets just be quiet, and later we can talk.

Please stay, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

I held her hand through everything.

The weeks and months of therapy.

And I held her hand and asked her to be my bride.

She’s dreamed from a little girl,

to have her daddy bring her down the isle.

So from her wheelchair, she looks up to him and smiles.

And says …

I’ll walk.

Please hold my hand.

I know that this will hurt, I know you understand.

Please daddy don’t cry.

This is already hard.

Let’s go, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

CAMERA ONE by the Josh Joplin Group

music video meme sound of music

The great thing about the Series of Tubes is this: say you hear a song on the radio, or lived back in the day when MTV played, I don’t know, music videos instead of stupid reality shows involving overtanned dipsticks and C-list reality shot “celebrities” who are only famous because they’re the son, daughter or step-daughter of a B-list celebrity.

The only way to hear that song again, or see the video, was to (a) glue yourself to the radio, night and day, (b) hit the record store and hope the clerk behind the counter can figure out the song, artist and album from you saying “You know, the video where the singer smashes a guitar on stage” or (c) camping out in front of the Glowing Tube until a coked-up VJ decides to play that video again.

For music loving people, the good old days were not so good. There was a reason hipsters lived at record stores: that’s how you found gems like CAMERA ONE by the Josh Joplin Group.

Today is a better day for anyone who loves music. I’ve had this song on my laptop forever. But is there a video? Ten seconds of messing around on youtube and bam, here it is.

Listen to the lyrics of this thing. The song is great, and the video is interesting — yet the lyrics are what stick with me, even though I’ve listened to this song forever. It doesn’t get old.

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN by Elle Goulding is completely bonkers

I have heard this song on the radios, and over the Series of Tubes through some kind of Pandora magic, though Pandora is missing her Box for some reason.

HOWEVER: The point is, this song by Elle the Goulding is interesting plus the video is craaazy.

Which is good.

Because the last thing the world needs is another boring music video where (a) the band rocks out on stage while playing their guitars and such, because that has NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE, or (b) the singer pretends to sing while doing a choreographed dance number with 592 backup dancers and 17 costume changes.

I give Elle the Goulding bonus points for trying something different.

A new contender for Worst Music Video of All Time

Sometimes, a book / music video / B-movie about swamp monsters can be so Bad, and so low-budget, that it circles back to Good.

This is not one of those times.

Watch this music video, and think about it. Then let’s talk, because this video raises all kinds of Serious Philosophical Questions.

Question No. 1: Is this woman a one-hit wonder, or are there more gems out there, waiting to be discovered?

Lisa Gail has a website and some kind of album, or at least seven songs you can listen to and buy with REAL MONIES, if your monies are able to travel over the Series of Tubes.

Question No. 2: Is it possible to watch this entire thing, start to finish?

Though it was a challenge, and I cannot recommend it if you have heart problems, I did it.

Question No. 3: Sound on or sound off?

Sound on.

Question No. 4: Has any mortal listened to Lisa Gail’s other songs, to determine they, also, have a 2nd degree black belt in awesomesauce?

I, personally, as in me, have not subjected my ears to her other snippets of song-like substances.  If you do so, please give us the word in the comment section. That would be a public service.

Question No. 5: How in God’s green earth did she get all those men in cowboy boots?

This is the biggie, for me, right up there with “What existed before the Big Bang?” and “How can we truly know wrong from right without reading 4,923 pages of nonsense from Immanuel Kant about the categorical imperative?” and “If Snooki actually reproduces, will that cause the galaxy to implode?”

Sure, I could see any random singer being able to lasso her boyfriend / husband / son / neighbor kid into putting on Wranglers, cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. However, these men are not all related to her, or married to her. It would be a stretch to call them professionals, but they aren’t a random group of people she was cooking grits for one morning.

There are three possibilities: (1) Lisa Gail is famous and successful down in Texas, and these men are volunteer fans, just like 30 Seconds to Mars has rabid fans who guest star in videos and such, (2) Lisa Gail spent a bunch of her own monies to hire the cutest local “models” and “dancers” she could possibly find or (3) these were the manliest men in the feed store on Sunday afternoon and she somehow has blackmail photos on all of them.

Question No. 6: Does she have the self-awareness to understand the irony of her lyrics?

There’s nothing wrong with being a singer, actor, author, director, politician, professor or TV anchor who isn’t some kind of supermodel. I actually prefer people with some character, and talent, rather than pure eye candy, because the eye candy types expect to skate by with no talent at all, and that gets boring real quick.

HOWEVER: If you are a singer making music videos, it’s one thing to be young and hot while you sing this sort of thing. It’s another thing to be older and hot and sing this sort of thing. You can even be uglier than a three-horned toad lizard, as in Lyle Lovett, but if you’ve got talent and charm, hey, it’ll work for you. You can have a long career and perhaps even get hitched to Julia flipping Roberts, at least for a weekend or three.

This is a polite way of saying, “Honey, if I was your man — and I definitely would not be, not if you were a billionaire who didn’t mind if I had six supermodel mistresses on the side — it’d be hard for me to look at YOU for three seconds.”

Also, the real Three Second Rule that every person knows is this: “Anything you drop on the floor for less than three seconds is still sanitary and kosher and fine.” After three seconds, you slip it to the dog. Except I would not slip this video to my dog, as the Hound of the Baskervilles has better taste.

ICE, ICE BABY as interpreted by the Red Pen of Doom

If you like music — and who doesn’t? — you have to love music videos. ICE, ICE BABY is a classic that deserves a closer look.

You’d think there’d be a market for music videos, some kind of channel on the Glowing Tube where you played music vids — which the artists produce and hand to you, for free, just to get the publicity — while you charge GEICO and Miller Lite many, many dollars to run ads in between Lady Gaga and AC/DC classics.

I mean, the Glowing Tube only has 45,982 cable channels right now. There’s a market for this stuff, right? The last thing we need is more reality shows.

HOWEVER: let’s get on with dissecting ICE, ICE BABY by Vanilla Ice.

Here’s the video. Watch it.

He can dance, can’t he?

Now, let’s find our red pen and interpret the lyrics.

ICE, ICE BABY

Yo, VIP, let’s kick it!

(Hello, my listeners of high status. Should we start?)

Ice ice baby, ice ice baby

(The first part of my  nickname is relevant, sweet-hearted stranger. My real name is not necessary information, although repetition may boost both my name recognition and my record sales.)

All right stop, collaborate and listen

(Halt whatever you’re doing and do your job, which is paying attention to me.)

Ice is back with my brand new invention

(I don’t want you to think that I’m a one-hit wonder. Think this song is good? I have many, many other creative rhymes and melodies that spring forth from my brain all the time.)

Something grabs a hold of me tightly

(When I get inspired by an idea, it consumes me.)

Then I flow that a harpoon daily and nightly

(After an idea for lyrics come to me, I practice 25 hours a day, just like Ahab and the whale or whatever.)

Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know

(Will I ever cease to be a creative and successful rapper, with loads of cash and girlfriends, and instead retire from the spotlight to Florida, where I remodel McMansions in hopes of turning a quick profit? That hypothetical situation is too ridiculous to even consider.)

Turn off the lights and I’ll glow

(I’m such a star, I create my own light)

To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal

(My singing and rhymes are so out of the ordinary, you should compare me to the barbarians who sacked Rome)

Light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle

(I can bring excitement to a stage while beating up other men who don’t have my talents, although this may be a metaphor, or a simile, or some other literary term that I can’t be bothered to pinpoint)

Dance, bum rush the speaker that booms

(My fans should gyrate with excitement and gather around the large black boxes that amplify my rhymes and backup band)

I’m killin’ your brain like a poisonous mushroom

(Though my songs are not literally poisonous, they do possess powerful addictive and paralyzing properties)

Deadly, when I play a dope melody, anything less that the best is a felony

(Like I said, potentially fatal poisonous mushrooms that should send me to prison)

Love it or leave it, you better gain way

(It’s advisable to retreat from my path, because I am so talented, tough and unstoppable)

You better hit bull’s eye, the kid don’t play

(If you try to stop me, it should be a fatal blow or shot, because my tolerance for non-fatal blows and bullets is quite low)

Chorus:

If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it

(Nothing is beyond my grasp)

Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

(This is a recurrent portion of my song that I stole from rock stars in the 1970s, and I want you to pay attention to how I’ve incorporated it into my rhymes)

Ice ice baby Vanilla
Ice ice baby Vanilla
Ice ice baby Vanilla
Ice ice baby Vanilla

Now that the party is jumping, with the bass kicked in, the Vegas are pumpin’

(The lowest registers of my song motivate people to dance)

Quick to the point, to the point no faking

(My lyrics go straight to the heart of the matter, as there’s no point in misdirection)

I’m cooking MC’s like a pound of bacon

(I beat competing lyricists so quickly and thoroughly, it’s as if they are healthy measure of pork bellies, fried on a skillet)

Burning them if they’re not quick and nimble

(Other rappers lose to me unless they possess exceptional speed and wits)

I go crazy when I hear a cymbal, and a hi hat with a souped up tempo

(The metal instruments of percussionists motivate me to dance and rhyme)

I’m on a roll and it’s time to go solo

(Though I don’t apparently have a band, my success is such that I should sing on my own)

Rollin in my 5.0, with my ragtop down so my hair can blow

(When I drive, I remove the top to my vehicle so the air currents can touch my blond locks)

The girlies on standby, waving just to say hi

(Women who see me try to get my attention because they would like to bear my children)

Did you stop? No, I just drove by, kept on pursuing to the next stop

(However, I don’t stop my vehicle, because such things are not unusual for me)

I busted a left and I’m heading to the next block

(So I will seek better opportunities in a different part of the city)

That block was dead, yo so I continued to A1A Beachfront Ave

(A square section of the city was not entertaining, so I went to where the ocean meets the land)

Girls were hot wearing less than bikinis, rock man lovers driving Lamborghini

(The women near the ocean  were more attractive and wore fewer clothes, while successful men drove expensive Italian vehicles) 

Jealous ’cause I’m out getting mine, Shay with a gauge and Vanilla with a Nine

(Other men of jealous of my prowess with women, so when I travel, my friend carries a shotgun and I bring a nine-millimeter pistol)

Ready for the chumps on the wall, the chumps are acting ill because they’re so full of eight balls

(Young males leaning against structures are dangerous, as they are intoxicated by a mixture of cocaine and heroin)

Gunshots ranged out like a bell, I grabbed my nine, all I heard were shells

(When young males used their weapons, I fired mine and listened to the casings hit the asphalt) 

Fallin’ on the concrete real fast, jumped in my car, slammed on the gas

(Many bullets were expended, so I re-entered my vehicle and put my foot on the accelerator rather roughly) 

Bumper to bumper the avenue’s packed, I’m tryin’ to get away before the jackers jack

(Though traffic was impossibly bad, I attempted to escape car hijackers before they could get to me and my expensive vehicle)

Police on the scene, you know what I mean, they passed me up, confronted all the dope fiends

(The authorities ignored me and instead confronted the young, intoxicated hooligans)

(Chorus)

Take heed, ’cause I’m a lyrical poet, Miami’s on the scene just in case you didn’t know it

(Pay attention to my rhymes and remember that the city of Miami, Florida is also a worthy center for musicians)

My town, that created all the bass sound, Enough to shake and kick holes in the ground

(Miami is well-known for music with low tones of such power that they make the ground and create cavities in the earth)

‘Cause my style’s like a chemical spill, Feasible rhymes that you can vision and feel

(The way I sing is as powerful as a toxic leak, and my words make you see and feel the things that I speak of)

Conducted and formed, this is a hell of a concept, We make it hype and you want to step with this

(Also, you will want to happily gyrate to the rhythm)

Shay plays on the fade, slice it like a ninja, Cut like a razor blade so fast, other DJ’s say, “damn”

(My partner also assists by appropriating pieces of music from other artists, and this causes intense jealousy)

If my rhyme was a drug, I’d sell it by the gram, Keep my composure when it’s time to get loose

(My songs are as addictive as the illegal narcotics sold on the street using a basic unit of weight from the metric system)

Magnetized by the mic while I kick my juice

(You will be hypnotized by the words amplified by an electric device that I sing into while performing a synchronized dance that will later be appropriated by the Back Street Boys) 

(Chorus)

Yo man, let’s get out of here

(Friend, we should depart and end this song)

Word to your mother

(Please tell your maternal parent that I send my greetings and wish her well)

Ice ice baby
Too cold
Ice ice baby 
Too cold too cold 
Ice ice baby 
Too cold
Ice ice baby 
Too cold too cold