We made our huts of avaram
We’d not betray the sole Ledum
The acres of hysterisy
To our own pangs of starvation
Rhyming “avaram” and “Ledum” is crime enough, but “hysterisy”?? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Is that one of those uterus-removing operations performed by screaming banshees? Note to music critics: a lyric is not intelligent just because it’s incomprehensible. Note from Merriam-Webster: “hysterisy” is not a word. Compare those lyrics with the opening of Death Cab’s “Marching Bands of Manhattan”:
If I could open my arms
And span the length of the isle of Manhattan,
I'd bring it to where you are
Making a lake of the East River and Hudson
If I could open my mouth
Wide enough for a marching band to march out
They would make your name sing
And bend through alleys and bounce off all the buildings.
Now that’s imaginative, and reminiscent of the imagery in one of Donald Barthelme’s stories. And no avaram huts in sight.
As for Sting, I’ll have to go ahead and admit something here: I like him. When I was a dorky, MOR-loving kid, he was one of my favorite singers. My first concert was a Sting concert, and it was transformative – I’d never imagined that music could be so vital, such a connecting force, something you could feel vibrating through you and linking a crowd of disparate people into one unified force of all that was thrilling and beautiful and uplifting about the world. Yes, “Fields of Gold” did that to me, okay? I still have an affection for adult-contemporary music – it is soothing and uncomplicated, and sometimes I feel like listening to something unchallenging and familiar – and so no, I don’t just like the Police; I own nearly all of Sting’s albums, except for the last couple of them, and enjoy all of them. They’re not the best music I own, and the lyrics aren’t always fantastic, but seriously, worst? Worst ever? I know it’s fashionable to hate Sting, but give me a break. He’s not a bad lyricist. According to Blender, his biggest crimes are pretentiousness (?!?!? Find me an unpretentious musician and I will find you a three-headed unicorn bathed in flame) and “ripping-off” Chaucer and Shakespeare in his lyrics. Again, this is apparently a crime no one except Sting has ever committed (except HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF WRITERS, including Dylan -- not to mention that Shakespeare himself ripped people off incessantly). And what, exactly, is so bad about quoting from them? Yeah, it's a bit pretentious, but it's no "I had a brain that felt like pancake batter" (we'll see how long it takes for AdmiralNeck to comment on that remark). Anyway, fuck you, Blender. Trying to fit in with the cool kids is not doing you any favors.
[ETA: How long? Try five minutes! What's Jack White ever done to you, other than try to entertain you with his colour-fascism, wiry moustache, and instinctive lizard-brain understanding of the Blues? There's just no pleasing some people. - Admiral Neck)
Not that anyone asked, but my personal favorite lyricist? Stephin Merritt -- a sometime solo artist also associated with The 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, The Gothic Archies, and, best of all, The Magnetic Fields. I often don't pay attention to lyrics until I like a song, at which point I'll find out what they are so I can invest in the song more deeply, but Merritt's lyrics demand attention all on their own. They are smart, erudite, often incredibly poignant, and best of all, funny -- something far, far too rare in songwriting. As one critic put it, anyone who can rhyme "Marguerite" and "spirochete" is okay in my book. Just compare "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure" to the Decemberists' crap above:
I met Ferdinand de Saussure on a night like this
On love he said, "I'm not so sure I even know what it is
No understanding, no closure
It is a nemesis
You can't use a bulldozer to study orchids"
So we don't know anything
You don't know anything
I don't know anything about love
But we are nothing
You are nothing
I am nothing
I'm just a great composer
And not a violent man
But I lost my composure
And I shot Ferdinand
Crying "It's well and kosher
to say you don't understand
but this is for Holland-Dozier-Holland"
His last words were
We don't know anything
Now that's how you write a song.