Clarity is Being Simply Wonderful
Let me make myself crystal clear here: If you want your point of view to be heard, really heard, by your audience, there is no device like clarity. No cleverness or circularity can ever arrest your audience like nailing your idea. If you hit it just right, the results will make you sound brilliant. If your ideas miss their mark, that’s what people will hear. They won’t know what you “meant” and they won’t “read between the lines.”
If you’re saying something meaningful, sincerity will come in the way your words are delivered. But you’ve first got to give your vocalist something to be sincere about.
Clarity applies not only in lyric writing, but in public speaking also. I am brought to mind of a rather wonderful story. My childhood elocution teacher in London, the late lamented Gloria Brent, told of having been invited to teach a foreign diplomat how to deliver a speech on rutabagas. She was fetched in a limousine to an Embassy, where she spent two hours coaching a really dull speaker on how make rutabagas sound fascinating, interesting, sexy, and more important than a cure for cancer. At the end of the two hours of her high drama, someone came into the room, shook her hand and said, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” An astute producer who saw the Candid Camera episode in which she was featured, produced a show on the great speakers in history. He included visual and sound clips of Stalin, Churchill, Hitler, and Gloria Brent. He narrated thus: “You can make anything sound important if you know how to say it.”
When you commit an idea to paper, you have the luxury of eliminating all words extraneous to your idea. Filling space with extra words just so you can fit the rhythm you’re working with is not a good option, unless there is no other way to make your point. Use words with precision. Take the time to look up meanings of your words in the dictionary, or find more precise options in the thesaurus. Become excited by wordplay! Manipulating language till what you’ve written is pure magic, is truly an exhilarating process.
You wouldn’t put the wrong jigsaw puzzle piece in an open slot because it wouldn’t fit, and it would not create the right picture. Ditto for words.
A lyric is only one half of a song, but it must pull its weight as much as the music. Invest as much effort in clarity of language as you do in getting the right sounds and levels for the layers of your track, and keep this mantra: Clarity is being Simply Wonderful.