Not too long ago, there was this question posed on Facebook, apparently intended to pick one’s brains: Can you adore a song while completely, vehemently disagreeing with its lyrics?
There were knee-jerk, if Pavlovian, reactions—with some even advancing titles to the songs they claimed were idiotic and insignificant, comments that made us, even at that point, shake our musical cerebellum.
Fact is, the question cannot be as simple as one plus one in simple arithmetic of the 1950s or even 1960s—and we get an indivisible two as answer.
That question must be approached by first defining the terms substantially involved: Song, lyrics, adore, and vehemently disagreeing.
Loosely translated, a song is a short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung. A composition using rhythm and often rhyme to create a lyrical effect, or a rhythmic series of musical tones arranged to give a pleasing effect.
Other experts say a song is a short piece of music, often with words or lyrics, which puts together vocals and melody although there are composers who have written musical arrangements without words which, in most cases, mimic the quality of a singing voice.
Lyrics, on the other hand, are words that make up a song, which usually consists of verses and choruses. The writer is almost always called a lyricist.
But where the words are in an extended musical composition, like an opera, these are known as “libretti” and their writer is known as a “librettist.”
Language and musical experts say some lyrics are abstract, often unintelligible—in which case their exposition or summary stresses form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of expression.
Some footnote to this is that rappers can also create lyrics—often with a variation of rhyming words—that are meant to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung.
Adore means being wild about or be smitten with the song, the short piece of music being sung, with or without lyrics, while vehemently disagree means violently or fiercely disagree with the words or lyrics of the song.
Here comes the assumption: Assume that you are hearing the song for the first time and therefore the lyrics for the first time as well, in a language you are not familiar with, how can you vehemently disagree for crying out loud?
A case in point is “La Paloma” as sung by Nana Mouskouri. She begins: Cuando sali de la habana, valgame dios/Nadie me ha visto salir sino fui yo/ Y una linda quachinanga como una flor/ Se vino detras de mi, que si señor…//
Some have translated this thusly: When I left Havana, goodness, gracious/ No one saw my departure but me/ But a pretty courageous girl, like a flower/ followed me, that’s right sir…//
There is an English translation—although not the correct transcription at all—of this popular Spanish song that has been produced and reinterpreted in different cultures, including the Philippines, with Elvis Presley singing, from his “Blue Hawaii” soundtrack “No more do I see the starlight caress your hair/ No more feel the tender kisses we used to share/ I close my eyes and clearly my heart remembers/ A thousand good-byes could never out out the embers.//
Now, would a Filipino, even after 24 units of Spanish in college, be able to vehemently disagree with the Spanish lyrics as sung by Mouskouri,or even the English version as sung by Presley?
Our point is, as in another clef—perhaps the C, the F or the G—we may like the song, that one with a melody and words without really understanding, initially, the lyrics, and then disagree vehemently with its lyrics much, much later.
Note Icona Pop’s “Clap Snap” and the lyrics of the song: aha ah/ 3, 6, 9, the goose drank wine/ The monkey chewed tobacco on the streetcar line/ The line broke, the monkey got choked/ And they all went to heaven in a little rowboat.//
You listen to the sound, and you might feel persuaded and persuasive pliant bamboos by your side—before you know it, you would be swaying in the winds—not ever having a good dig at what the singer is saying.
In the chorus—a part of the song that recurs at intervals, usually following each verse; refrain—portion of Nelson del Castillo’s song: When you need a friend/ That you can depend (sic)/ You can count on me because/ you’re my best friend/ When you’re feeling down/ And your heart is hurt/ You can call on me and/ i’ll be there for you friend…//
There are of course other songs that have grammatical lapses, at home and abroad. But often such goof-ups or musical miscues are drowned by a melody that is soothing to the listener’s tympanic membrane.
Now, back to the question: Can you adore a song while completely, vehemently disagreeing with its lyrics?
We say, underscoring our thesis, sometimes the melody of syncopated notes overrides the lyrics, written with the best intentions before the bars and scale.
Cabie, leader of the now defunct Tiger Boys Band of Ilocos Norte and former 1st trombonist of The Mendiola Brass, writes songs and does musical arrangements when he is not writing Petrarchans and Shakespearean.