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Lyrics are
word A word is a basic element of language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communic ...
s that make up a
song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetitio ...
, usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended musical composition such as an
opera Opera is a form of theatre in which music is a fundamental component and dramatic roles are taken by Singing, singers. Such a "work" (the literal translation of the Italian word "opera") is typically a collaboration between a composer and a ...
are, however, usually known as a "
libretto A libretto (Italian for "booklet") is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term ''libretto'' is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major li ...
" and their writer, as a " librettist". The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation,
meter The metre ( British spelling) or meter ( American spelling; see spelling differences) (from the French unit , from the Greek noun , "measure"), symbol m, is the primary unit of length in the International System of Units (SI), though its pre ...
, and
symmetry Symmetry (from grc, συμμετρία "agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement") in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance. In mathematics, "symmetry" has a more precise definiti ...
of expression. Rappers can also create lyrics (often with a variation of rhyming words) that are meant to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung.


Etymology

The word ''lyric'' derives via
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
' from the
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. ** Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
('), the adjectival form of ''
lyre The lyre () is a stringed musical instrument that is classified by Hornbostel–Sachs as a member of the lute-family of instruments. In organology, a lyre is considered a yoke lute, since it is a lute in which the strings are attached to a yok ...
''. It first appeared in English in the mid-16th century in reference to the Earl of Surrey's translations of
Petrarch Francesco Petrarca (; 20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374), commonly anglicized as Petrarch (), was a scholar and poet of early Renaissance Italy, and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch's rediscovery of Cicero's letters is often credited ...
and to his own
sonnet A sonnet is a poetic form that originated in the poetry composed at the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the Sicilian city of Palermo. The 13th-century poet and notary Giacomo da Lentini is credited with the sonnet's invention, ...
s.
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. ** Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
lyric poetry Modern lyric poetry is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. It is not equivalent to song lyrics, though song lyrics are often in the lyric mode, and it is also ''not'' equi ...
had been defined by the manner in which it was sung accompanied by the
lyre The lyre () is a stringed musical instrument that is classified by Hornbostel–Sachs as a member of the lute-family of instruments. In organology, a lyre is considered a yoke lute, since it is a lute in which the strings are attached to a yok ...
or
cithara The kithara (or Latinized cithara) ( el, κιθάρα, translit=kithāra, lat, cithara) was an ancient Greek musical instrument in the yoke lutes family. In modern Greek the word ''kithara'' has come to mean "guitar", a word which etymol ...
, as opposed to the chanted formal epics or the more passionate elegies accompanied by the
flute The flute is a family of classical music instrument in the woodwind group. Like all woodwinds, flutes are aerophones, meaning they make sound by vibrating a column of air. However, unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is a reedless ...
. The personal nature of many of the verses of the Nine Lyric Poets led to the present sense of "
lyric poetry Modern lyric poetry is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. It is not equivalent to song lyrics, though song lyrics are often in the lyric mode, and it is also ''not'' equi ...
" but the original Greek sense of "lyric poetry""poetry accompanied by the lyre" i.e. "words set to music"eventually led to its use as "lyrics", first attested in Stainer and Barrett's 1876 ''Dictionary of Musical Terms''. Stainer and Barrett used the word as a singular substantive: "''Lyric'', poetry or blank verse intended to be set to music and sung". By the 1930s, the present use of the
plurale tantum A ''plurale tantum'' (Latin for "plural only"; ) is a noun that appears only in the plural form and does not have a singular variant for referring to a single object. In a less strict usage of the term, it can also refer to nouns whose singular f ...
"lyrics" had begun; it has been standard since the 1950s for many writers. The singular form "lyric" is still used to mean the complete words to a song by authorities such as Alec Wilder, Robert Gottlieb, and Stephen Sondheim. However, the singular form is also commonly used to refer to a specific line (or phrase) within a song's lyrics.


Poems

The differences between
poem Poetry (derived from the Greek ''poiesis'', "making"), also called verse, is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language − such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre − to evoke meanings in ...
and
song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetitio ...
may become less meaningful where verse is set to
music Music is generally defined as the art of arranging sound to create some combination of form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise expressive content. Exact definitions of music vary considerably around the world, though it is an aspe ...
, to the point that any distinction becomes untenable. This is perhaps recognised in the way popular songs have ''lyrics''. However, the verse may pre-date its tune (in the way that "
Rule Britannia "Rule, Britannia!" is a British patriotic song, originating from the 1740 poem "Rule, Britannia" by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in the same year. It is most strongly associated with the Royal Navy, but is also used by t ...
" was set to music, and " And did those feet in ancient time" has become the hymn "Jerusalem"), or the tune may be lost over time but the words survive, matched by a number of different tunes (this is particularly common with
hymn A hymn is a type of song, and partially synonymous with devotional song, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word ''hymn'' ...
s and ballads). Possible classifications proliferate (under
anthem An anthem is a musical composition of celebration, usually used as a symbol for a distinct group, particularly the national anthems of countries. Originally, and in music theory and religious contexts, it also refers more particularly to short ...
, ballad,
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads from the Afric ...
, carol, folk song,
hymn A hymn is a type of song, and partially synonymous with devotional song, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word ''hymn'' ...
,
libretto A libretto (Italian for "booklet") is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term ''libretto'' is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major li ...
, lied,
lullaby A lullaby (), or cradle song, is a soothing song or piece of music that is usually played for (or sung to) children (for adults see music and sleep). The purposes of lullabies vary. In some societies they are used to pass down cultural knowled ...
,
march March is the third month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. It is the second of seven months to have a length of 31 days. In the Northern Hemisphere, the meteorological beginning of spring occurs on the first day of Ma ...
, praise song, round, spiritual). Nursery rhymes may be songs, or
doggerel Doggerel, or doggrel, is poetry that is irregular in rhythm and in rhyme, often deliberately for burlesque or comic effect. Alternatively, it can mean verse which has a monotonous rhythm, easy rhyme, and cheap or trivial meaning. The word is deri ...
: the term doesn't imply a distinction. The
ghazal The ''ghazal'' ( ar, غَزَل, bn, গজল, Hindi-Urdu: /, fa, غزل, az, qəzəl, tr, gazel, tm, gazal, uz, gʻazal, gu, ગઝલ) is a form of amatory poem or ode, originating in Arabic poetry. A ghazal may be understood as a ...
is a sung form that is considered primarily poetic. See also
rapping Rapping (also rhyming, spitting, emceeing or MCing) is a musical form of vocal delivery that incorporates "rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular". It is performed or chanted, usually over a backing beat or musical accompaniment. The ...
, roots of hip hop music. Analogously, verse
drama Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on radio or television.Elam (1980, 98). Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has b ...
might normally be judged (at its best) as
poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek ''poiesis'', "making"), also called verse, is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language − such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre − to evoke meanings i ...
, but not consisting of poems (see dramatic verse). In Baroque music, melodies and their lyrics were prose. Rather than paired lines they consist of rhetorical sentences or paragraphs consisting of an opening gesture, an amplification (often featuring
sequence In mathematics, a sequence is an enumerated collection of objects in which repetitions are allowed and order matters. Like a set, it contains members (also called ''elements'', or ''terms''). The number of elements (possibly infinite) is call ...
), and a close (featuring a
cadence In Western musical theory, a cadence (Latin ''cadentia'', "a falling") is the end of a phrase in which the melody or harmony creates a sense of full or partial resolution, especially in music of the 16th century onwards. Don Michael Randel (19 ...
); in German ''Vordersatz''-'' Fortspinnung''-''Epilog''. For example: ''When I was a child, pening gesture I spoke as a child, mplification... I understood as a child, .. I thought as a child; .. But when I became a man, I put away childish things. lose - 1 Corinthians 13:11''


Shifter

In the lyrics of
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Fun ...
a "shifter" is a word, often a
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the parts of speech, but some modern theorists would not ...
, "where reference varies according to who is speaking, when and where", such as "I", "you", "my", "our". For example, who is the "my" of " My Generation"?


Copyright and royalties

: ''See
Royalties A royalty payment is a payment made by one party to another that owns a particular asset, for the right to ongoing use of that asset. Royalties are typically agreed upon as a percentage of gross or net revenues derived from the use of an asset o ...
'' , there are many websites featuring song lyrics. This offering, however, is controversial, since some sites include copyrighted lyrics offered without the holder's permission. The U.S.
Music Publishers Association The Music Publishers Association of the United States (MPA) is a non-profit music publishing organization based in New York City. Founded in 1895, the MPA is the oldest music trade organization in the United States which addresses issues pertain ...
(MPA), which represents sheet music companies, launched a legal campaign against such websites in December 2005. The MPA's president, Lauren Keiser, said the free lyrics web sites are "completely illegal" and wanted some website operators jailed. Lyrics licenses could be obtained worldwide through one of the two aggregators: LyricFind and Musixmatch. The first company to provide licensed lyrics was
Yahoo! Yahoo! (, styled yahoo''!'' in its logo) is an American web services provider. It is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California and operated by the namesake company Yahoo Inc., which is 90% owned by investment funds managed by Apollo Global Manag ...
, quickly followed by MetroLyrics. Several lyric websites are providing licensed lyrics, such as SongMeanings and LyricWiki (defunct as of 2020). Many competing lyrics web sites are still offering unlicensed content, causing challenges around the legality and accuracy of lyrics. In an attempt to crack down unlicensed lyrics web sites, a U.S. federal court has ordered LiveUniverse, a network of websites run by MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, to cease operating four sites offering unlicensed song lyrics.


Academic study

Lyrics can be studied from an academic perspective. For example, some lyrics can be considered a form of social commentary. Lyrics often contain political, social, and economic themes—as well as aesthetic elements—and so can communicate culturally significant messages. These messages can be explicit, or implied through metaphor or symbolism. Lyrics can also be analyzed with respect to the sense of unity (or lack of unity) it has with its supporting music. Analysis based on
tonality Tonality is the arrangement of pitches and/or chords of a musical work in a hierarchy of perceived relations, stabilities, attractions and directionality. In this hierarchy, the single pitch or triadic chord with the greatest stability is ca ...
and contrast are particular examples. Former Oxford Professor of Poetry Christopher Ricks famously published ''Dylan's Visions of Sin'', an in-depth and characteristically Ricksian analysis of the lyrics of
Bob Dylan Bob Dylan (legally Robert Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture during a career sp ...
; Ricks gives the caveat that to have studied the poetry of the lyrics in tandem with the music would have made for a much more complicated critical feat.


Search engines


Search risk

A 2009 report published by
McAfee McAfee Corp. ( ), formerly known as McAfee Associates, Inc. from 1987 to 1997 and 2004 to 2014, Network Associates Inc. from 1997 to 2004, and Intel Security Group from 2014 to 2017, is an American global computer security software company hea ...
found that, in terms of potential exposure to
malware Malware (a portmanteau for ''malicious software'') is any software intentionally designed to cause disruption to a computer, server, client, or computer network, leak private information, gain unauthorized access to information or systems, d ...
, lyrics-related searches and searches containing the word "free" are the most likely to have risky results from search engines, both in terms of average risk of all results, and maximum risk of any result.


Google

Beginning in late 2014, Google changed its search results pages to include song lyrics. When users search for a name of a song, Google can now display the lyrics directly in the search results page. When users search for a specific song's lyrics, most results show the lyrics directly through a Google search by using Google Play.


See also

* Lyricist, a writer of lyrics *
Libretto A libretto (Italian for "booklet") is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term ''libretto'' is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major li ...
, the "little book" of an extended musical piece, written by a librettist * " singing in the Spirit", vocal improvisation in a spiritual context * scat singing & vocalese, vocal improvisation in
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognized as a major ...
* '' bol'', ''
kouji ''Kouji'' ({{zh, c= 口技), which can be translated literally as "mouth skill" or "skill of mouth" is a Chinese vocal mimicry performance art which utilizes the human speech organs to mimic the sounds of everyday life. When this vocal mimicry i ...
'',
beatbox Beatboxing (also beat boxing) is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of mimicking drum machines (typically a TR-808), using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice.
, forms of vocal mimicry or percussion


References


Further reading

*


External links

{{Music topics Poetry