Lyrics are words that make up a song usually consisting of verses and
choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended
musical composition such as an opera are, however, usually known as a
"libretto" 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, and symmetry of expression. Rappers can also
create lyrics (often with a variation of rhyming words) that are meant
to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung.
4 Copyright and royalties
5 Academic study
6 Search engines
6.1 Riskiest search
7 See also
9 External links
A lyrist on the Standard of Ur, c. 2500 BC.
"Lyric" derives via
Latin lyricus from the Greek λυρικός
(lyrikós), the adjectival form of lyre. It first appeared in
English in the mid-16th century in reference, to the Earl of Surrey's
Petrarch and to his own sonnets.
Greek lyric poetry
had been defined by the manner in which it was sung accompanied by the
lyre or cithara, as opposed to the chanted formal epics or the more
passionate elegies accompanied by the flute. The personal nature of
many of the verses of the
Nine Lyric Poets
Nine Lyric Poets led to the present sense of
"lyric poetry" but the original Greek sense—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 "lyrics" had begun; it has been
standard since the 1950s. The singular form "lyric" still appears;
its present use, however, is to refer to a specific phrase within a
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The differences between poem and song may become less meaningful where
verse is set to music, to the point that any distinction becomes
untenable. This is perhaps recognised in the way popular songs have
However, the verse may pre-date its tune (in the way that "Rule
Britannia" 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 hymns and ballads).
Possible classifications proliferate (under anthem, ballad, blues,
carol, folk song, hymn, libretto, lied, lullaby, march, praise song,
Nursery rhymes may be songs, or doggerel: the term
doesn't imply a distinction. The ghazal is a sung form that is
considered primarily poetic. See also rapping, roots of hip hop music.
Analogously, verse drama might normally be judged (at its best) as
poetry, 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), and a close (featuring a cadence); in German
Vordersatz-Fortspinnung-Epilog. For example:
When I was a child, [opening gesture]
I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, [...]
I thought as a child; [...]
But when I became a man, I put away childish things. [close]
- 1 Corinthians 13:11
In the lyrics of popular music a "shifter" is a word, often a
pronoun, "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
Currently, 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 (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
Lyrics licenses could be obtained worldwide through one of the two
aggregators: LyricFind and Musixmatch. The first company to provide
licensed lyrics was Yahoo!, quickly followed by
Lyrics.com. More and more lyric websites are beginning to provide
licensed lyrics, such as
SongMeanings and LyricWiki.
Many competing lyrics web sites are still offering unlicensed content,
causing challenges around the legality and accuracy of lyrics. In
the latest attempt to crack down unlicensed lyrics web sites a 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.
Lyrics can be studied from an academic perspective. For example, some
lyrics can be considered a form of social commentary.
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
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 and contrast are particular examples. Former Oxford
Christopher Ricks famously published Dylan's
Visions of Sin, an in-depth and characteristically Ricksian analysis
of the lyrics of Bob Dylan; 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.
A 2009 report published by
McAfee found that, in terms of potential
exposure to malware, 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.
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 search for a specific song's lyrics, most results show the lyrics
directly through a Google search by using Google Play.
Lyricist, a writer of lyrics
Libretto, the "little book" of an extended musical piece, written by a
"singing in the Spirit", vocal improvisation in a spiritual context
scat singing & vocalese, vocal improvisation in jazz
bol, kouji, beatbox, forms of vocal mimicry or percussion
^ a b Oxford English Dictionary 1st ed. lyric, adj. and n." 1903.
Accessed 15 Jan 2014.
Liddell, Henry & al.
A Greek–English Lexicon 9th ed.,
Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1996. Hosted at the
Perseus Project. Accessed 15 Jan 2014.
^ Sidney, Philip. An Apologie for Poetrie op. cit. OED (1903).
^ Miller, Andrew. Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation,
pp. xii ff. Hackett Publishing (Indianapolis), 1996.
^ Stainer, John & al. A Dictionary of Musical Terms, p. 276.
^ Kelly, Thomas Forest (2011). Early Music: A Very Short Introduction,
p.53. ISBN 978-0-19-973076-6.
^ Durant (1984). Cited in Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). Studying
Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
^ Middleton (1990), p.167.
Song sites face legal crackdown". BBC News. 12 December 2005.
Retrieved 7 January 2007.
^ "Advertising on SongMeanings". SongMeanings. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
All of our lyrics are legally licensed through LyricFind.
^ Plambeck, Joseph (May 9, 2010). "
Lyrics Sites at Center of Fight
Over Royalties". The New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
^ "Court Orders LiveUniverse to Shutter Unlicensed
Digital Media Wire. August 11, 2010. Retrieved September 5,
^ Keats, Shane; Koshy, Eipe (2009). "The Web's Most Dangerous Search
Terms" (PDF). McAfee. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
^ Jose, Pagliery (23 December 2014). "Google now displays song lyrics
in search results". CNN.com. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
^ "Google Play". play.google.com. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
Look up lyrics or lyric in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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