A Good Lyric

So many of my present and potential clients have asked me to give them a current example of one of my own lyrics and point out what I feel is good about it. I've dealt with this subject in both of my books, "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Make A Good Song A Hit Song", but songwriters keep asking for my input on what I feel is a good lyric, and why.

Well, okay - it's a beautiful summer afternoon, I worked out, I'm taping the tennis, I had my tuna salad, carrot sticks and cranberry juice, what's-his-name is playing golf, so you get your wish - a lyric I wrote that I think is good, and why.

Here is one of my recent favorites.

Everyone's a Stranger With A Dream
by Molly-Ann Leikin

There is a Fed-Ex truck in lane number two
A stretch white limosine in three
A cab, two cops, three Harleys racing in four
And heading to New York there's me

We're all going to different places
Different baggage in our suitcases
Looking for parking spaces
Everyone's a stranger with a dream

I stop for coffee and some nachos to go
Another feast in styrofoam
Somebody wish me luck I'm playing tonight
I call collect but no one's home

We're all going to different places
Different baggage in our suitcases
Looking for parking spaces
Everyone's a stranger with a dream

On the interstate, I'm a license plate with no name
But I swear to you, I'm coming through
Like a headlight in the driving rain

© 2019, 2000, Molly-Ann Leikin

Why do I like this one over others I've written? First, I love the images I used. We spend our days and nights in traffic, and like it our not, the vehicles I mention are all part of our lives. It feels very real to me to mention them. I didn't just say "the freeway was crowded". I described each vehicle, and even the destination. The more specific, the easier it is to draw in the audience. We hear the words, we see the pictures, so we're appealing to two senses - sight and sound. The more the merrier.

We can see every vehicle, plus its colors. Fed Ex is purple and red. The limo's white. The cop car is black and white, the cab is yellow, the Harleys - pick a shade that makes you happy and don't bug me, dude.

In the chorus, the theme hits home - everybody's on the move, never stopping, always heading somewhere, each of us with different agendas and goals. We're all looking for a place to stop, belong and feel welcome. (I got the idea about the parking spaces after circling the garage at the Sports Club LA for forty minutes before I finally parked illegally next to a Porsche that was new and taking up three spots. Guess who got the ticket - and it wasn't the Porcshe.)

Normally, I stay away with the same passion from three rhymes in a row with the same sound, as I would from a guy who is "separated from his wife" (yeah, like since breakfast) but doesn't have any paperwork to show me, yet. But in this case, it felt was right for the project to try three rhymes in a row, and I am relieved that it worked.

In the second verse, I revealed more about the "singer" and the loneliness of the road, the impersonality of the journey - styrofoam meals, fast food - the isolation of the pursuit. I was proud of choosing the word "sytrofoam", since that awful, non-biodegradable substance is such a big part of our lives and yet I'd never heard it in a lyric before. I feel it's a lyricist's job to add fresh vocabulary to each song, and it was very satisfying having that opportunity here. It's also one of the few words in contemporary English that rhymes with "home".

Since the "singer" sounded so lonely and bummed in the second verse, I felt it was important to turn that around and re-empower him with determination in the bridge. I don't like victim songs - we all have momentary slumps, but it sure is nice to get back on the road with a full stomach, an empty bladder, and fresh determination to complete the journey successfully.

Normally, I try my best to write lyrics with pictures in the title. In this case, there are so many images in the body of the lyric, I didn't feel that was necessary.

I wrote this lyric to be part of a singer/songwriter package, but the other writer and I had irreconcileable, professional differences. With so much rancour between us, there's no way our work would ever triumph. So we split up the songs, he got his tunes, I got my lyrics, we wished each other well and moved on.

That often happens in a collaboration. But I always make it clear in front that if we're both not deliriously happy with the result, we have the option of walking away with what we brought to the table, without the other having any future claim to our work.

I hope this analysis has been helpful. And I suggest you go through your own work to see if there are some elements I discussed here that you can add to your lyrics to make them stronger, more memorable and, of course, more marketable. Let me know how you do, okay?

© 2019 Molly-Ann Leikin

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