There’s no growth within said specific genre. It’s conformist, it’s uniform, and it’s oh so fucking boring.
Recently I was asked to review this new band that my brother had come across named Red Fang, an American Metal band out of Portland, Oregon; I did check them out. They were alright. The music was very much metal, and the lyrical content to their songs was pretty much what you would expect: Dark, dreary, in so few words: Metal by numbers. I get it. Depending on which genre of music a band or artist is involved in, then said genre has some sort of influence over the lyrical content, but then again, does it have to? A genre of music is defined by the instruments used and the music played with them. The lyrics are up to the person writing them. It seems that the lyricists have chosen to pigeonhole themselves to a theme, and how sad for them. There’s no growth within said specific genre. It’s conformist, it’s uniform, and it’s oh so fucking boring.
On Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, you have an animated show called Metalocalypse. Metalocalypse is about a fictional band named Dethklok (this fictional band’s music is composed by show creator, Brandon Small, who not only does the voices for several of the characters on the show, but also writes the ridiculous lyrics, sings in a gruff, most of the time incoherent “Metal” voice, and plays guitar. Members from the band Mastadon are his backing band, thus making up Dethklok) comes off as the savior of the fucking world. In the world of Dethklok, the Earth’s inhabitants pretty much march to the beat of Dethklok’s drums. Metalocalypse is a show that pokes fun at how utterly ridiculous these Metal bands can be in connection to their lyrical content!
There are people out there who are currently reading this who don’t or won’t agree with me even though I speak the truth. You want an example of Red Fang’s lyrical content? Let’s take the song “Crows In Swine” from their latest release, Whales and Leeches. The first verse of said song is as follows:
Wings of emerald
Lost for time
Soaked in brine
Nickeled and dimed
Crows and swine”
… To be completely fair to Red Fang, although their lyrical content is still very much formulaic, their music does toe the line between standard metal riffs. Vocalist/guitarist, Bryan Giles doesn’t only sing with your typical incoherent metal voice; he mixes it up a bit with an amalgamation of many different “rock voices”, which, I can appreciate and even respect. Hold on a second though, your standard metal voice is never too far away (“Black Water“); but a mere four songs later, you get a song like “Doen“, and Bryan gives us a little bit of the late great Ronnie James Dio and Layne Staley if you listen close enough. So you see? He doesn’t NEED to be a complete cliché, he just CHOOSES to be. It fits the genre, and as such, he makes himself a slave to conformity.
I grew up with punk, but I’m sorry to say that Punk did not grow up along with me …
Look, I don’t want to seem like I’m just picking on this one band or this one genre because I’m not. Other genres in the rock related realm also need to evolve. Let’s take Punk as another example. I grew up with punk, but I’m sorry to say that Punk did not grow up along with me. Sure, it’s cool for Punk rockers to rage against the government. We get it. The government sucks. Yet, how many different ways can you say the government sucks before it becomes a complete blah-ness to the fucking ears? Not every Punk band is the same though. Some bands like Bad Religion, give you the sort of lyrical content beyond the whole “fuck the government” mantra that most punk bands seem to fall into. Sure, Bad Religion have their “fuck the government” moments, but then again, Bad Religion have always been a thinking type of punk band. It helps that lead singer/co-lyricist, Greg Graffin holds a PHD in Evolutionary Biology, so what does that mean? Does it mean that if you’re going to get into any genre of music that you should all go out and get PHD’s in something to remain relevant to your fans? No. I believe life experience is enough to facilitate lyrical content beyond the norm; and that’s what I would really like to hear from my favorite bands. Don’t just tell me the government sucks because you’re into Punk, and don’t tell me that the world is one big hell on earth and that you love being stuck in Drop D tuning because you’re Metal. Evolve. Just fucking evolve.
Music is, and has always been about rebellion …
Where in the Music Rule Book does it say that the types of lyrics you write are defined by the music you play? Because I’ve looked and there’s no such rule, as a matter of fact, there’s no such rule book. Music is, and has always been about rebellion, and when a band of a specific type of genre pigeonholes themselves to what is expected from them from having chosen this genre over that one, then the rebellion is lost. There’s nothing special about what they’re doing. It’s formulaic and conformist.
is it so hard to believe that you can stay afloat in this business if you don’t sing about the same old, same old? Have you fucking tried?
Rock is not the only genre of music that is guilty of the predictability of their lyrical content. Rap, Modern R&B, Hip Hop, same sameness; different lyrical content than the genres mentioned above, but still, the argument is the same. Here’s R&B in a nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy breaks girl’s heart, girl pours her heart out in song (Mary J. Blige) Rap: Life experiences pertaining to coming up from nothing, and wow, look at the fucking millions we made (Jay-Z, Lil’ Flip). Okay, I can appreciate a good rags to riches story, but now that you have the national attention of the millions of young people who grow up listening to your music, instead of flaunting how well you now have it, why not educate those young people on how they can better their lives? Sure, no one said that you got into this business to be selfless, but you can’t be all the way selfish either, can you? You find yourselves in the awkward position that your words mean something to others, even if what you’re trying to do is make another hit record so you don’t go the way of someone like Mase. I get that you’re trying to stay afloat. I can respect it. Yet, is it so hard to believe that you can stay afloat in this business if you don’t sing about the same old, same old? Have you fucking tried?
Say something else other than the norm.
I believe that there’s this unspoken fear that if any band, group, or artist goes against the grain in terms of their lyrical content that their fans just won’t follow. As a music fan, I’m here to tell you, we’re not fucking stupid or lame. Give us something, anything of true substance and we’ll follow along. The same old is just not working anymore. Why should I go out and buy the the latest Mastadon album if lyrically, the themes will be the same as in the previous album? Why don’t I just listen to that previous album and save my fifteen bucks? Musical genres need to grow, they need to flourish and since a band or artist can do but so much with the music since that’s your great identifier with your fans, why not try to flourish in your lyrical content? Don’t give us the same old. I don’t know about you all, but I want to put on a metal, punk, or hip hop album, and just be blown away by how lyrically different the songs are to its predecessor. Say something else other than the norm. People don’t walk around saying the same things or believing the same things, right? People grow. I’m not the same person now that I was 15 years ago, so why do these artists feel that they can get away with saying the same things over and over again when it comes to their product? That’s not the reality of their outside lives, is it? If it is, then how boring are they? They deserve our pity, not our hard earned cash. Just sayin’ …