I'm not a native English speaker and for improving it I use some rock and pop songs with acceptable lyrics. As many people do I like to read the words as I listen the music and even I can consider them as some exercice of literature. My problem is that if I was a fluid English speaker I guess that most of these songs wouldn't seemed to me as good as I imagine now. So I need some help of natives or people with good skills of English to give me their opinion.
I would like to have a list of interesting song lyrics or simply the name of some authors. When I think in some classics, as The Smiths, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan or Tom Waits, I don't know for certain if that lyrics that in the transation sound so good, have the same effect on the natives. Do you think that all these lyrics are pretensious and empty of literary content?
I use music lyrics to teach some of my students (a motivational exercise) and in my opinion the lyrics to a lot of pop songs are inane and uninteresting.
However, the musicians you mention (especially Waits and the Smiths) are the poets of our time. And there is no way you could describe their lyrics as empty of literary content. Pretentious maybe, but empty - never.
I am currently compiling a list of British musicians and musical styles that you may like to check out too.
Not to forget the poetry in Elvis Costello's great music.
Some of the other British groups you could add:
Tears for Fears
Thanks Lynne. I'm also agree with you in saying that Morrissey and Waits are poets of this time. As I said I like to see the lyrics of the songs as peaces of art and I imagine a future with those works of art considered as poems of modern trovadours.
Mi5 Mick, thank you too for your list, but do you think that all of these groups can be considered generally as a good lyric writers? I have my doubts.
By another hand in Spanish there are the term "cantautor" for an acurate lyric writter (Victor Jara, Serrat, Lluís Llach). Are there an English version for this name? Anyway this is another question.
Elvis Costello: absolutely! As for the rest, probably not.
Sorry: "pieces" instead of "peaces" and "troubadours" instead of "trovadours" (without a dictionary I'm lost).
Do you have more names? I'm sure that there are more...
Simon & Garfunkel
I beg to differ, but that is not my idea of literary lyrics. I already know the history of rock and the most influent bands and artists (a lot of years ago, when I was a child, I began as many childs) and I certainly not wanted to talk about "the most important names", not at all. My idea is to share my opinion about these "poets" of modern music, that have a consistent quality work in their lyrics, which are writted in English and have literary content. I'd also like to have the opinion of other people.
It is obvious that poetry, even my concept of poetry inside the modern musical trends, are things of very subjective nature. But I can give my personal opinion. I want to mention some sharp works of Lou Reed (like in "I'll be your mirror", "Waltzing Matilda", etc), the harsh and brilliant Morrissey (so many songs), the lucidity of Tom Waits, the languid beauty of Ian Curtis songs in Joy Division, Bob Dylan (still alive) and even some strange creations of Syd Barrett (although very often too naive for me!!!). I'm sure that you'll have different opinions...
Anyway, in order to clearify my intentions, I would like to focus the question in the concept of "singer-songwriter", so plentiful in the history of the music of other languages (as in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, etc). We could begin to talk about this.
Singer-songwriters / rock poets (good ones):
I think listening to popular music rather than music from the '80s or '70s will help you get a grasp of today's English. We don't want you going around using the words "groovy" or "flakey." A song that I'd really suggest to you is Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved." Basically, because it's one of my favorite songs; and, it uses lush vocabulary. If you don't like that, try something by John Mayer. You could always resort to rap.
<<You could always resort to rap>>
What's wrong with rap then? I love it.
I find your list very accurate and interesting. I knew before all these singers-songwritters in English, but Joni Mitchell's works. Could you please recommend me some record of her? By the way, I'd love to know more female songwritters...
In the other hand I love Caetano Veloso and George Brassens, although I only know the first records of Veloso. Anyway I don't know who are Frances Cabrel, Claude Marti and Joan-Pau Verdier. Could you please tell me?
Eng_Freak and Damian, thank you too. I don't know enough rap artists, but I guess that some of them could be interesting to read.
If some of you have the name of some website dedicated to the songwritters I would be very grateful. I actually only know a website with "cantautores" in Spanish and Catalan, very recommended: http://www.trovadores.net
I know I am biased, but to me the funky lyrics of Franz Ferdinand are among the best......I'm pretty sure most people can understand them. Check out Snow Patrol, too, and on a different tack: the Zutons, Jamelia, Joss Stone, Basement Jaxx. As for cool rap: try Ty. KOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!
Francis Cabrel is quite big in France and in other French speaking countries. Not really my taste in music, but I like "Les passantes" of his that you might want to listen to.