Welcome to the tenth day of Pass it to the Left’s ‘Artist Series!’ We have invited amazing artists and musicians to share their work with us, as well as their thoughts on their art, their music, social change, and community. Enjoy!
by Ivette Meow
“Music is the healer no matter who you are” – Bajka in ‘Walk in the Sky’ by Bonobo
People who know me or who have met me usually say that I’m a pretty happy and relaxed person, but I have not always been this way. Like some people I’ve had my share of dark days in my childhood, growing up as the ‘paper girl’ in the wealthy neighbourhood of West Vancouver. While a simple paper route seems pretty normal for kids growing up, my paper delivery experience was actually a whole family operation. I’ll spare you all the details and just mention that this started when I was five, continued for ten years, and for most of it we stuffed and delivered over 2000 papers, three nights a week, and occasionally even more during early mornings. Towards the end of it I realized that I had a unique opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation of liberty, joy, and independence, in comparison to the stressful and oppressive lifestyle that I was experiencing. This is when I began to write poetry.
Poetry was my outlet for recording personal reminders of the small joys and simple pleasures to help me deal with the negativity in my life. Songwriting was a natural progression of writing poetry that allowed me to connect to a larger audience. Highly influenced by Tool, Incubus, and Rage Against The Machine, I had begun to realize the power of conveying important messages and generating strong emotions through lyrics. I decided that I wanted to connect to listeners through themes of inspiration, wisdom, and positivity. I had heard too many mediocre songs about love, sadness, heartache, and relationships that made me want to avoid writing those type of songs. Instead I found it more challenging to write lyrics that were able to inspire people to think, change, and grow. And if I’m not able to inspire people through my lyrics I wanted to at least show how I was inspired through the stories that I tell.
Since music alone can be interpreted pretty subjectively, I believe that lyrics are one of the most important aspects of music since they have the potential to communicate a very definitive message to the world. I actually find it shameful to hear music on the radio or in pop culture that has thoughtless, mindless, garbage lyrics because the amazing opportunity to say something with meaning and depth to such a large audience has been completely wasted. On the other hand, lyrics that are too complex tend to lose their meaning between the lines and can also become diluted. It’s quite a skill to be able to produce meaningful lyrics that are simple enough to digest, yet powerful enough to last beyond the end of the song. Mix this with finding melodic hooks and phrasing that fit well with the music, and you have good songwriting.
Unfortunately, good songwriting is undervalued in current pop culture, instead the focus is mainly on catchy melodies and hooks to sell music as good background noise. My guess is that it has to do with the way that people value music while living in the age of YouTube and iPods. We live in an age where we only have to click a few buttons to listen to any music we want; it has become a form of information overload. This propagates an ADD type of music appreciation where you can gain the attention of a listener through shock value and negative attention. Selling ‘singles’ is more profitable to a market that is interested in listening to bits and pieces of songs set on ‘shuffle’ while they’re performing a million other activities. Listening to a whole album and appreciating the consistency of songwriting and style is rare these days, and consequently producing a great album with depth and flow is even less common. However, I’m hoping that we are simply in a cycle of “two steps forward, one step back” and that too many mindless lyrics will push music aficionados to seek out higher quality songwriting to set a better standard for future music production. This higher quality songwriting will come from the current up-and-coming local talents who work hard to stand out from the crowd. Fortunately for us I think that the general public is moving beyond the ‘free music download’ era and there is a growing support for local music scenes.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to support local artists!