Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Score one for music.

Get it?

Some years back, I recall getting into an argument with my college floormates Chris Friel and Marcel “Marcellus T” Fauci, about whether or not a song’s most important component was its music or lyrics. I was being asked, essentially, to choose which child was my favorite, for all time and in perpetuity throughout the universe. I more or less copped out and said that it depended on artist and style, although I don’t consider this a copout so much as the only reasonable answer [1]. Ani DiFranco’s music is usually excellent, but her lyrics are, to me, the main attraction. Elvis Costello and Aimee Mann are incredibly strong lyricists, even when the music isn’t the best of their career. Bono’s lyrics are often overshadowed by the grand sound of U2, but I will say that the man has a gift for simile unlike almost any artist currently working [2]. Most hip-hop acts live or die entirely on their wordplay, which is why the current Eminem vs. Ja Rule rap feud is like watching Vin Diesel arm wrestling Matthew Modine [3].

It’s rather like another such argument, as to whether the writing or artwork is more important to a good comic book. In later years, it’s become clear that good writing will save even bad artwork, [4] but that no amount of spectacular pencil-and-ink will make you want to reread a poorly-scripted book.

So this morning at the gym, I walked out with a Spanish-techno song stuck in my head, a song that did nothing but repeat the phrase “No tengo dinero, pero tengo muchos amigos“–“I have no money, but I have lots of friends”–over and over again. And damn if it wasn’t catchy as hell. And I was forced to admit that generally, it seems more prevalent that all you need for a good song is a good melody, something I deny even though I keep running across examples [5].

And something I would continue to deny if Chris or Marcel were to approach me with the same question.

[1] However, this is just a personality thing–I easily see both sides of arguments, [6] and am often loath to adopt one of the prepackaged positions offered to me in debates. I was against the war in Iraq, but I would have supported it if the administration had sold the humanitarian case. I was for the war in Afghanistan and the only thing I regret about the action was that it wasn’t undertaken sooner and that our leaders can’t seem to clean up what they’ve broken. I’m far more pro-choice than I am pro-life, but I have no love for people who treat abortion as little other than expensive birth control, and I’d much rather see both sides of the fence work on improving the education system to help prevent more unwanted pregnancies and on improving the adoption system so it seems like a more palatable alternative. I tend to view abortion as the best thing we could come up with for now; but I’d like to believe there might be a day when there’s no need to make the choice at all. George magazine once ran a deeply frustrating article about how there’s now too much money involved in abortion fighting to actually want to find a solution, and while cynical, it struck a chord of truth that made me want to throttle both Roe and Wade. [7]

[2] “Dressed up / like a car crash / your wheels are turning but you’re upside down.” – “Stay (Faraway, So Close!).” This song, and it’s a cliche to say it, but this song and specifically these lyrics may have saved my life during my junior year of high school. I had no words for the confusion and possible depression I was feeling, but luckily, Bono did. Thanks, man. Now go save Africa.

[3] And now I would pay money to actually see this.

[4] Some years back, Peter David and Sal Buscema did a three-part sequel in Web of Spider-Man to David’s popular, collected-in-trade-paperback “Death of Jean DeWolff” arc, in which the Sin-Eater, the psychotic ex-cop who murdered Captain DeWolff, was let out of the mental hospital and began trying to put his life back together and deal with the brutal injuries inflicted on him by the enraged wall-crawler during his capture. It was a fantastic story about Spidey’s guilt over losing control and the ex-cop’s inability to hide from the monster buried deep inside him. It was also some of the ugliest artwork I’d ever seen in comics. I never liked Sal Buscema’s pencils. But I really wish I had the comics in front of me to read again.

[5] Sugar Ray and Lenny Kravitz, in particular. I tend to like their music a lot better when I don’t hear the lyrics, particularly Lenny’s. His last single, “Again,” was probably the best ballad of his career, but it includes the terrible line “And if that day comes / I know we could win,” which always made me want to ask, “Win what? Why win? What are we, eight years old?”

[6] I was born on the cusp of Virgo and Libra, which supposedly means that I get qualities of both signs, if you believe that sort of thing. My girlfriend once mentioned to me that she thinks I’m more of a Libra than a Virgo, and without irony or hesitation, I responded “I can see both sides of that.” So I had no choice but to agree with her.

[7] Good Lord. I hadn’t intended to toss the A-Bomb in here this morning. Might have to duck and cover for awhile.

Current music: Magic I Puzzle, The Ramones, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”

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This entry was posted on June 12, 2003 by in Comic Books, Music, Politics.
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