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Examples of bad MT lyrics 
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Post Examples of bad MT lyrics
I've recently seen a trend developing where members will state that a particular show's or composer's lyrics are bad but don't back up why with examples. So, this thread is for giving examples of bad lyrics and giving reasons why they're bad. If you want, you can also write a few sentences on what makes for a bad lyric.

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Thu Aug 25, 2011 5:15 pm
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
First and foremost they must fill the formal demands of lyrics, like they must rhyme. Book of Mormon has some garish examples:

A two-year mission
Is our sacrifice
We are the Army of the Church of Jesus... "Chrise"?

The must also scan prperly and comprehensible with the rythm of the tune. Here Tim Rice is a great sinner. Many of his Chess lyrics, for example, have the stress on unnatural words in a sentence, or the sentence is interrupted midways because it runs out of melody.

It is also necessary that the lyrics correspond with the character that sings them, but that is more difficult to find exact, indisputable examples of, as it can be subjective what a character is supposed to be like.

Everything one needs to know about this subject is to be found in Sondheims book Finishing the Hat, btw.

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Last edited by Hans on Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:03 am, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:34 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
Wicked has some terrible lyrics, but I'm convinced the worst is in Dancing Through Life (which is, coincidentally, Schwartz's best melody in the show, go figure):
"Make sure you're where less trouble is rife."

Wait...what? Set to music, people completely ignore it (probably because they have NO idea what it's trying to say) and when you read it as a legitimate sentence, it makes zero sense. I get what he's trying to say (Yeah, there should be an abundance of "less trouble") but it's a horrendous lyric.

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Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:02 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
'Wicked' has several onerous lyrics, but this is the part that always makes me cringe:

Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love, I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity

Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down


So, you'd sooner buy a verb, would you? It's not helped by the fact that the rhyme scheme has it coupled with a homophone. ](*,)

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Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:23 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
I always thought it was "I'd sooner try..."

"Make sure you're where less trouble is rife."
I would say it makes perfect sense. "Trouble is less rife" may more correct, but the character is hardly one that worries about good grammar, and would say convoluted sentences. Which ties in with what Hans said; it must suit to what the character would say. As Michael Kunze said, different character must have different languages in their lyrics. If everyone speaks the same, the characters fail to be distinguished.


Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:07 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
I always thought it was "I'd sooner try..."

No, I just listened to that part to verify it; it's certainly a 'b' consonant. It appears that the intent was to extend the metaphor of retail established by 'cost' in the previous line, only the attempt was ham-fisted.

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Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:15 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
I would say it makes perfect sense. "Trouble is less rife" may more correct, but the character is hardly one that worries about good grammar, and would say convoluted sentences.


I think that sounds suspiciously apologetic. Which sort of character is one that'd worry about good grammar (except Henry Higgins)? That explanation can explain luric errors for about any character.

I think it's clever that lovely is the only thing Philia of Forum can do, because she's a cartoon whose only treats are being dumb and attractive. Bad grammar must be better accounted for, otherwise it comes across as the writer sacrificing grammar for rhyme.

Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
Which ties in with what Hans said; it must suit to what the character would say. As Michael Kunze said, different character must have different languages in their lyrics. If everyone speaks the same, the characters fail to be distinguished.


Thanks, but in my opinion it is more correct to attribute the rule to Hammerstein, who by and large founded the tradition of musicals with distinctive characters (as opposed to the tradition where the voice of the lyrics is that of the lyricist, like the (nevertheless brilliant, I might mention) Cole Porter musicals, where the characters are different aspects of Cole Porter).

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Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:51 am
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Post Examples of bad MT lyrics
Disney-Bway27 wrote:
Wicked has some terrible lyrics, but I'm convinced the worst is in "Dancing Through Life" (which is, coincidentally, Schwartz's best melody in the show, go figure): "Make sure you're where less trouble is rife".... Set to music, people completely ignore it (probably because they have NO idea what it's trying to say) and when you read it as a legitimate sentence, it makes zero sense. I get what he's trying to say (Yeah, there should be an abundance of "less trouble") but it's a horrendous lyric.

Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
I would say it makes perfect sense. "Trouble is less rife" may more correct, but the character is hardly one that worries about good grammar, and would say convoluted sentences.

Hans wrote:
I think that sounds suspiciously apologetic. Which sort of character is one that'd worry about good grammar (except Henry Higgins)? That explanation can explain lyric errors for about any character.

I don't really have an objection to the syntax of th\t lyric and even if we decided for argument's sake that it was objectionable, I think it's far from the worst lyrical flub in Wicked. The lyric is playful with language in the way that Fiyero might be and I would not say it makes zero sense when read as a legitimate sentence, remembering alo that the quality of lyrics shouldn't be judged without at least acknowledging their setting to music. What is problematic in that section of the song is the attempt to rhyme 'careless' with 'where less', which is what causes the syntax to be shifted in the way that it is in the first place.

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Fri Aug 26, 2011 8:36 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
RainbowJude wrote:
I don't really have an objection to the syntax of th\t lyric and even if we decided for argument's sake that it was objectionable, I think it's far from the worst lyrical flub in Wicked.


I don't have much opinion on Wicked as (and because) I am very bored of it. I was only objecting to the argument in general, not that example in particular.

Puh - I also found a quote to back up my Hammerstein claim: On page 7 of the Hat, Sondheim says that after the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution "[...] Oklahoma! had made character and story, rather than personality and diversion, the major concern of musicals [...]".

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Fri Aug 26, 2011 9:12 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
Hans wrote:
Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
Which ties in with what Hans said; it must suit to what the character would say. As Michael Kunze said, different character must have different languages in their lyrics. If everyone speaks the same, the characters fail to be distinguished.


Thanks, but in my opinion it is more correct to attribute the rule to Hammerstein, who by and large founded the tradition of musicals with distinctive characters (as opposed to the tradition where the voice of the lyrics is that of the lyricist, like the (nevertheless brilliant, I might mention) Cole Porter musicals, where the characters are different aspects of Cole Porter).

Oh, I never meant he came up with the idea, just that Kunze is someone who specifically said it.

Incidentally, Kunze's lyrics for Defying Gravity. He states that he never tries to improve, but write what the original lyricist might have written if they were a native German speaker.

Zulang wollt ich geliebt sein.
Darum spielte ich ihr Spiel.
Ist das der Preis für Liebe, kostet sie zu viel?
Jetzt bin ich frei, so frei und schwerelos.
Aus und vorbei, ich bin frei und schwerelos und niemand fängt mich ein.

Too long I wanted to be loved.
That's why I played their game.
Is that the price for love, does it cost too much?
Now I am free, so free and weightless.
It's all over (over and done with?)I am free and weightless and no one can catch me.

Personally, I think it is an improvement, especially "Darum spielte ich ihr Spiel."

Now this, is what I would call great lyrics. Situation, character (she still very young, and practically having a tantrum), fits comfortably on the music, and is amusing.
ANNE:
It's that woman, it's that Armfeldt!
PETRA:
Oh, the actress?
ANNE:
No, the ghoul!
She may hope to make her charm felt,
But she's mad if she thinks I would be such a fool
As to weekend in the country.


Fri Aug 26, 2011 9:47 am
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Post Re: Examples of bad MT lyrics
Another Wicked lyric that annoyed me even when I was a rabid middle school Wicked fangirl:
Would it be alright by you,
If I degreenified you?

I can't stand that Schwartz rhymes you with you!

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Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:53 pm
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Post Examples of bad MT lyrics
lilmissbroadway wrote:
Another Wicked lyric that annoyed me even when I was a rabid middle school Wicked fangirl:

Stephen Schwartz wrote:
Would it be alright by you,
If I degreenified you?

I can't stand that Schwartz rhymes you with you!


Isn't the lyric actually:
Stephen Schwartz wrote:
Would it be all right by you,
If I degreenify you?

The rhyme is not the 'you'/'you' identity, but 'by you'/'fy you', which is a feminine rhyme, but one which places the emphasis on the incorrect word in the first line and the emphasis on the incorrect syllable of one of the words in the second.

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