Do you know what an outstanding lyric does? It grabs your listener by the mind. Your listener is stimulated by the mechanics of the language he/she speaks to daydream a picture in the mind’s eye that is the experience of your song. This is powerful, and whether you use that picture to make a point, to set a scene, or to convince and convert to make a difference in the world, the bottom line is a lyric grabs a listener by the mind and makes the mind’s eye see whatever you paint for them. Some paintings are better than others, just like some books are better than others.
A line or a single lyric is a micro movie of the mind’s eye. It is always directed by the beholder. This is why a book you read and like is never as good as the movie. Any book you read, you directed. You built the scenes, you ran the lights, you covered the angles. Then they make it into a movie and it’s not what you saw in your minds eye so you leave the theater saying “It wasn’t as good as the book”. Very common. Good books are not an accident. They use language to give you the reigns to direct it as you would see it.
Coming up with outstanding lyrics is, for the most part, never an accident. Sure, at times you might say something off the cuff, write something off the top of your head, or be thinking about something in your inner monologue with just the right word choice, and presto – great lyric….but for the most part, writing a lyric that stands out and grabs your listener by the mind takes a little effort. Let’s take a look at a lyric I have come across that I believe to be an outstanding lyric, and why.