Words and Music into the Future: A Songwriting Treatise and Manifesto
Michael Koppy, author
Literary criticism, songwriting analysis, and cultural commentary--an uncompromising examination of the current state of popular songwriting in the English-speaking world. Devoid of celebrity genuflections, using mostly well-known songs from recent decades as examples, the author presents a compelling case that listeners have been force-fed a steady diet of industrial illiteracy. Why is Bob Dylan the "Donald Trump of Songwriting"? How did Neil Young become "The Poster Boy for Bad Songwriting"? What can the great Dolly Parton teach everyone about traditional folk songs? Why should composers study cultural critic Susan Sontag before naming their instrumental songs? Why is Stephen Sondheim wrong about what makes a memorable song? Ever notice that the worst writing in a music review usually comes when the critic quotes the act’s lyrics? Was Edgar Allen Poe 100% wrong about popular songs? And George Carlin 100% right? Paul McCartney: schooled by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Marvin Gaye—but did he learn his lesson? And more...
Musician Koppy takes a nuanced look at popular songwriting with an eye toward providing “principles and practices that might lead English-language songwriting to more resonance and significance.” Analyzing songs written by Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Buck Owens, Kenny Rogers, and others, Koppy delivers a case against what he sees as the “commercially profitable crap” that has dominated popular songwriting since the 1960s. He has some strict and basic rules for what makes a good song: it “needs to be wholly intelligible on first hearing” and “it’s not really necessary that a song has a great melody for it to be significant.” He takes down the lyrics of well-known songs such as Don McLean’s “American Pie” (“utter clumsiness”), the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (the chorus is “such an incredibly consummate disaster”), the Beatles’ “And I Love Her” (“just plain bad”), and most every song by Bob Dylan, whom he calls “the most ruthless, spineless, and prosperous” plagiarizer in pop music, who has produced “nothing of lasting literary or musical standing.” Koppy’s view of songwriting and songwriters is highly opinionated and debatable but is delivered with conviction. Songwriters and die-heard music aficionados will find much food for thought here. (BookLife)