This is going to be a weird one.
It’s well documented about how music taps into our innermost emotions. I’ve covered it myself here. (Hehe harmless self promotion :p ) That’s not what I want to talk about. This is my take on lyrics vs melody.
The short version:
Melody is what can get my attention. Then Lyrics are what can get my soul.
And contrary to what many people say I don’t actually think that for a song to be great, it needs both. There are many songs where just one of the two is enough to put it up there. For example I love The Nights by Avicii but solely because of the lyrics. I always skip the EDM instrumental in the middle. In fact I like the lyrics so much that I have a cut version of the song on my machine that does away with the (what I feel useless) melody in between verses. I just HAD to listen to the song, though I had absolutely no interest in the instrumentals. The lyrics spoke to me in a way so primal that I took the pains of editing a song so that I could listen again. But I would never have found this song had it not been on the soundtracks of FIFA 15. I wouldn’t go out and search for EDM with good lyrics. This is what I mean when I say that a good melody is what catches my attention. I would remember a song for it’s melody, listen to it again and this time concentrate on the lyrics.
Consider this. That song has absolutely no need for lyrics. They could tell you a whole story in nothing but musical notes. Explosions in the Sky is known for narratively styled instrumentals, what they refer to as “cathartic mini-symphonies.” Why add someone else’s voice over there when your own imagination could fill in the gaps with whatever you need. The music let’s you go off on your own wild ride. Be it going off on an adventure, a scene with a loved one or engaging in an epic battle, and when that happens, it feels just so bloody good. For instance, take a look at this song, Eclipse of the Sun from the game Hyrule Warriors. (Might need a fact check on that one, I’m not a gamer so I have no idea if that’s right. How on earth do I know this song o.O) From the start itself you feel like you’re in combat. And as you reach 2:30, you can feel it moving to a climax. This is an entirely different branch of music.
And then there’s a third kind. Where the melody is amazing, there are lyrics but the lyrics don’t make sense to me on their own. The presence of the lyrics adds something to the song and it’s absolutely vital but I don’t know what. The iconic theme for Gladiator by Hans Zimmer comes to mind immediately, and even this little beauty called Sun & Moon. Granted I looked up the translation from Hebrew to English for the former, and yes, it is a very good set of lyrics but somehow the language and the tone convey exactly what is meant. I don’t know how they do this but it’s absolutely incredible. Again you need the right set of lyrics. It can’t be gibberish
Lastly there’s the kind of music where the melody and lyrics weave around each other like a DNA strand to create a perfect symphony for all to enjoy. Disney has been doing this for years. Elton John, John Lennon, the list goes on.
Listening to a song’s lyrics can unleash a more primal energy. People listen to any genre of music whenever they like, but my point is that understanding song lyrics can make one feel many emotions such as empowerment, anger, ecstasy, dismay etc.
Every song has a message it conveys—with or without lyrics—whether you care about the message’s significance is up to you.