Great Song, Mediocre Lyrics

I was working out a song for a guitar student by a British artist named Jamie Cullum called “All At Sea”, when I discovered a gem. I liked “All At Sea”, but it’s written for piano so translating it to guitar is a bit of a challenge, and some chords just do not translate well. I decided to explore Cullum’s repertoire and I came across one that I just loved called “I’m All Over It”.

I enthusiastically worked it out just for my own pleasure…not an easy song to play by any means. Cullum is considered somewhat of a jazz-pop artist, and his jazz influences certainly come out in his writing. His first releases were mostly jazz standard covers but he began throwing in the occasional self-penned song by his second and third albums. By his fourth album “Catching Tales”, the majority of the songs were original. The song “I’m All Over It” was co-written with Ricky Ross and appears on his fifth album “The Pursuit”.

In examining the song further I realized the lyrics, outside of the title phrase “I’m All Over It”, are really not all that brilliant. Now, if you have read even a few of my articles, you’ll know that I almost always say there’s no excuse for poor or less-than-quality lyrics! So am I contradicting myself here? I don’t think so. Imagine if this terrific song had had terrific lyrics too!

Here are the lyrics:

Hello innocence, though it seems like we’ve been friends for years
I’m finishing, how I wish I had never begun
Though it should be the last one
And it’s dragging me down to my knees
Where I’m begging you please
Let me go, don’t you know

I’m all over it now
And I can’t say how glad I am about that
I’m all over it now
Cause I worked and I cursed and I tried
And I said I could change and I lied
Well there’s something still moves me inside

She’s a melody, that I’ve tried to forget but I can’t
It still follows me
When I wake in the dead of the night
And I know that I can’t find
That song going round in my head
Like the last things you said
Please don’t go you think I know

[repeat CHORUS]

No I won’t come back
No I won’t come back
No I won’t come back
No I won’t come back
One dark morn-in’ she left without a war–ning
And took the red-eye back to London town

I’m all over it now
I’m all over it now
I’m all over it now and I can’t say how glad I am about that
I’m all over it now
Cause I worked and I cursed and I tried
And I said I would change but I lied
Well there’s something still moves me inside…

The most blatant problems are that he changes person (from “you” to “she”), he uses old tired phrases like “down to my knees” and “begging you please”, and he uses disconnected ideas “please don’t go, you think I know”.  It’s classified as pop/jazz, so essentially you have pop lyrics over a jazz/pop melody/chord progression.  And we all know that “pop” doesn’t always go much deeper than…well, pop.

Are lyrics important? This is a question that comes up time after time with many songwriters, and I think the main reason people question it is because there are so many songs that have pretty mediocre lyrics and are all about music and/or production. Oh, and a popular artist helps too :-).

But a lot of people love songs with mediocre lyrics, not BECAUSE of them but IN SPITE of them. When I was a kid growing up, we couldn’t HEAR a lot of lyrics for many songs on the radio because recordings were bad and the radios we heard them on weren’t much better. But the point was that we didn’t care! We mumbled the lyrics we couldn’t hear and didn’t know and loved them anyway. And the ones we could hear were not scrutinized very closely either. We rarely questioned what a song was really about. And that hasn’t changed much through to my kid’s generation.

“I’m All Over It” is a break up song.  And in spite of my lyrical criticism, I love it.

So what do you think?

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