Do lyrics even matter anymore in music?

Josh VanDyke • Feb 18, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Maybe I’m just getting older, or maybe my musical taste buds have changed, but it seems like the creativity in the music industry has hit a steep decline in recent years.

Entertainment needs have overshadowed actual artistic mastery in a way that’s appalling on some levels. That was never more evident than when I watched some of the 60th edition of the Grammys this year.

The award for song of the year went to Bruno Mars for “That’s What I like”, which I’ll admit, is a catchy tune, but the lyrics could not have been more simplistic or void of substance.

Here’s the chorus to the now award-winning track:

“Gold jewelry shining so bright

Strawberry champagne on ice

Lucky for you, that's what I like, that's what I like

Lucky for you, that's what I like, that's what I like

Sex by the fire at night

Silk sheets and diamonds all white

Lucky for you, that's what I like, that's what I like

Lucky for you, that's what I like, that's what I like”

Are you kidding me? That’s the best song of the year?

Maybe the other nominees like “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber and “Issues” by Julia Michaels aren’t much better as far as lyrical content, but you’d have a hard time convincing me songs like “4:44” by Jay-Z or “1-800-273-8255” by Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid aren’t more powerful songs to hold up as award-winning tracks, especially in such a divisive time in our society.

I really thought “1-800-273-8255”, a chart-topping single about suicide prevention, would win the award based on the subject matter it touched on and the story that is weaved through an already impressive sound and rhythm.

But it was clear very early on in the proceedings that entertainment was going to trump any actual competition in terms of artistic ability.

Bruno Mars went on to win Album of the Year and Record of the Year, as well, for 24K Magic, which was equalling puzzling to me. Apparently, the voting panel didn’t listen to Awaken! My Love by Childish Gambino or DAMN by Kendrick Lamar.

Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, might be one the most talented people on the planet next to Justin Timberlake. His ability as an actor, singer and performer is hard to deny. Kendrick Lamar, without question, is a lyrical genius who continues to showcase his ability to tell stories through his music that captive all audiences regardless of age, race, gender or political leaning.

Despite that, both of them were put on the backburner for a song about strawberry champagne, Cadillacs and beach houses in Miami.

Let’s get one thing straight, Bruno Mars is talented, as well. His halftime show at the Super Bowl in 2014 was one of the most entertaining displays I can ever remember watching. His drum solo alone was awe inspiring and the Motown feel to his music is captivating.

But, when it comes to the most prestigious awards in the music industry, I don’t believe he deserved it this time around. There needs to be a separation between an entertainer and an artist, and I feel like that is the biggest disconnect right now.

Unfortunately, the musical “artist” is an endangered species these days. In the world of hip-hop, autotune and catchy riffs thrown together as mixtapes have replaced actual albums, while the world of country music has gone away from its bluegrass roots and steered its attention toward formulaic party tunes that are empty and predictable.

I think Samuel L. Jackson said it best on Twitter when he wrote, “Maybe if we underpaid these modern mumble rappers and overpaid teachers there would be smarter people in the world and less (crappy) music.”

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