I’ve never really been one who enjoys reading poetry, but I do enjoy certain poetic forms when done well (haiku, especially), and by extension, I despise them when they are done poorly. Song lyrics, of course, are a small subset of poetry, and in most cases, the poetic nature of them tends to just wash on by. But not always.
One of the few country-western songs that just drives me around the bend is Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl” (which I heard on the radio this morning, and thus was made worthy of bitching about here), because of a lyrical line break in the second verse. There is a term called “enjambment”, dealing with breaking phrases between lines. When done well, this can add extra depth to a poem. When done poorly, you get horrors like this:
He kissed her lips in*shudder* No value is added here, and because of how song lyrics will expand or contract the length and placement of the syllables to go with the music, the word “in” could easily have been shifted to the next line and not broken the prepositional phrase.
Front of the picture show
What makes this song more notable in this arena, though, is that the third verse does superb enjambment, where the second line of these three works syntactically with both the line before and the line after:
I’ll gladly take her placeFor the record, the other two country songs that I utterly despise — but for thematic reasons rather than poetic ones — are Collin Raye’s “That’s My Story (And I’m Sticking to It)” (the “It’s okay to lie to your wife” song) and Reba McEntire’s “She Thinks His Name Was John” (which tells us that casual sex, just once, will give you AIDS and you will die). Play those and I change the channel; I merely bitch with the Tim McGraw song.
If you’ll let me
Make this my last request
Updated links of March 2, 2011