“Music expresses that which cannot be said.” – Victor Hugo
For the musician, the search for the right words can be an exhausting struggle. Frustration can mount as you, the proficient songwriter who supposedly has a gift for putting together words, fight to find the lyrics that perfectly capture how you feel. Sometimes they simply do not come.
It is during these times of lyrical desolation that the wise musician lets the music do the talking. Rather than force the issue by writing line after line that leads to nothing, it is often best to speak less. Popular music has a long history of notes and chords that perfectly capture that which cannot be said.
Think of the inspired ending of Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” filled with wonderfully simple piano and guitar melodies that summon a lifetime’s worth of nostalgia. Or the heavenly synthesizers that gradually climb and inspire in the introduction to U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Finally, is there a more melancholic vibe than the one created by the strings on Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U?”
What these song parts have in common is that they don’t require vocals to convey a feeling. They are proof that music, on its own, has the power to both express and stir deep and strongly held emotions. If you are a songwriter who sometimes struggles to find the perfect words, I recommend occasionally letting the music do the talking.