As an author, I love a good story. Relatable characters, steady pacing, appropriate setting and a good plot are enough to make me happy any old day of the week. However, my love of storytelling also greatly influences my love of music. Most people today tend to overlook the connection between music & storytelling, but when you really stop and think about it… some of the best tracks ever laid down tell stories.
You see, the culture of today’s music largely focuses on only the visual aspect of things. This is why you get overtly extravagant music videos, but (in my opinion) next to no substance. Sure, we all know the old saying: “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” However, there’s not a damn thing wrong with painting an expensive picture with words. Turn of phrase, double entendre, clever mannerisms & personal style can all be just as powerful as any million dollar budget… especially when it comes to getting a point, moral and/or message across.
Some of the greatest and, in a few cases, woefully overlooked/underrated songs ever released all tell stories. And not only do they tell stories, they tell them with all the creativity, depth, imagination & sincerity that any award-worthy movie, best-selling novel or (to kick a dead horse) big budget video ever could.
The English language can be a beautiful thing when its potential is competently & intuitively harnessed. One problem that arises, sadly, is that sometimes… a great song doesn’t necessarily “fit the image or style” of an artist. Some tracks don’t get the credit or attention they deserve. On the other hand, such tracks can become an artist’s calling card. This conflict is something that most of the listening public is oblivious of, but the astute music lover should be able to retain their eclectic appreciation of a good song -regardless- of who releases it or the sometimes opposing aura of its message in relation to its artist.
A few examples of great storytelling songs that come to mind for me are songs like “Happy Birthday” by Flipsyde or “I Honor U” by Canibus, which both deal with the subject of birth & parenthood. Tracks like “Renee” by Lost Boyz, “Always Coming Back Home to You” by Atmosphere & “Save Me Dear” by Ghostface Killah all weave stories (albeit from very different perspectives, mind you) about something every guy either dreams about or hopes to find in his lifetime: That one-in-a-million girl. Finally, you get tracks that almost rank as dirges or eulogies for those we hold in the highest of respect like “Keep On” by Elzhi and (my favorite oldschool joint of all time) “They Reminisce Over You” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Those are just some of the tracks I know of… everyone has their own personal library of memorable songs.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to one question: What kind of story are YOU interested in hearing?