Hyperbole is the greatest thing in the universe. Hyperbole weighs a ton, costs a fortune, reaches sky high, goes to infinity and beyond. Hyperbole is bigger than all outdoors, hotter than July, faster than a speeding bullet, and more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
And I love to use metaphors. Metaphors are a stream of rivers running through a sea of oceans, carving a path up a mountain of forests to a desert oasis. (At least that’s what redundant metaphors are.) Metaphors put butterflies in my stomach, cobwebs in my mind, clouds in my coffee, and flies in the ointment.
Similes, in contrast, are like a cheap perfume in a dime store display—they smell good behind the glass, but on a woman, it’s like someone else’s Aunt Gertrude. And alliterative similes are like long languid locomotive locutions of lasting lackadaisy.
Rhyming is like chiming, with some miming set to a certain timing. Love rhymes with above, and you can add that to blue which rhymes with you. But if you don’t disguise the rhyme in some sort of metric ruse, you will end up sounding like a two-bit Dr. Suess.
Yeah, I’ve been working on some song lyrics lately. And I’m starting to realize that, on one song in particular, I may be stretching the metaphor beyond it’s inherent elasticity. I find myself struggling with the meter, the rhyme scheme, and the larger picture of what it is that I’m trying to say and what I’m trying to evoke. Similes, metaphors, hyperbole, rhyme and reason—why is it that we songwriters, authors, poets, and other kinds of writers work so hard at this thing called writing anyway?
The reason is simple. Words matter.
Author Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a book, and it started the Civil War. Priest and theologian Martin Luther wrote a series of theses, and it started the Protestant Reformation. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and popular music (and church music for that matter) was never the same. Yes, words do matter.
For example, I am convinced that the words we sing in our churches are more than just lyrics on a screen. I really believe that our people’s theology—that which they believe about God—is formed as much by the words we sing as the Bible we read from. When we sing songs that talk more about how we feel and less about who God is and what He has done, people’s understanding of God becomes smaller. Ask yourself honestly: In our lyrics, do we revolve around God’s orbit, or does God revolve around ours? Because our smaller stories should only be told in the context of God’s larger meta-narrative—that is the historic role of corporate worship.
So I am struggling with the lyrics I’m writing. Because I want to make good Art. But also because I want to be true to what and to Whom I write. More so than just rhyming love and above, I want to say something that matters, that actually reflects some deeper reality—beyond the typical cliches—of what people actually feel and think and live.
And it is that very struggle that makes us artists.