It’s Only Words (and Words Are All I Have)

Via the Music Press Report

Words that hit the wrong note

“Just how ‘edgy’ ‘brave’ and ‘dark’ can modern pop music be? It’s time to put a stop to lazy music journalism.” (From The Guardian blog… the comments section is pretty fun, and pretty silly.)


6 thoughts on “It’s Only Words (and Words Are All I Have)

  1. “Edgy,” “brave,” and “dark” are undoubtedly overused, but at least they’re simple adjectives with direct meanings. The music-writing cliches that irritate me are the synthetic metaphors that are neither clever nor accurate to begin with, and then are picked up by various lazybrains and employed so incessantly they become totally meaningless. The two worst offenders are “whip-smart” and “jaw-dropping.” I’ve seen these twin turds in both publicists’ press releases and actual pro-crit reviews. The latter cohort really ought to know better. In either case, I suspect that the perpetrator was reared in a home in which *USA Today* was considered a real newspaper. Bah, omfug!


  2. Richard, I’m absolutely certain I’ve used “jaw-dropping.” Worse, I think I’ve even added the dread “ly” at the end (i.e., “jaw-droppingly intense”). I agree it sounds kind of forced and stupid, and I’m sure I sounded like an idiot. I’m always grateful when people point things like this out. (I’ve never met a dumb cliche I haven’t employed at least once.)

    However, I disagree with your comment insofar as saying “edgy” (for instance) is a “simple adjective with direct meaning.” I don’t think it’s very simple or direct at all. It’s a word positively filled with assumptions, most of them silly assumptions about what constitutes something “dangerous.” (“Dangerous” is even worse; I can’t even think of an adjective for “edgy” I’d be very comfortable using, except maybe in extreme circumstances.) So as much as I may agree about “jaw-dropping” insofar as just *sounding* really stupid, it’s at least an adjective that describes a personal reaction–whereas when I see “edgy” I feel like the writer is congratulating their own good taste.

    (On the other hand, a vocalist who sings in a jittery or nervous fashion I suppose could be called “edgy,” and I wouldn’t have an issue with that–but I don’t think that’s what’s being suggested in the article.)

  3. Scott:
    I agree that “edgy” is full of assumptions — when I see it in a review, it gives off a mandatory-hipster vibe, sort of the verbal equivalent of living in Brooklyn. Still, it’s a nice compact word with a reasonably direct meaning: it identifies art or music from the edges (you may not agree with the reviewer that the material in question is in fact “edgy,” but still you know just what he or she’s getting at.)
    On the other hand, have you ever seen anyone’s jaw actually drop in the presence of a musical performance? Cock-erecting, nipple-stiffening, those bodily motions undoubtedly do happen at concerts, but jaws don’t drop (unless you get slugged by a roadie), so I rule it untrue & dysfunctional. “Jaw-dropping” should be retired from critical usage immediately, and left in a basket on William Safire’s doorstep, after which he’ll do a complete etymological work-up.

    Sixty & savaged,

  4. Love your sign-off, Richard–I own that Silverhead album too!

    I kind of hear what you’re saying about “edgy”–you at least know what the writer is getting at (or thinking what they’re getting at), but it still makes me suspicious.

    Not that it matters but I erred in my word choice above: I said I can’t think of an adjective for “edgy”; I meant to say I can’t think of a *synonym* for “edgy.” An adjective for an adjective would be a redundancy, no?

  5. Maybe the phonetics are off-putting.. you know, because of the “y”. You could say something has “an edge”. That way you won’t imagine how other writers are laughing at your review and talking behind your back.

    These physical manifestations referred to – do you mean ones that could take place at a Bangles show?

  6. Gee, all I wanted was info on the recording(s?) of “Words Are All I Have…” and what I got was some repartee between a couple of anything-you-can-say-I-can-say-sagier* individuals. Guess I’ll need some techno-tutoring. I plan to get an I-Pod for myself for my birthday, and I want to load it up with a great selection of love songs, the schmaltzier the better. “Words…” qualifies, so does “All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe,” and plenty of Air Supply, (neat how comfortably those phrases go together).

    Somewhere I read that “Bessa Me** Mucho” was the schmaltziest song of the century, so I’d better include that one too.

    I did enjoy your examination of the term “edgy/edgier.”

    *That’s a neologism (not many occasions to use that term). You know, sage/sagier/sagiest
    **So I can’t spell Spanish

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