FEATURE: CaSe In PoInT: Is the Standard of English Dropping in Music?



CaSe In PoInT


PHOTO CREDIT: @neonbrand/Unsplash 

Is the Standard of English Dropping in Music?


MAYBE the language in songs is not quite as bad...


 PHOTO CREDIT: @patrickbrinksma/Unsplash

as I imagined but I have noticed a couple of things coming into music more and more. I have been listening to a lot of older music and some of the richest lyricists ever. From the classic songwriters to a sharper brand of Pop; I do wonder whether language has taken a back-seat to beats and a set formula. There are some great writers and thinkers in music but, more and more, the mainstream is being filled with music that is neither particularly challenging nor inventive. So many Pop artists are describing love in the same way and using very basic language. There is a simplicity and derivative nature that is not shifting. I know I am not perfect but I have to dig hard to discover songs where there is something poetic or sharp; a lovely line that catches you by surprise. That is not my biggest fear because, more and more, I am seeing song and album titles that mixes cases and miss punctuation. Maybe it is the cool new thing but artists such as Billie Eilish – who puts most of her songs in lower-case letters – are culpable. I know it is deliberate but other artists either put certain words in lower-case and some in upper. I also see a lot of songs with all the lettering in upper-case letters. This irks me but I wonder whether artists are trying to stand out or whether they feel bold text means the song is stronger.

I do worry whether this rather causal use of the English language results from greater reliance on text-speak and phones – whether everything is short-hand and we do not take the time to check. I am guilty when it comes to text messages. I often forget to put some upper-case lettering in or sloppily hammer off a text. Many people I see are firing text messages whilst walking and I do wonder how carefully they check regarding quality, clarity and accuracy. I have written before about the quality of the written word and how I am seeing more artists who are unable to construct simple sentences – I am aware I have made some errors regarding scansion and grammar (split infinitives) but I try my hardest. I know a lot of artists mix cases and stuff like that because it is different but I wonder why they do it. I hate looking at a song that has all upper or lower-case lettering or a mixture of both. I see so many songs pose a question without a question mark and it is getting hard to find that many artists who provide interesting and original titles. Look at the lyrics we see in many albums and there is a lack of scope and ambition. So many artists fail to dip into literature and the artists and I am finding few who write anything other than personal themes – what is wrong with stepping outside a comfort zone and opening your mind?

It is quite cool to play with language when necessary but I look at so many playlists and new songs and it does bother me. So many artists write ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ – I know Prince used to it; people are not Prince! – and so many songs fail to catch the mind because they are pretty average and formulaic. Our schools are great but I am concerned that, the more we rely on technology and do not write as much as we used to, this is going to bleed into music. This might sound like a personal beef and someone who is being picky but one can correlate between artists’ standard of English and the quality of music. I look back at songs/albums from years ago and can see a decline since then. In terms of titling, there is less need to mix cases and there is greater invention. Look back decades ago and, once more, the standard is increased. Maybe it is just a sign of things moving on and language evolving – but I wonder if this is a good thing. We communicate in a more brief and speedy way. We writer fewer letters and an history of the English language shows radical changes and evolution. I think one of the reasons Pop music has become slower and less optimistic is because of the way we communicate and how we use language. We are talking less and I feel like, the more technology takes over, the more this impinges on creativity and a certain outlook.

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I listen to a lot of songs and, whilst some are upbeat and forward-looking, so many are pretty tense and anxious. In terms of words we hear, there seems to be less spark and colour. That is a debate that we can have but I have noticed a certain decline in language that is not necessarily related to modernity and natural changes. Technology has advanced music hugely and led to so many breakthroughs. I am pleased we have been able to open the industry to countless artists but I feel there is a downside regarding using a crutch and being over-reliant. From the popular, if quite annoying, use of upper and lower-case letters in songs to poor punctuation and grammar, it concerns me how this will all affect music in years to come. I do think the most memorable and challenging songs are those where there is a richness and variety regarding language. As much as anything, I would like to see fewer tracks where there is an incorrect mix of lower and upper-case letters; a bit more attention when it comes to accuracy. Whether stylish or not, I do think it will become somewhat normalised and that is concerning. I do feel, as people, we are less attached to the English language and the written word. A lot of my hankering and observation comes from a desire to see these big and mindblowing songs that take us into this imaginative world; Pop songs that are more complex and music that, generally, spikes the imagination. Maybe it is hard to correct everything and see a big improvement but I do feel like we need to make some changes. To start with, whether the young find it eye-catching or not, it would be good to see fewer songs that are either all lower-case...


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