Of Poetic Muse, Tweens and Teens

The husband may not be able to carry a tune, but you can’t fault him with his knowledge of lyrics. In fact, he once won a singing competition. The judges pleaded with him to not sing, but to simply recite the beautiful lyrics, and their team sailed home with the trophy (or whatever it is college competitions have the budget to give). He won it solely on the strength of being able to appreciate the lyrics. The husband’s Antakshiri prize is like Bertie Wooster’s Scripture prize, and is much bandied about in our home.

It is also the husband who stops a song from lilting along and repeats the words—his eyes shining with the hidden meaning in the verse. I must admit some of the songs have a beautiful lyrical quality about them, that had he not stopped and replayed them, I would have been lost in the melody of the piece. Let’s read these beautiful lyrics by N. Muthukumar, a Tamil lyricist who won two National Film Awards, who unfortunately died early at the age of 41.

Previous evening’s mist is you,
Previous birth’s search is you
When I sleep
The song that comes from far away is you,
The pathway filled with flowers is you,
The sunrise that has not dawned is you,
Even when the day awakens, in my sleep
At the corner of my eye
The dream that I see is you.

One day our tweenage daughter set out to make me listen to songs that her generation listens to. You know the cool stuff? So, we did, and I was wondering when the husband will stop the song to discern inner meanings and things, but he did not find the need to. We listened to artists like Taylor Swift, Adele, and Elle King from popular albums whose sales records were mind boggling when I looked them up later.

We are never getting back together:
I remember when we broke up the first time
Saying, “This is it, I’ve had enough,”
‘cause like
We hadn’t seen each other in a month
When you said you needed space. (What?)
Then you come around again and say
“Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna
change, trust me.”
Remember how that lasted for a day?
I say, “I hate you,” we break up, you call
me, “I love you.”

Hello from the other side
I must have called a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for everything that
I’ve done
But when I call you never seem to be home

“Hmm, are there any other songs that we can listen to—you know where it is not a guy yearning for a girl, or vice-versa,” I ask or hopefully still, “Or with those wonderful hidden meanings like in poems?”

The daughter shook her head. “Well, teenagers mostly listen to stuff about love,” she said rolling her eyes.

“Especially famous songs ma—it is like you are just talking with a guitar strumming in the background,” said the daughter. It does seem that of late, popular songs have taken to this style of rendering plain conversation-style lyrics, which is endearing the first few times but, when you listen to the songs multiple times, I would like to hear a poetic twist somewhere.

I am not a teenager anymore, so I can’t say whether teens today are happy with the fare but, it would be nice to have a contented smile midway through the song when you get that metaphor or poignant hidden meaning. Sure, this is the time for the stirrings of the teenage hormones and what-not, but it is hardly the only awakening one finds in the teenage body and mind.

It is also the time for confusion about career choices; the time when you see how well you can play a game, or how competitive you can get on that track. It is the time when the mind is grappling with trigonometry and unraveling the complexity of organic chemistry, the time you are surprised at the lucidity with which artists can tap into their inner creativity. It is the time for at once broadening one’s intellectual horizons, and it is also the time to make questionable choices with friends. It is the time you freak out after lighting candles on the Ouija board. It is the time you read Dostoevsky and ponder upon the meaning of life. It is the time you make fun of soppy love stories, but secretly hope for your own Prince Charming one day. It is a time of intense moral learning and the time when crushes are a part of life.

You know how we see these caricatures in cartoons, with an abnormal potato sized head tottering on pea sized bodies? It seems like recent pop songs are like that when it comes to lyrics about love. Why not write beautiful songs about friendship, or abrasive teachers and the camaraderie that goes on among children while dealing with all of this?

Teenage angst is a whole package. If song lyrics are stuck in teen brains all day long, why not give the grey cells some work and smile inwardly when you get that hard metaphor?

Here is a call to all you tweens and teens out there. Dazzle us with your thoughts and the ways in which you make sense of the world with the songs you write. As adults, most of us have given into the familiarity of routine and the rigmarole of paying bills. What we need is the thirst and energy of youth, and that, you can gift to us with your poetic lyrics, and your view of this world we live in.

Saumya writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along, savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life.