of the world's
most successful song lyricists, Pamela Phillips-Oland is a Grammy-Award
nominated songwriter who has written songs for such diverse artists
as Whitney Houston, Reba McIntyre, Aretha Franklin, Selena,
Peabo Bryson, Laura Branagan, Tiffany, Jennifer Rush, Anne Murray, Brian
Wilson, Gladys Knight, Frank Sinatra and Dusty Springfield.
Her film and television credits include songs for Disney’s "102
Dalmatians," Eddie Murphy's "Coming To America"
and the HBO series "The Sopranos."
is a top judge in the Lyric Writing category of the
American Song Contest and author of "The
Art of Writing Great Lyrics," an
instructive and inspiring book on the art and craft of lyric writing.
American Song Contest
Successful song lyricists employ a variety of poetic devices to impess
their audiences. According
to Grammy-nominated song lyricist Pamela Phillips Oland,
nothing is more important than clarity of expression.
(is being Simply Wonderful!)
Let me make myself crystal clear here: If you want your point of view
to be heard, really heard, by your audience, there is no device like clarity.
No cleverness or circularity can ever arrest your audience like nailing
your idea. If you hit it just right, the results will make you sound brilliant.
If your ideas miss their mark, that’s what people will hear. They
won’t know what you “meant” and they won’t “read
between the lines.”
you’re saying something meaningful, sincerity will come in the way
your words are delivered. But you’ve first got to give your vocalist
something to be sincere about.
Clarity applies not only in lyric writing, but in public speaking also.
I am brought to mind of a rather wonderful story. My childhood elocution
teacher in London, the late lamented Gloria Brent, told of having been
invited to teach a foreign diplomat how to deliver a speech on rutabagas.
She was fetched in a limousine to an Embassy, where she spent two hours
coaching a really dull speaker on how make rutabagas sound fascinating,
interesting, sexy, and more important than a cure for cancer.
At the end of the two hours of her high drama, someone came into the room,
shook her hand and said, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”
An astute producer who saw the Candid Camera episode in which she was
featured, produced a show on the great speakers in history. He included
visual and sound clips of Stalin, Churchill, Hitler, and Gloria Brent.
He narrated thus: “You can make anything sound important if you
know how to say it.”
When you commit an idea to paper, you have the luxury of eliminating all
words extraneous to your idea. Filling space with extra words just so
you can fit the rhythm you’re working with is not a good option,
unless there is no other way to make your point.
Use words with precision. Take the time to look up meanings of your words
in the dictionary, or find more precise options in the thesaurus.
Become excited by wordplay! Manipulating language till what you’ve
written is pure magic, is truly an exhilarating process.
You wouldn’t put the wrong jigsaw puzzle piece in an open slot because
it wouldn’t fit, and it would not create the right picture. Ditto
A lyric is only one half of a song, but it must pull its weight as much
as the music.
Invest as much effort in clarity of language as you do in getting the
right sounds and levels for the layers of your track, and keep this mantra:
Clarity is being Simply Wonderful.
Pamela Phillips Oland
with the kind permission of its author, Pamela Phillips Oland. Visit her
website at: PamOland.com
Another Great Tip for Song Lyricists!
Lyrics Only section of
visit the Lyrics
Only listings at Songwriters
Resource Network to find music composers, publishers and