Some people value honesty and sincerity in songwriters, and so they like lyrics best when the singer’s words seem painfully true and direct. Me, I prefer songwriters who lie boldly to my face.
For example, at the end of Robyn Hitchcock’s “Autumn Is Your Last Chance” (as heard on his fine new CD/DVD set I Often Dream of Trains: In New York), he sings, “you’re not there…and I don’t care.” Written out, those words sound almost snide, nearly punkish – which is yet another reason song lyrics are not the same as poetry. In the song, most of the lyrics are sung in a series of alternating shortish and longish notes, the long notes ending phrases, the short notes beginning them. But these words are sung, full-length, spread out over the length of an entire measure each, as Hitchcock’s chords modulate far away from the two chords on which most of the rest of the song is based.
And in hearing them, it’s achingly clear that the singer’s never sung a less true set of words in his life.
Sometimes, you sing what you need to sing because you need to believe it. And perhaps, after a while, you believe it might be true. And it could be, a while later, it becomes true. And when it does, that is perhaps a sort of secular hell.