Being a "writer" (note the quotation marks) I have to get some inspiration from somewhere. Most writers get their inspiration from other writers. I get most of mine from lyricists. Here are five that I tend to gush over.
5. Aesop Rock
Rap and hip-hop have never been my thing. The lyrics I tend to hear most involve too much superficiality. But there are a select few who can go very deep with their words. Aesop Rock is one of them. Whether rapping about the drudgery of the 9-5 lifestyle ("9-5ers Anthem" and "Labor"), the struggles of Bipolar Disorder ("One Of Four" and "Gopher Guts"), or God knows what (most of his early work) you can always expect some deep lyrics delivered over some kick-ass beats.
"Life's not a bitch, life is a beautiful woman
Your only call her a bitch because she won't let you get that pussy
Maybe she didn't feel y'all shared any similar interests
Or maybe you're just an asshole who couldn't sweet talk the princess"
4. Tod A.
Probably the most obscure person on this list, Tod A. was the singer in two bands that never achieved mainstream success (Cop Shoot Cop and Firewater.) The former was a bass guitar-heavy industrial-type band with mostly political lyrics. The latter is an indie band with influences that span almost every genre of music ever (though mostly middle-eastern styles) with more personal lyrics. Both bands are fronted by Tod A's unique voice.
"When the moon opens up her eye
And the sun bows down his head
You come stealing softly to my bed
When the dogs chase rabbit dreams
Cats are milking up the fire
You dance toward me
Balanced on a slender wire"
3. Mike Patton
Possibly more eclectic than Mr. A. up there, Mike Patton has been in more bands than can be listed here. The most famous of these are probably Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, and Tomahawk. While those three are usually associated with rock, the genre of each one is hard to pin down. Faith No More does everything from rock to rap to lounge, Mr. Bungle is circus rock, and Tomahawk is just Tomahawk. Though he says his lyrics have no real deep meaning and that he writes them just to go good with them music, they are still pretty good. His vocal range is all over the map and you'd be hard pressed to find a better singer.
"I know you have a reason why
That knot is better left untied
I just went and undid mine
It takes some time
And the shadows so big
It takes the sun out of the day
And the feeling goes away
When you close the door"
-"Digging The Grave" (Faith No More)
2. Keith Buckley
Metal isn't everyone's bag, but being an angsty white man, it resonates well me. Keith Buckley, from the bands Every Time I Die and The Damned Things, is my favorite metal lyricist out of a genre teaming with them. His lyrics are overflowing with metaphors, symbolism, and Shakespeare and obscure pop-culture references. It's hard to pinpoint what they're about sometimes, but it seems most of them are about love, grief, and partying. Known as one of the best screamers in metal and a good singer as well, you could do a lot worse than Keith.
"I was born a wanted man
But I'll die a sailor's wife
God help me pick the lock to her room I have to make this right
Scream the hounds to sleep for me
I'm creeping around in your head like a vine
Your spit is the meat of the rose harvested by the dull"
-"Tusk And Temper" (Every Time I Die)
1. Tom Waits
Tom Waits is a man who needs no introduction, but I'm giving one anyway. Releasing music since the 1960's, his work started off jazzy and folky but evolved into something indescribable. Most of his songs involve the stories of blue collar protagonists or love loss (though he sings about almost every topic.) Known for his raspy voice and beautiful music, Mr. Waits is a living legend in some circles and he deserves the respect he gets.
"I disappear in your name
But you must wait for me
Somewhere across the sea
There's a wreck of a ship
Your hair is like meadow grass on the tide
And the raindrops on my window
And the ice in my drink
Baby all I can think of is Alice"
Well, there you have it! Five of my favorite lyricists for those who wish to know (which is no one.) I'd like to hear your favorites so please, leave them in the comments!
Honorable Mentions: J.R. Hayes(Pig Destroyer), Layne Staley (Alice In Chains and Mad Season), Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains), Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Eminem, Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel), James Hetfield (Metallica), John Bush (Anthrax, Armored Saint), Bob Mould (Husker Du), Travis Meeks (Days Of The New), Henry Rollins (Black Flag and Rollins Band), etc