Surreal lyrics are not hard to pull out. The hard part is to come up with good ones. That of course shouldn’t hit you as a surprise. But what are the tricks of writing good lyrics that are surreal by nature at the same time? How to straddle the wild stallion we commonly call stream of consciousness? Here’s a couple of tips.
The art of not (quite) making sense
- Stay vague. As long as you’re vague, you have the freedom to write just about anything. As soon as you start describing things too in-depth, it will sound odd not to continue being in-depth all the way through.
- Since surrealism is supposed to be something dreamy, you can write your lyrics literally about that: your dreams. If you can’t remember them, try to create something like them. Based on the ones you do remember.
- Surreal lyrics should be patches of reality stitched together. The trick is to use those reality patches in a peculiar way. If your lyrics can be interpreted both as a cohesive, connected whole and a disjointed pack of images, you’re golden. Which leads us to our next point.
- Create images. Make sure they are vivid and powerful enough. You need to use a couple of well placed words. Ones that are commonly associated with strong emotions. Don’t overuse these however. Trying to evoke too many emotions per song will make the listener lose interest quickly. It will also sound cheesy.
- And while we are at cheesy, don’t use too many “coined” words (neologism). Creating art doesn’t mean you have to come off artsy and pompous.
- Try to place a couple of real names in your lyrics. They can be place names or personal names. Don’t use too many of these either.
- Operate with contrasting images. The key to make these really work on the surreal plane lies in their connectivity. It means the following. The listener doesn’t expect the next image to follow your previous one. Yet when he/she hears it, it can be interpreted as a logical consequence in your imagery. With that, you can ride the sensitive edge of vagueness and descriptive reality.
- You don’t have to be “dark”. If you try to make each and every one of your songs tragical and sad, people will get tired of them. Including yourself. It’s only harder to write lyrics that are cheerful if you think it is.
Lose your mind
- The real trick about creating surreal lyrics is to dance the sausage through Alabama’s yawning lantern.