Well, we all know that everyone, at least once, have had a very strong connection to a song, only because they think that the song is about them..
So what is this strong connection and what does the listener FEEL when being exposed to such lyrics?
In a lot of situations, especially in the growing up phase, one can easily feel lonely, unappreciated, misunderstood, misdirected or just purely down. He will then look for certain ways to escape from his “poor” state of mind and make himself feel a little more valuable to himself.
One way to do it is looking for other individuals that feel the same, but for some, this is not an easy thing to find, and they turn to other possible ways in order to fulfill this need. A very strong alternative is music. As we know, most listeners in that phase are looking for an artist that can act as a role model for them, and apart from connecting to a certain image – they connect to the artist on a very deep level – and that happens through lyrics.
When the lyrics provoke empathy at the listener it actually serves many of these needs. First of all, the listener feels that the artist is a real person, one that he could connect to as a friend. Second, he gets the feeling that the artist aims personally at him, even singing about him and his situation. Furthermore, the listener feels that there is someone in the world that understands his situation, without any conditions or explanations. It is also easier to understand and connect to the artist’s feelings. Like sitting and talking with a friend.
On the other hand, lyrics that don’t provoke empathy might create a feeling of alienation with the listener. He might sit down and listen, but the emotional connection with the music and the artist will not be just as strong. This might also create a false image of the artist. It might create a feeling that the artist is not completely sincere with his feelings, or even trying to hide his feelings – something that will cause the same reaction as if he was a friend.
There are many successful artists that do not use empathy provoking lyrics but, again, not all listeners seek such connections to the lyrics, maybe they just want to party and praise the artist as a cool and sexy “star” that don’t exist in reality, one that they can never connect to on an emotional level, one that they wouldn’t want as a true friend… Most influential music I know was aiming at a very deep emotional connection with the listener.
Listeners that seek an emotional connection with music also have a need to empathize with the artist.
Now, writing empathy provoking lyrics is not very hard as some might say, but you may easily fall to uninteresting and, fake and boring cliches if you don’t also pay attention to other values we’ve talked about, such as a unique point of view. As you can see again and again, it’s not only about artistic values, but the interaction of these values that makes it all much more complicated, which in turn requires true artistic efforts, which most music online today (regardless of momentary success factor) just do not project.
If we want deep music that will last more than a year or two, we must start paying attention to these values.
Can you tell me about a certain song that you felt that was written about you, and you felt as if that the artist is telling your story? Please comment below.
One thought on “Emotional connection to lyrics in the song – empathy provoking lyrics”
When I was in my early twenties I really connected to everything by Joni Mitchell – especially all of Blue and Court and Spark. Then later I learned more about her life and how what I thought the songs were about wasn’t what they were actually about, and we’d had very different experiences. I think that just shows what a genius she is, that I could feel a connection even though I hadn’t gone through anything like what she had.