A few years ago, I found myself on the phone with Dolores O’Riordan as the singer read her new lyrics to me. I worked at a music management company in New York, and my job that day was to transcribe eleven song lyrics for the liner notes of the Cranberries’ comeback album, Roses, their first release in more than ten years.
I remember her piercing Irish accent and honest words as we went through the songs line by line. After that call, I reread the lyrics of the band’s older albums that I grew up with and saw their meaning with new eyes.
A couple months later, at the Cranberries’ live show, her voice was so powerful it seemed to lift the audience off its feet. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the lyrics of the title track, “Roses”:
Life is no garden of roses
More like a thistle in time
When listening to music, it’s about a feeling: a rush of emotion. When reading lyrics — lines that tell a story or words that drop specific hints about a place or time — the artist’s intention starts to become clearer. As a songwriter, there’s an immersive moment when the words are flowing and piece together in the melody. That process makes me feel aligned with my true self.
In this second edition of Lyrics as Poetry, the theme is time: looking back at the past or being in the present, living in the unknown or wondering about the distant (or not-so-distant) future. Alone, as art on the page, are thirty-seven songwriters’ lyrics, as well as personal notes from each about their work. Additionally, twenty writers have contributed original entries spotlighting lyrics within that same theme, with drawings by designer Justin Page.
I hope you’ll find more than a few lyrics that resonate and spark a curiosity to listen to these songs and discover some new artists. Thanks for reading.
— Sara Noelle