Lyrics are words that make up a song usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended musical composition such as an opera are, however, usually known as a “libretto” and their writer, as a “librettist”. The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of expression. Rappers can also create lyrics (often with a variation of rhyming words) that are meant to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung Lyrics of dekhte dekhte.
“Lyric” derives via Latin lyrics from the Greek λυρικός (lyrikós), the adjectival form of a lyre. It first appeared in English in the mid-16th century in reference, to the Earl of Surrey’s translations of Petrarch and to his own sonnets. Greek lyric poetry had been defined by the manner in which it was sung accompanied by the lyre or cithara, as opposed to the chanted formal epics or the more passionate elegies accompanied by the flute. The personal nature of many of the verses of the Nine Lyric Poets led to the present sense of “lyric poetry” but the original Greek sense—words set to music—eventually led to its use as “lyrics”, first attested in Stainer and Barrett’s 1876 Dictionary of Musical Terms. Stainer and Barrett used the word as a singular substantive: “Lyric, poetry or blank verse intended to be set to music and sung”. By the 1930s, the present use of the plurale tantum “lyrics” had begun; it has been standard since the 1950s for many writers. The singular form “lyric” is still used to mean the complete words to a song by authorities such as Alec Wilder, Robert Gottlieb, and Stephen Sondheim. However, the singular form is also commonly used to refer to a specific line (or phrase) within a song’s lyrics.
Lyrics can be studied from an academic perspective. For example, some lyrics can be considered a form of social commentary. Lyrics often contain political, social, and economic themes—as well as aesthetic elements—and so can communicate culturally significant messages. These messages can be explicit or implied through metaphor or symbolism. Lyrics can also be analyzed with respect to the sense of unity (or lack of unity) it has with its supporting music. Analysis based on tonality and contrast is particular examples. Former Oxford Professor of Poetry Christopher Ricks famously published Dylan’s Visions of Sin, an in-depth and characteristically Ricksian analysis of the lyrics of Bob Dylan; Ricks gives the caveat that to have studied the poetry of the lyrics in tandem with the music would have made for a much more complicated critical feat.