Clever vs. Telling Lyrics, or The Gap Between Noel Coward and Spring Awakening
I posit that lyrics (that is to say, good lyrics) tend to fall somewhere between two polar ends: clever and telling. Clever lyrics can be found in their purest form in the work of lyricists like Noel Coward and W.S. Gilbert. No plumbing of emotional depths is even attempted in such lyrics, for they are dazzling feats of wordplay that tend to be sung either by the lyricist himself (as in Coward’s case) or by characters acting as a surrogate for the lyricist (as in much of Gilbert’s work). Simply put, the lyricist becomes the star.