The Argotist Online
Hailing from a background in psychology and music therapy, Minnesota born and UK based singer-songwriter/producer Jennifer Ann cuts right to the heart of what makes us human in her lyrical work. Her music intertwines her classical training with contemporary pop, setting her haunting vocals amid a backdrop of lush, atmospheric, orchestral/piano soundscapes.
Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?
Sometimes I do. It really depends on the song and the inspiration behind it.
There are certain songs that I’ve written that at the time fulfilled a need
for me to unload an emotion or something I’d been dealing with very quickly.
In that sort of writing situation, I don’t normally sit and think about the
words going into the song as much and it may be more straightforward and raw.
Other times I’ll sit down and want to write something that is evocative and
perhaps symbolic, in more of a poetic style. I normally spend much more time and
brainpower on these types of lyrics and would sometimes consider them poetry,
Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?
don’t believe that you always have to follow rules in music, but I find that I
unconsciously do anyway. I normally always write songs that rhyme—not always
perfect rhymes though, I definitely employ slant rhymes. There’s just
something so pleasing and fulfilling to me when I find a perfect phrase that
rhymes. It’s almost like playing a sort of mental strategy game when you’re
trying to make lines and phrases fit together and rhyme. However, there are so
many amazing songs out there that don’t rhyme. It’s just not always
necessary. If you’re getting the point across in the best way possible, and
using a different word to make it rhyme doesn’t achieve what you’re aiming
for, then I don’t think you should diminish your expression by forcing it to
Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as
schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like
Songs can definitely be free verse and be effective. You’re still creating a
form of expression, no matter what structure you use. However, if you are trying
to market your music to a wide range of people and if you’re trying to be more
commercial, you probably would be more likely to achieve success through using
established structures in your writing. Established song structures have
developed that way for a reason, they’re successful. Using things like hooks
and choruses for example make your song more memorable and thus more likely to
do well commercially. I personally would have a hard time writing music that is
free verse. I find it’s too much freedom and if I can stick to a known song
structure as a foundation, I feel I can be even more creative within that form.
When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to
the music you enjoyed?
Yeah definitely, I could see the connection to lot of folk artists whose work I
admire. Artists like Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel, Joan Baez. I would
consider a lot of their lyrics to be very poetic.
Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?
I started writing poetry before I started writing lyrics, back when I was around
14 years old. I suppose this was around the time that I was taking various
literature/poetry classes at school. I was starting to understand how magical it
is to use language to evoke the senses, which I still do a lot of. Poets like
Robert Frost and John Keats spring to mind. I loved writing about the beauty of
nature, which they did a lot of. In fact I remember the first time I felt
inspired to write poetry was during a winter evening in Minnesota when it was
snowing and the world looked like a winter wonderland. It felt magical and I was
intensely inspired to express this beauty I was beholding. I didn’t continue
to carry on writing non-musical poetry for very long because then I discovered
the power of setting evocative words to music and melody. I haven’t written
non-musical poetry since.
Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?
Songs in general activate more of our sensory areas and are easier to remember.
They get stuck in our head—earworms. That doesn’t really happen with poetry.
In addition to this, songs and lyrics tend to be far more accessible and easy to
understand than poetry, though not all the time of course. Poetry you usually
have to take your time with—sometimes you have to use a lot of brainpower to
decipher meaning within the poem. Songs are also used in a lot of different
contexts unlike poetry. They become the soundtrack to our lives. Poetry can be
incredibly powerful, but it takes more time and energy, which in our hectic
lives and society, can be difficult to do.
© Jennifer Ann