When Words Fail

December 8, 2017 Music , MUSIC/FILM/TV

Dennis van Zuijlekom photo



Kate Rae



Kesha is a perfect example.  Powerful song writing in the wake of a gruelling court case.  For those not familiar, in 2014 she sued her former producer for sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, emotional abuse, and violation of California business practices, with the end of the case in 2016 being ruled in favour of the defense.


Each song on her recent album Rainbow appears to address her pain and issues surrounding the case, without Kesha taking on the victim role (more on this later).  In a world where words and opinions dominate social and general media, Kesha’s songs undeniably ring true from her feelings, each 3-4 minutes answering any doubters of her claims and speaking louder than words ever will.


Added to this is the choice to work with artists such as the Dap Kings and Ben Folds, resulting in a fun and less ‘produced’ album. Together they have created a heartfelt piece of work, cementing the final product as a successful piece of art full of emotional depth, skilled song structures, varied genre influences and creative risks.


Another example of powerful song writing is Melbourne songwriter Dan Kelly’s song ‘Drunk on Election Night’, as discussed here.  A song evoking the apathy of the political climate at the time, and why many Australians continue to reference the song around each election.  Drunk on Election Night has a straightforward linier narrative, but the emotions accompanying the lyrics connect in a way which immediately gets the strong feelings across, often regardless of the finer details of the story.


I’m not analysing anything new here, but am highlighting how necessary good songs are, and what makes them so important to us as individuals and our communities. In 3-4 minutes a whole story can be told in layers of detail, with multiple shades of emotion added to the chords and lyrics.


Melbourne song writer Nick Barker‘s song ‘The Other House’ was written about his grandmother’s decline into mental illness.  The lyrics ‘you drive me insane, in the nicest possible way’ are striking alone, but the chord structure of the chorus, and the melancholic verses bring to the audience the depth of feeling the writer has for the subject/person, including grief, love and frustration – even without the audience knowing what the song is about.


Kesha could’ve easily taken on the victim role on Rainbow, considering she was treated as a victim in her past.  But her strength in song writing comes from taking her creativity in her own hands, relishing in learning from the process and determining her own future.  In my view she has created her best work yet, while setting a clear example to her younger audience.


Without really listening, some may dismiss Rainbow as ‘Kesha being Kesha’ – there is still the flavour of her fun and cheeky side, direct singing style and the playfulness she exudes in her music videos.  But still any listener not familiar with her past is quickly drawn in to her lyrics and feeling of the songs.  It’s no surprise that on a recent Saturday morning I heard my 13 year old neighbour playing current single ‘Praying’ from her bedroom – a reminder of the success and power of strong, connected song writing and the huge impact this has on society.





Kate Rae

Kate Rae loves coffee and long walks and is a writer of songs and words. In 2016 she created a song writing blog She Speaks A Different Language, interviewing established songwriters from Melbourne, Australia, on the mysterious ways songs come about. She believes in speaking up to create change.

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