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The Neuroscience Behind Lyrical Ambivalence


If you have ever exposed your soul in your lyrics for your ingenuity to largely be ignored, undoubtedly, you will have felt a twinge of begrudging creative futility. I wouldn’t blame you if you dubbed your audience philistines and vowed to never write for them again.

The same goes for the music journalists who skate on the surface of a song and throw adjectives at the instrumental arrangements before banging on about how it is reminiscent of another band that they saw in the 70s/80s/90s; instead of taking the plunge and delving into the expressive depths.

The marginally good news is that there is a solid scientific reason why some music fans tend to tune out to your lyrical philosophy and poetry and focus on musicality with a more casual listen.

I’m not talking about the Myers-Briggs bullshit that claims you see the world through a logical framework if you only listen to lyrics, and you are more of an empathetic and intuitive person if you listen to the instrumental arrangements. Get into the sea and take your cod psychology with you with that one!

The New Scientist has a far more logical explanation of how lyrics and tunes diverge in the brain. The contextualisation of lyricism is a more complicated process – not an automatic response to hearing lyricism.

The Neuroscience Behind Listening to Music

As neuroscience has had some catching up to do with other scientific disciplines in recent years, it can be forgiven for still being slightly perplexed on the issue of how music moves through our messy slab of grey meat.

While some argue that our brains process words and music separately because people with aphasia can’t speak but can hum a melody. Others believe that as language and music activate the same areas in the brain, they may be received as the same signal.

A recent study revolving around functional MRI brain scans of people listening to songs put weight behind both claims. Before the study, the research team knew neural responses decrease when exposed to the same stimuli repeatedly. Effectively, our neurons become lazy when we’re not giving them fresh stimuli to snack on. Sammler, a lead neuroscientist in the study, experimented with altering the lyrics, the tune, and both proponents to check where the decline in neural responses lay.

After the study, she concluded that the superior temporal sulcus (STS) processes lyrics and music and deals with the components differently. Initially, the music and lyrics are processed together. Following that initial stage of neural activity, the processing becomes more complex as the mind needs to understand what the lyrics convey. The more the language and music are processed, the more separate they become. Sammler argued that the decline in activity in the mid-STS would differ if both elements were processed individually and simultaneously.

In simpler terms, her conclusion means that it isn’t all so cut and dry if someone can listen to a song and be oblivious to the lyrical context. Especially if they didn’t hit play to prise every piece of information from the lyrics and attempt to construct a clear picture from the often very abstract imagery portrayed. As further proof, think of how easy it is to contextualise lyrics if you are reading them instead of listening to them against music.

How Our Relationship with Music Affects Our Sensory Experience of it

Just as there are different music genres, there are several music utilities. From ritualistic utility to communal entertainment. From communication to it being what you listen to on the train so you don’t have to hear someone cacophonously tearing their way through the biggest bag of Walkers crisps they could find before they hopped onboard.

My own music appreciation journey began as a means of visceral feeling and connection. As an angsty teen glued to Kerrang TV, the words of My Chemical Romance and Linkin Park naturally resonated with me. Although my music tastes may have matured over the years, I’ve never veered away from the artists revered for their compelling lyricism. On that note, I’ve also never gotten over the irony of no one realising that Chester Bennington was capable of suicide when he so clearly outlined his mental anguish in pretty much EVERY one of the songs he wrote. Nor will I forgive the journalists that tore into him for the last album he wrote before he killed himself in 2017. Not that I believe that the 1-star review posted by the NME was complicit in his death. It is just an apt representation of how easily we disregard lyrical contributions to snob all over a soundscape.

The activism within Bikini Kill. The socialist existentialism of The Holy Bible from The Manic Street Preachers. The lofty romanticism of The Smiths. The devilishly insidious mind of Nick Cave. No sonic motif, progression or amalgamation could ever move me in the way words do.

As much as a crystal-clear production euphonically resounds in my ears. As clever as I think the complex time signatures in math rock are. As hair-raising as an orchestral crescendo is. Nothing will ever come close to hearing words arranged in a way that allows me to hear thoughts I’ve only heard in my mind or words that send shivers through the boundaries of my perceptions.

For others, it is the musicality that draws them in. The need for a dopamine rush. The identity motive that gives way to cultural tribalism. The aesthetic pleasure of listening to a certain song. The wistful grip of nostalgia that leaves you inclined to search YouTube for the songs you heard on the radio when you left college. The songs introduced by older family members.

There is no right or wrong way to listen to music (to imply that would be very gatekeepery!), and I am certainly not insinuating my active proclivity to sniff out lyrical poetry makes me a superior listener. However, for artists, it is worth bearing in mind that when your lyrical candour gets little to no commentary, that is just how music fans are wired – literally. For music fans and journalists, a semblance of mindfulness in how we connect with music wouldn’t go amiss.


Article by Amelia Vandergast

Jackboyvick has dropped his latest track Make A Scene (BUMMEE TAPE untold story)

International Rap and Hip-Hop artist Jackboyvick has dropped his latest single ‘Make A Scene’, this is what Rap is all about.

What really stands out in this track, is the revised vocals they’re what makes this song so fun to listen too, using the technique of sampling beats, repeating the lyrics  in a more techno sound after each verse is rapped to give it that Hip-Hop feel, each word is strong and the pitch stays at this mellow pace.

The instrumentation and the use of sound really stands out within this piece, you can hear throughout the use of different synthesiser beats to create the overall rhythmic sound.

You can check out Jackboyvicks latest track by heading over to SoundCloud now.

Review by Karley Myall

PEECH- Redroom (Prod.Ramsey): The face of modern day RnB Rap

Up and coming Hip-hop and Rap artist PEECH has dropped a killer track ‘Redroom (Prod.Ramsey)’’. The Utah rapper has some serious talent and one that needs to be recognised.

Raping can be such a controversial genre when it comes to music, but in reality they’re the ones that keep it the most real which is exactly what PEECH does.

The fact that he’s fairly new to the scene and creates tracks with such confounding instrumentals and not to mention the roar emotion that seeps through his perfectly timed vocals, they flow so well together and it’s so impressive.

You can’t help but connect to the deep yet relatable lyrics as it’s sung in an incredible way. PEECH brings his thoughts and experiences and turns them into something that has potential to be a huge hit. He proves that you can still create something that stands out from the rest, even if you haven’t been making music for years.

For those that are a lover of contemporary Rap and RnB you have to listen to this, you won’t regret it.

You must check out PEECH’s single Redroom (Prod.Ramsey) by heading over to Sound Cloud now.

Review by Karley Myall

Producer and Rapper Curt McGurt releases “Tscon”: Hard hitting Hip-Hop – right up in your face!

It has to be done! There really is no way around it! Curt McGurt is a beloved mixture of Busta Rhymes and Akon with much, much more. His style of rap is jab, jab, punch and repeat! His lyric, deeply articulated and intriguing, and without missing a beat, makes his syncopation complex and flawless. His hook line, “This sh** came outta nowhere” is the only line that is questioned. No-one wakes up in the morning with chops like that. If you did, you would get dragged to church for the next deliverance service! No, Curt McGurt’s craft is seasoned, well honed, well researched and brilliantly delivered.

Like all talented philosophers and orators, McGurt carries you along effortlessly at breakneck speed, never glancing back. It sounds as though his engineer must have been in heaven because there is no evidence of cutting and splicing his vocal together. If that really was one take, it’s a masterpiece that you have to hear. This Gatsby knows how to throw a good party and I’m excited to see what comes next.

Get your note book out and pen to the ready. Listen to “Tscon” here at Spotify.

Review by Susan Harriott

Haute Rod – Condo Dreams, Ft. PhllfthyBoiUrg: Beats for Ballers

Whilst I’m not sure the best way to go with a track is to divulge your consumerist desires, the new track by Haute Rod – Condo Dreams has a unique charm about it. There’s a delectable taste of innocence within the sound that mixes with the hope and aspiration, which is in its own special way, is pretty charming. Haute Rod may rap about getting himself a Bentley GT, but still, he offers heart felt lyrics through warming vocals.

Condo Dreams is pretty much your atypical Hip Hop Rap track, following similar styling to acts such as Kanye West and Jay Z with it’s contemporary styling and baller attitude. The track has been polished to perfection by Grammy winning mastering engineer Chris Gehringer. The sleek styling is definitely the biggest selling point of this track, it’s definitely resonating with the right audience, they’re going down as a hit with their fan base, all eager to celebrate the dope styling.

If you share a lust for the high life then make sure you check out the latest single by Haute Rod which is the first release off their debut album ‘The Complication’ on the YouTube. Condo Dreams is also available to download via iTunes now.


Anonymous Conflict Breaks The Mold

Old Saigon by Anonymous Conflict

Why merely be a singer-songwriter when you can be a sonic painter? Why be a guy with a guitar when you can be a conjuror of taste and texture? Why settle for playing songs when you can create worlds? Why be average when you can be Anonymous Conflict? This one man outfit may be new but by the time the soft ethereal harmonies and gently lilting guitar sounds are drifting out of your speakers you will almost definitely find that you are ready to fall in love with the music and will have already written the words Old Saigon, the latest album from which Part of The Mold is taken, on the back of your hand.

It isn’t so much of a “less is more” situation, more a case of some interesting sonic choices, ones that move the music out of the obvious and into the beguiling.This is the sound of modern indie-folk pushing into minimalist pop realms, commercial guitar playing reminding us that there are other, better, more articulate and more emotive ways of doing things.

Kal Madsen Tells Us A Story With ‘Charlottesville Survived 1945’

Kal Madsen is a singer and songwriter with a passion for highly emotional storytelling, told (or better yet, sung) in an intimate and personal way. His recent release, “Charlottesville Survived 1945”, is a spontaneous, charismatic and memorable songs with clever lyrics at the heart of Kal’s artistic vision.

The songwriting is really on point and the lyrics are certainly a very, very important part of this experience, but make no mistake: Kal can also write music that will make an impact. This song is all about phenomenal hooks, driven energy and tuneful melodies that are thought-provoking, yet catchy, timeless and appealing. “Charlottesville Survived 1945” is a great example of socially conscious songwriting with a catchy edge.

Check out Origin’s dope freestyle ‘Apple Of My Eye’

One of the great aspects of hip-hop and rap is its ability to mix a street vibe with informed and intelligent lyrics, to play the fool but do so with a knowing wink, subvert the listeners expectations and mix the rough with the smooth. This is exactly why Origin’ works so well. It is a balance of groove driven lyricism and skittering beats, it mixes classicism with modernity, deep thought with throw away comments.

Musically it also confounds in the best of ways, tight clinical beats hold everything together but on it is hung smooth distant jazz saxophones and plaintive piano lines. This is the sound of up town sophistication drifting into the workspace of the struggling bedroom artist, of the self-educated street kid with no money but a ton of ambition. It paints a very real picture of the strange collisions and juxtapositions of the modern city and how music itself is often built of such fascinating interactions.

B Jet’s powerful hip-hop track ‘I Remember’

B Jet is nothing if not soaked in reality. This is really edgy stuff and it comes on as a cross between impassioned hip-hop, a last prayer and a heart wrenching confessional shot through with the grim truths of a life lived the hard way. It is the perfect answer to the saccharine commercial endeavours that have passed from the street to the charts along the way losing the spirit of the fight that hip-hop and rap where born out of.

As the song spirals ever onwards hypnotically through its dark autobiography of survival and struggle it becomes a compelling chronicle, driven by vocals and minimal beat and skittering samples but so powerful are the lyrics, all you hear is the message in all its dark heartfelt glory.