Best lyricists?

Symbiotic: Anna Begins might be my favorite example of his lyric writing as well, although it's a really heartbreaking song. Thank FSM I'm married now and not single and lonely - it has little power over me these days! I also particularly like a Murder of One, as a song, though it's far less impressive lyrically. For a good time, I think American Girls is about as fun as Counting Crows gets, while still retaining some great metaphors.

Morrolan: re: The Hip - At lest in Texas, I get instant cred with Canadians by mentioning that I love The Hip. I've seen them live here in Houston, in the dead of summer, on the second floor of a very hot club. Sweat was literally pouring off the singer's head, and he was talking about the heat. Nautical Disaster is one of the most brilliant songs by anyone, ever. My God. Such a brilliant extended metaphor (conceit, even, I'd say).

Elvis Costello.

I've got a soft spot for Malkmus, too.

"Watch out for the gypsy children in electric dresses they're insane... I hear they live in crematoriums and smoke your remains."

You know how he did 'em, Pred.

Am I allowed to respond to this thread twice, once in jest and again for real?

I'd have to go with Tom Waits as my very favorite. Consider his song "Lucinda":

Tom Waits wrote:

Well they call me William The Pleaser
I sold opium, fireworks and lead
Now I'm telling my troubles to strangers
When the shadows get long I'll be dead

Now her hair was as black as a bucket of tar
Skin was as white as a cuttlefish bone
I left Texas to follow Lucinda
Now I'll never see heaven or home

I made a wish on a sliver of moonlight
A sly grin and a bowl full of stars
Like a kid who captures a firefly
And leaves it only to die in the jar

As I kick at the clouds at my hanging
As I swing out over the crowd
I will search every face for Lucinda's
And she will off with me down to hell

I thought I'd broke loose of Lucinda
The rain returned and so did the wind
I cast this burden on the god that's within me
I leave this old world and go free

The devil dances inside empty pockets
But she never wanted money or pearls
No, that wasn't enough for Lucinda
She wasn't that kind of girl

Now I've fallen from grace for Lucinda
Whoever thought that hell would be so cold
I did well for an old tin can sailor
But she wanted the bell in my soul

I've spoken to God on the mountain
And I've swam in the Irish sea
I ate fire and drank from the Ganges
And I'll beg there for mercy for me

I thought I'd broke loose of Lucinda
The rain returned and so did the wind
I was standing outside the Whitehorse
Oh but I was afraid to go in

I heard someone pull the trigger
Her breasts heaved in the moonlight again
There was a smear of gold in the window
And then I was the jewel of her sin

They call me William The Pleaser
I sold opium, fireworks and lead
Now I'm telling my troubles to strangers
When the shadows get long I'll be dead

Now her hair was as black as a bucket of tar
Skin was as white as a cuttlefish bone
I left Texas to follow Lucinda
Now I'll never see heaven or home
No I'll never see heaven or home
No I'll never see heaven or home

Really, there's just nobody as evocative in their imagery as Waits. He is a master, and his vocal range does full justice to his pen.

Also, my sister recently introduced me to some of Regina Spektor's works, and so far I'm impressed. She is wildly creative.

Malor wrote:

And, though I may be jeered for this, I've always thought Billy Joel was one of the best lyricists in the business.

No argument here.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Symbiotic: Anna Begins might be my favorite example of his lyric writing as well, although it's a really heartbreaking song. Thank FSM I'm married now and not single and lonely - it has little power over me these days! I also particularly like a Murder of One, as a song, though it's far less impressive lyrically. For a good time, I think American Girls is about as fun as Counting Crows gets, while still retaining some great metaphors.

I'm with you two. Anna Begins is one of my favorite tunes.

One of my favorite lyricists is Bill Deasy formerly of The Gathering Field. Here's a few snippets:

Bound to Be wrote:

Raised on words like "punishment" and "God will get you
If you don't do what you're told."
Nuns turned children into fearful right
handed little
Servants of the Lord"

"On a road in Valparaiso, she met a hobo named Old John
They hunkered down in a gazebo, and chose a star to gaze upon
Old John said he could see her slipping, and he asked her what was wrong
She said, "The rope I had been gripping turned to sand
And now it's gone, now it's gone.

Can't you see the writing on the blood soaked blue horizon
Plain as VJ day. Hear the barking of the
Drowning dogs, frozen like so many Eisenhower
Statues in Pompei. I think I'll take another taste
Old John, to numb my heart, God knows I'm falling fast as
Atoms through the sky." She said,
"This world it sure ain't no place to live in
But it ain't no place to die. No it ain't no place to die..."

I'll have to second Fang and say Sting. (now that's a funny sentence)

I'd put the lyrics to any song on the Soul Cages album against practically any other artist.

The boy child is locked in the fisherman's yard
There's a bloodless moon where the oceans die
A shoal of night stars hang fire in the nets
And the chaos of cages where the crayfish lie

Where is the fisherman, where is the boat,
Where is the keeper in his carrion coat?
Eclipse on the moon when the dark bird flies
Where is the child with his father's eyes?

He's the king of the ninth world
The twisted son of the fog bells' toll
In each and every lobster cage, a tortured human soul
These are the souls of the broken factories
The subject slaves of the broken crown
The dead accounting of old guilty promises
These are the souls of the broken town
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages

'I have a wager,' the brave child spoke
The fisherman laughed though disturbed at the joke
'You will drink what I drink
But you must equal me,
And if the drink leaves me standing,
A soul shall go free'

'I have here a cask of most magical wine
A vintage that blessed every ship in the line
It's wrung from the blood of the sailors who died
Young white bodies adrift in the tide'

'And what's in it for me, my pretty young thing?
Why should I whistle when the caged bird sings?
If you lose a wager with the king of the sea
You'll spend the rest of forever in the cage with me'
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages

A body lies open in the fisherman's yard like
The side of a ship where the iceberg rips
One less soul in the soul cages
One last curse on the fisherman's lips

These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages

And he dreamed of a ship on the sea
It would carry his father and he
To a place they could never be found
To a place far away from this town
A Newcastle ship with no coals
They would sail to the island of souls

And, while crude, I think Eminem has amazing lyrics. On the other end, the Killers have the worst.

Gotta second doihaveto and go with Springsteen's early lyrics. Blinded By the Light, Rosalita, Thunder Road, Born to Run... that stuff's just great.

I'll second Maynard James Keenan of Tool for powerful lyrics and vocals. As well as Sting for both, too. This may be heresy to some, but I also think Rob Thomas is an incredible song writer. Yes, the music under his lyrics is fairly pedestrian and poppy, but I think his writing is incredibly soulful and inspiring.

Aesop Rock, probably the most famous underground MC (next to Slug of Atmosphere), and in my opinion the best lyricist in all of hiphop.

Aesop Rock-"Shovel" wrote:

Ragging on a bag of lonely poem remnants, short of breath like you're short of fresh-
you're a portable mess. Carpetbagger spearheading tear-peddeling pretentious art critics,
orphans trying to dismiss those pioneering their fortunes.
You're a spectacle, pushing for pedagogue, lacing up paper weights, walking on stilts,
talking like "You touched the hand of God," and I'm like "What are all these evils that
plagued the hearts of man by sweet-talking border patrol until they fold and let them in?"
You got your life in a basket before you could say "instant classic,"
Like the king of the mountain requires a boost.
I'll bury the hook in my belly just to volunteer at live-aid clinics,
for the thrill of 9 great mimics with 18 bloody lips, spitting beanstalk, chalking outlines
before figures fly, walking uphill trying to get down.
Prominent ghost-town litigate battle pitch darkness when the light switch hits the
artistry circuit-board breaker, service in the greater half of nature.
See money go wild shook when the exploitation incubated lovely, warmingly,
piggy leader colony to comfort. Numb enough to deny the sin pins
and evil needles even punctured, 'till he won't deny his tourniquet still functions.

I'm going to make a crazy suggestion here and mention Fat Mike of NOFX. Crazy, I know, but he writes a ton of songs about very disparate topics, from several points of view - sort of like the Neil Peart of punk rock. That said, his lyrics are nowhere near the Adam Duritz gold standard of standing alone as poetry.

I would have to go with Ernie. "If I could visit the Moon" is powerful stuff.

Uniqua of Backyardigans fame is also very talented.

I'd like to put a vote in for Mark Greenway or Lars Bjørn-Hansen but, seeing as they are both quite deeply imbedded in extreme metal, I have a sneaking suspesion that they are only remarkable within their genre.
Trent Reznor of NiN or Beth Gibbons of Portishead are probably better bets.

Good ones here, but I'm going to go with Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson.

wordsmythe wrote:

Good ones here, but I'm going to go with Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson.

Woot, the Descendents. I think I might've worn out listening to my Milo Goes to College CD.
It reminds me of high school. although i was in HS a good 10 yrs after that album came out.

Bill Stevenson produced one of my friend's band's records.

Bono

Mike Ladd, a very underated indie hip hop artist from about ten years back.

My ineffectual elections are infectious in the twilight of megalopolis
Hip hop is
Gettin off on this
Chaos
As it is perceived
Fifty milion suckers crawl on hands and knees
To worship and believe
at ATMs and psychic friends networks
But that surround us
As we do Babylon by bus
Straight to Rikers
Run by guns with cops that used to be Nazi bikers
Umemployed writers type up eulogies for freedom fighters
Gone Republican
Who's rubbin them brain cells
I gots
Gridlocked in my city block
AKA cell block
Shellshocked
Got a lot from Atlanta to Woodstock, Boston to Washington
New York's just downtown mega city one
Guns are like jewellery
I'm carryin tomfoolery
I'm soothin me with over information
and loopety loops pump through my veins like Thorazine in hula hoops
Must stay awake, can't sleep in hype and glamour
We live in the afterfuture, and that takes mad stamina
We be blazin through stars like star blazin shout lasers
And Luke Skywalker touches a street walker in a kung fu suit
So let me be more like Sebastian
Have a passion for chess
Kick a pawn to King Four
No more than happiness
We be treated like replicants AKA refugees
Despised and lied to by Peter Jennings and jacked cavities
So bust a cap with me
Before they raffle me off at the police state fair
Everybody plays Pierre
Singin "I don't care"

CEB, Blade Runner stee', it's all of us, you and me, stuck in monopolies {*repeat 4X*}

Rest of the song here ---> http://www.lyricsondemand.com/m/mikeladdlyrics/bladerunnerslyrics.html

Check out the rest of the album here. ---> http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Listening-Armageddon-Mike-Ladd/dp/B000005DQA/ref=pd_bbs_sr_5/104-2500934-5962344?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1173978343&sr=8-5

Wow... he has more recent albums. To the iPod!

Edit: wordsmythe, you'd like this guy's delivery. He's very into his meter and uses it well.

Edit 2: These lyrics are not really a good translation. I've struck out on finding a good version, and after listening to the album again, I donno. The song is called Blade Runner. Very nice.