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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Benson

A Lyricist's Favorite Lyrics - as of today!

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Hey folks! Welcome to the first ever Caterpillar Lyrics installation - and, coincidentally, the first blog post I’ve ever written. Since this is a songwriting blog, I thought I’d kick things off by showing you some of my all-time favorite lyrics. I’ve got my current top 5 queued up for you, along with a wild-card bonus track at the end. We’re all here for the music, so let’s just dive right in!

Coming in hot at #5 is Simulation Swarm by Big Thief. This track was released in 2022 on the Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You album, and it was EVERYWHERE that spring and summer. This song feels both comforting and exhilarating, like being pulled into a warm hug while jumping into a freezing cold lake. From a lyrical standpoint, Adrianne Lenker’s lyrics are some of the most vivid and spellbinding I’ve ever come across. They’re intensely abstract and fantastical, and yet they somehow make perfect sense - key word being “somehow.” The beauty of abstraction is that we get to decide for ourselves what the words mean! Here’s my favorite part:

Once again / we must bleed new

Even as the hours shake

Crystal blood / like a dream true

A ripple in the wound and wake

You believe / I believe too

That you are the river of light

Who I love / that I cling to

In the belly of the empty night

Gorgeous phrasing, passionate imagery, and a perfectly struck balance between melodic simplicity and lyrical complexity makes this one of the most compelling bridges I’ve ever heard. It really doesn’t get much better than this. Check it out here!

Up next in the #4 spot is Anna Begins by Counting Crows. This gem of a track is turning 30 this year! It was released in 1993 on the August and Everything After album, and there are simply too many wonderful things to mention about this song. It’s passion and heartbreak and palpable trepidation rolled into 4 minutes and 31 seconds that are always worth spending. As a writer, I’m more than a little obsessed with figuring out how to describe universal (or near-universal) experiences that are hard to define, and Anna Begins is a perfect example of this. If you’re wired for romance, you’ve probably had that whirlwind fling that was simultaneously a bad idea and the greatest thing ever. Adam Duritz and company have masterfully encapsulated the hurricane of emotions that come with these situations and created what is, in my opinion, the most lyrically effective track on the album. Here’s the highlight:

This time / when kindness falls like rain / it washes me away

And Anna begins to change my mind

Every time she sneezes I believe it’s love

And oh, Lord / I’m not ready for this sort of thing

I can’t get enough of how unique this chorus is. It’s really only made up of two lines - And Anna begins and I’m not ready for this sort of thing - and this construction elicits the feeling of a wave cresting and falling. It’s familiar, and yet it lands differently every time. Not to mention Every time she sneezes, I believe it’s love - my goodness, what a great line. It’s that moment when you realize that you’re in too deep, and the ending will either be triumphant or a perspective-altering nightmare. Gorgeous stuff. Check it out for yourself in the video below!

Moving on to my top 3! #3 is Warning by Incubus. It debuted in 2001 on their Morning View album and was released as a single in 2002. Warning is nothing short of a lyrical masterpiece. The messages within this song are as timely as ever, and the lyrics strike a fantastic balance between being poetic and metaphor-heavy yet exacting and to-the-point. One of the main puzzles to solve when constructing lyrics is to figure out how to make them serve the music while remaining legible, and Warning is a perfect example of what it looks like when this puzzle is solved. There are several fantastic one-liners that blend beautifully with the overall tone of the song while also getting crushingly straight to the point. Here are my highlights:

I suggest we / Learn to love our

Selves before it’s / Made illegal


Those left standing / will make millions

Writing books on the way it should have been

I mean, come on! And this song was written over 20 years ago! I have no clue how Brandon Boyd and company came up with lines like these, but Warning is basically a mini songwriting course. Everything flows together seamlessly and the messages themselves have somehow managed to stay relevant through what has seemed like one disaster after another for the past 20 years. I'll admit I've considered getting tattoos of these lyrics multiple times...

Anyway, moving on! Check out the official Warning music video below and get your daily dose of early-2000's post-grunge nostalgia while you're at it!

Time to listen to #2! Next up is a song my husband Taylor showed me the first week we were dating. He’s a musician himself, and he thought I’d appreciate this song after I told him how I absolutely love 90’s alternative bands like Gin Blossoms. What can I say, I fell in love! This next song is Comfort by Carbon Leaf. It was released in 2006 on their Love Loss Hope Repeat album, and everything about it is just breathtakingly beautiful. The words, the rhyme scheme, the rhythm, the tambourine… everything. Listening to it makes me feel like I’m flying. Here’s my favorite section:

I raced along / an empty highway

I chased the dawn / and cursed the new day out of town

’Til nobody was around

Love came along / my favorite enemy

We hit head-on / why you befriended me

I don’t know

There’s no need for letting go

When you’ve already lost control

My life is open wide

The more you live, the less you will die

Outside, floating free

I’m finally open to see

Could you be / any more comfort to me?

Could you be?

This song feels like a warm hug at the end of a horribly long day. It’s peace, nostalgia, love, and hope all stitched together. And check out the assonance! Assonance is a poetry technique that involves repeating the vowel sounds in words that are written together in a sentence or verse. Rhyming “along” with “dawn” and “wide” with “die” (to name a few examples) results in lines that are EVER SO SLIGHTLY unpredictable - and this is one thing that keeps Comfort interesting. You don’t know where it’s headed until you arrive.

Listen here!

And at last, the song that tops my list at #1 is Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen. Who else would it be but The Boss? Thunder Road was released in 1975 on Bruce’s Born to Run album, and it stands at #111 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. There are many reasons why Bruce is considered to be one of the greatest songwriters ever, but what makes him stand out for me is his ability to tell a story with his music. Rather than just painting pictures of emotions (which is a gorgeous choice too, don’t get me wrong!), his songs are intensely vivid and seem to take on a life and character of their own. Thunder Road stands above the rest in my mind because of its dynamic range: It manages to be soft, nostalgic, and inviting while still being its 70’s rock-and-roll self. And the lyrics speak for themselves. Here’s the standout section:

You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain

Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain

Waste your summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets

Well now, I’m no hero, that’s understood

All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood

With a chance to make it good somehow

Hey, what else can we do now?

Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair…

It’s summer, it’s rock-and-roll, it’s reckless abandon… it’s everything. The way these lines are crafted is absolutely spectacular. The meter and pacing makes it feel like my heart is being picked up and taken for a spin, and the imagery is unparalleled. This particular rhyme scheme is also extremely effective in keeping the song’s momentum going: it’s two lines that rhyme, and then a new idea. Similar to Comfort, it’s slightly unpredictable yet comfortable and familiar. You might not know where you’re going, but you know it will be okay.

Check out my favorite live performance of Thunder Road here! I cried the first time I watched it. It never gets old.

And finally, time to reveal today’s Bonus Track! *drumroll please…*

Yucky Blucky Fruitcake by Doechii!

This wild card of a song was released in 2020 on her debut EP Oh the Places You’ll Go, and it’s since gone viral on TikTok. My lovely friend Marie sent me a link to this track several months ago, and I was blown away. Yucky Blucky Fruitcake somehow manages to be extremely familiar and relatable while also being unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. It’s wonderfully original, and if there’s anything to be taken away from this song, it’s that you are enough exactly as you are. Doechii also delightfully manages to capture so many aspects of the “zillennial” experience in her lyrics. If you were born right on the cusp of the Millennial and Gen Z generations (around 1995-1998) like both me and Doechii, you’ll likely appreciate these references:

I fuck with Junie B, Barbara was my idol

Had to wear my attitude to every dance recital

In my black Taylor Chucks, the ones that laced up to my thighs

Lisa Frank lipstick on my eyes

Also, if there’s one thing you should absolutely do today, it’s watch her music video. Check it out here!

And there you have it, folks! Go download these fantastic songs and start building your own Maddie-approved playlist. These songs top the charts in my book where lyrics are concerned, but I just want to emphasize that I am one woman and there are literally trillions of songs out there. This list was constructed from my own personal listening experiences and preferences. That being said, if you think I missed the mark or if there’s a song that should absolutely be on this list in the future, make sure to leave a comment. I’m always on the lookout for newsworthy lyrics!

Thank you so much for hanging out with me today. See you next time!

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