Originally Posted by evollove
it's an obscure fact but well documented in linguistics (i read a paper about it) that non-native speakers of a language will hear lyrics in said language as music before hearing them as words. the opposite happens to native speakers-- they will hear the word first and the music second.
so for my ear a lot of english lyrics will sound something like "choooni waaa, leeelo lloy, awa looolli wee waaa waaa" or something.
say, if you don't speak japanese, go listen to a song in japanese. that's what i hear most of the time in english--word sounds without meaning. like that poem by tears eliot.
to go further-- janacek famously took the cadences of the czech language and turned them into piano music. he said that if he could overhear the conversation he could understand what was being said by the cadences alone without having to understand the words themselves.
now i'm not saying i'm completely deaf-- i understand some singers more than others. it's just that i hear it less than you do. cat power is super-easy for me to understand for example. thruston more is half-easy. but do you remember that episode of the wire when prezbo can tell what people are saying because when he was 15 he spent 2 months with his ear to the speaker deciphering the lyrics of the intro of the rolling stones' 'brown sugar"? a lot of music is like that for me. e.g. in "words and guitar"-- those are the only words i get ha ha ha. the rest is growls and meows.
this is also the reason i think why i hate pavement-- while most pavement fans really love the supposedly clever lyrics, i can't understand them and i can only hear boring music, ha ha ha. (so boring!).
i hope that explains that (i know it was long but i find it to be a curious phenomenon).
forgot to say-- all of this happens because while grammar and vocabulary are easily acquired, phonetics are the hardest part of learning any language-- both hearing and pronounciation.