What is Lemonade without Lemons?

Zoe - San Francisco, California
Entered on January 27, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: creativity
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Have you ever heard a song, and created an image of it in your mind? Has that image ever disappeared once you know what the lyrics are? Have you ever seen some lyrics that don’t really make sense, but then, when you heard them coupled with melody, you immediately can make sense of the song? I believe that lyrics aren’t a slice of lemon in a glass of water; they are the lemon juice in the lemonade. You can have water without a slice of lemon, but if you’ve ever had lemonade without lemon juice, then you must be crazy. You can’t sing a song without words. Even Ella Fitzgerald sang her legendary scats with words; she just made them up.

I remember one day a few years ago, I heard a song on the radio. It was so happy, like someone singing on his or her best day ever. A picture painted itself in my mind of the singer singing her song so joyfully that the rain stopped banging against her window, and as the sun came out, she ran outside into the wet streets and sang through the whole city. I wanted to know what the song was called, so I kept my ears open for it all the time. A few days later, I heard it again on the radio. When the MC announced the name of it, I dashed to a computer to look up the lyrics so that I could start singing along. When the lyrics popped up on the computer screen, I read through them over and over, trying to make them match up to my own personal music video in my head. It didn’t make sense! Why did the lyrics sound so different than how I had heard them in the song? A pen in hand, and an unplanned ending? That was nowhere in my recollection of the happy song! The rain on her skin? I thought that she didn’t go outside until the rain had stopped! I read the words again, and then played the song while reading along. As I heard the carefree melody, the lyrics took on a whole new meaning. I finally understood what the singer was trying to express, the song wasn’t about being happy after the storm at all, it was a song of how when fate brings you experiences in life, you can accept or reject them, but you should just accept them and let life go on unpredictably, but care freely.

Before I heard the lyrics of the song, I had my own image of what I thought it was about, but it was anything but what the song was supposed to represent. With the lyrics, I understood the artist’s point of view, and made more sense of the song. To this day, I think of Natasha Bedingfield’s, “Unwritten” as a completely different song than the one that I heard that day a few years ago on the radio, and I remember the importance of listening to the lyrics before I categorize a song’s message.