Are Joaquín Sabina’s lyrics poetry?

Surely many of those who read these lines have surprised themselves referring to a song with the phrase “is that it is poetry.” Or not, it may happen that such a surprise has never occurred, possibly due to the personal certainty that what is being affirmed is so. This is exactly what happens to many of those who listen to or read the songs written by Joaquin Sabina.

Indeed, the literary component of the lyrics written by the Ubetense is undeniable; However, there has always been a certain tension between the fans, who have proclaimed him unambiguously as a poet, and the academy, which is usually more reticent to such considerations. Through this short article we are going to try to shed some light on this controversy and try to sort out the elements that compose it a bit.

Sabina and the song

First of all, you have to ask yourself what distinguishes Sabina from other singers. The answer has been clear in the field of literary studies for years, since Sabina has swelled the ranks of the author’s song, which since Apocalyptic and integrated, from Umberto Eco, is considered separate from the consumer song. The differences between the two are varied, but two stand out that, perhaps, are much clearer through some examples.

The author song (“diverse song” Echo called it) tries to generate, as he has explained Marcela romano in various works, a poetic of his own; that is to say, it is linked to the literary through a more careful treatment of its letters. As a consequence, we find much more elaborate texts not only in style but also in the topics they address, and especially in how they approach them.

The clearest example we see in the treatment of love, literary theme and songbook par excellence.

Let’s face two songs: «Callaíta», by Bad bunny, and “Tiramisú de Limón”, by Joaquín Sabina.

In the first instance, one might wonder what those two songs are doing dancing together, but the fragments of both refrains will eliminate any doubt: “she is quiet, / but for daring sex” the Puerto Rican artist will sing; “Little room doll, little snake tanguita” will write the Spanish. It is exactly the same meaning, but Sabina’s skill and metaphorical subtlety and imagery put a gulf between both modes of expression.

Callaítaby Bad Bunny.

The two songs relate a similar love and eroticism. Bad Bunny (through the explicit sexuality inherent in the genre in which he acts) sings of a woman who appears demure but under whose facade beats a hedonistic taste to enjoy her freshness. Sabina, for her part, draws a similar female character, but opposes it to a male poetic self that gradually tries to free herself from the gaps that her relationship with that woman entails:

“But tonight a prisoner is released

since you are not my judge,

your voodoo already punctures bone,

your serve got tangled in my net ».

Lemon Tiramisuby Joaquín Sabina.

We therefore see a very similar theme treated in two very different ways: one, flatter and focused solely on reiterating the hedonistic and sexual condition of the protagonist (Bad Bunny); and another with many more edges, which seeks to contrast impressions, generate points of view (Joaquín Sabina).

To this, in addition, we could add the poetic complexity of Sabina’s lyrics over Bad Bunny’s, which leads us to the second of the features that separate the author’s song from the commercial one: what each one demands from the receiver.

While the consumer song hardly requires the listener to interpret its content, the author’s song needs an attentive receiver, who is capable of understanding what the lyrics mean, as it will rarely be as clear and direct as that of a song. of consumption. The fragments of the refrains of the songs by Sabina and Bad Bunny cited above are proof of this.

Sabina and poetry

Now that we know that Joaquín Sabina, due to his status as a singer-songwriter (and a very good singer-songwriter), is poetically above the consumer song, we can ask ourselves why he is considered a no-man’s-land, between the world of song and the world of music. of poetry.

It is well known that there are few univocal answers in literature, and that everything is usually nuanced. In that sense, one of the most complicated questions that can be asked of a literature teacher is precisely “what is literature?” Or even more difficult: “what is literature?” There is no absolute answer; We do not have a list of characteristics next to which to add ticks depending on whether the analyzed object fulfills them or not. That is the reason why the issue at hand was blown up when in 2016 the Swedish Academy decided to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob dylan.

The award of that award To the one who is one of the greatest exponents of the author’s song, he agitated, in roman paladino, the hornet’s nest, and the old controversy about what place singer-songwriters occupy with respect to poetry regained strength. There were those who argued that, if Dylan had won the Nobel, Sabina deserved the Cervantes, or Serrat deserved it, or both.

The reality is that under all these considerations there are several underlying issues, but to a large extent they can be summarized in that with the songwriter a hybrid model between music and literature reappeared, which is not only poetry but which is not only song. In this context, it is convenient to return to the binomial between apocalyptic and integrated of Eco. We can be apocalyptic and brick the doors of canonical poetry, or we can be integrated and assume that, although with different molds, the genre of the author’s song can be a type in a literary way.

The above signer has it clear. Someone capable of writing «A song for the Magdalena», “Worse for the sun” or “Leningrad”, among an inventory in which there are at least a score of absolute jewels, and also capable of assimilate the teachings of several of the best poets in Spanish Like Serrat or Aute, he has earned the right to wear the laurel wreath together with the bowler hat.

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Are Joaquín Sabina’s lyrics poetry?