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 Joaquín Sabina.
Indeed, the literary component of the lyrics written by the Ubeta 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, by 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’s song (“diverse song” Eco called it) tries to generate, as Marcela Romano has explained in various works, its own poetics; 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 imagery and metaphorical subtlety put a gulf between the two modes of expression.
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 him to a male poetic self that gradually tries to free himself from the gaps that his relationship with that woman entails:
“But tonight a prisoner opens his freedom
since you are not my judge,
your voodoo already punctures bone,
your serve got entangled in my net ».
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, we should also add the poetic complexity of Sabina’s lyrics over Bad Bunny’s, which leads us to the second of the features that separate the songwriter from the commercial: what each one demands of the receiver.
And don’t Serrat and Sabina deserve the Nobel?
– Juan Carlos Iragorri (@jciragorri) October 13, 2016
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, since 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 mentioned above are proof of this.
Sabina and poetry
Now that we know that Joaquín Sabina, due to his condition 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 this 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 awarding of that award to the one of the greatest exponents of the songwriter stirred, 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 it 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 Magdalene”, “Worse for the sun” or “Leningrad”, among an inventory in which there are at least a score of absolute gems, and also capable of assimilating the teachings of several of the The best poets in Spanish have earned, like Serrat or Aute, the right to wear, along with the bowler hat, the laurel wreath.
Javier Soto Zaragoza, Researcher in the area of Theory of Literature and Comparative Literature, University of Almeria
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.