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It is true that the two of us sort of think alike. But the other thing is that what I'm fascinated with — and what I've always felt most strongly about with a song — is the way the two work together. 'Cause so often, there are great songs that are made of not the greatest lyrics — and sometimes, not the greatest music and not the greatest lyrics, and the way they come together is powerful. Now, Nick always pushes me to give him an example, because he doubts this. [Laughs] And then I don't really know; I can't give an example. But in theory that rings true to me, that there are songs: This isn't a great melody, this isn't a great lyric. But the way that they work together becomes great.

Actually, I'll give you an example: I always tell people, I think New Order has the worst lyrics. But they work well with the music — which is also kinda good but kinda simplistic and dated.

And the thing is, it's hard to insist that to someone once they become married to the song, and it means something to them. Then the song has the most powerful thing music can ever have, which is context. And you can never take that away, because you can never dissociate the song with the wonderful feeling you got from the song, because it was the song. Say, I don't know, take a brand-new song, something that's on the radio nonstop like "Firework" by Katy Perry. I mean, I don't think we would consider that poetry. And I don't think that the melody would be something [that] if I hummed [it to] you, you would [think] — [Folds hums a snippet of the song] — isn't that great? Uh, no. [Laughs] But they do work together in a way that you have to admit is damn catchy and effective for what it's trying to do. Maybe it's better to look at cheap, disposable songs in that way.

Ben Folds: Setting Nick Hornby's lyrics to music.
Kyleigh DiGregorio
Ben Folds: Setting Nick Hornby's lyrics to music.
Michael Wilson

But it's just the way that it all works together and the way someone feels about it when they hear it. But Nick and I aren't in that business. Nick can't be in that business, because he has a reputation. He can't write a lyric that if you take it out of the music it's going to make someone roll their eyes. He's Nick Hornby. [Laughs] He writes books, and his lyrics needed to have stood up as stand-alone pieces, which they do.

That's a lot of pressure, if you think about it.

He's a good writer; he's used to it. He has to turn over pages and pages to a producer and director for movies, and these things all need to work well, and they hand it back to him, and he changes it. He's just a really professional writer. I've never really worked with a pro like that before. I'd say, "Well, maybe we should have some lyrics pretty soon. I'm going to be home." Boom. Next day, e-mail, three sets of lyrics.

That's awesome.

He's a total badass.

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