Yahoo Lyrics Search: A Bad Opening Act

I have been waiting for a reasonable place to find and search song lyrics.  Since was shut down by the greedy publishing industry years ago, the only way to find song lyrics has been to google the song and visit one of several ad and pop-up infested lyrics sites.  Now Yahoo has tried to come to the rescue.

Through a deal with Gracenote, a company I am not fond of due to its conscripting for profit the formerly open source CDDB, Yahoo can now allow legal, centralized lyrics searches via it’s Yahoo Music page.

I should have been suspicious when I first visited the search page and saw mostly photos of artists I either don’t recognize or don’t like.  But I soldiered on hopefully.  The search engine is fast.  I think I know why- because the database is so small.

I tested it first by searching for “my feet are too long” to see if it would return John Prine’s Dear Abby.  No luck.  I tried “Dear Abby” and found a song by George Strait.  No Prine.

Next I tried “no senator’s son” and found CCR’s Fortunate Son.  “We can share the wine” returned the Dead’s excellent Jack Straw.  “Never leave Harlan” found no results, even though a song search found Darrell Scott’s excellent song of the same name.

“Killed John Wayne” did not find the Guadalcanal Diary song, thereby proving that Mathew Ingram is a better lyrics source than Yahoo.

“Muskrat Love” found neither the Captain and Tennille version I was expecting nor the Willis Alan Ramsey version I hoped for.

My conclusion is that the lyrics database might be fine for the casual music fan who likes current hit songs and middle of the road oldies, but this is not the one-stop shop for true music fans I hoped it would be.  In fact, I was pretty disappointed.

It would be so much better to have some open source, Wikipedia-like database for lyrics – which could also be ad supported.  But that old greed thing once again stands in the way of logic and usability.

There are also a couple of things about the interface I don’t like.

First, the results are not in any kind of alphabetical order, and they are not sortable.  They should be sortable by artist, song title, genre and year.  Additionally, you have to manually select lyrics search for every search, because the search box selection defaults to “All” (which includes artists, albums, songs, videos and lyrics).  This is an unnecessary irritation.

And the biggest pain in the ass: you also cannot copy (as in copy and paste) the lyrics once you find them.  This is idiotic and shows once again how little the music business trusts or respects its customers.

In sum, Yahoo’s lyrics search is a nice attempt to provide a much needed service. But it’s not ready for prime time.

Not by a long shot.

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