How I Would Fix iTunes, Part 8: Lyrics

(This is one of a series of articles looking at elements of iTunes that I think need fixing. I’ll choose one element for each article, and offer a solution. See all articles in this series. If you have any particular gripes about what needs to be fixed in iTunes, drop me a line.)

iTunes has long been able to store lyrics in your music files. To do this, select a track, press Command-I (Control-I on Windows), and then click Lyrics. Paste the lyrics, and click OK.

Itunes lyrics

Unfortunately, the only way you can read these lyrics while your music is playing is to select each song and press Command-I to display the Info window.

You can do this on iOS. When you’re playing a song in the Music app, just tap the album art to display lyrics (if there are any).

Ios lyrics

iTunes should have a window that lets you view lyrics more easily: this could be a pop-up window that displays, for example, when you click the More button next to the currently playing track in the iTunes LCD (the top section of the iTunes window). Or it could be a dedicated, floating window.

Another thing iTunes could do is automatically download lyrics. Spotify’s desktop app is adding MusixMatch lyrics integration. When this is available, you’ll be able to click a Lyrics button in the app and see the lyrics display as the music is playing.

iTunes could do this, but they could also download the lyrics to the files when you rip CDs, just as the app can download album artwork. It could also start adding lyrics to music sold on the iTunes Store.

It’s worth pointing out that you can put more than just lyrics in this tag; you can put any text you want. Hyperion Records does this, adding lyrics for vocal works, and notes for other works. The Lyrics tag can hold about 24,800 characters, which is nearly 5,000 words, and Hyperion takes advantage of this, offering you complete notes for each track.

Hyperion lyrics

iTunes could make these notes easier to view, and offer added information with tracks – and other media – sold on the iTunes Store.

Music listeners like lyrics; iTunes should do provide a better way to view them, and, if possible, a way to download them.

6 thoughts on “How I Would Fix iTunes, Part 8: Lyrics

  1. Another newer problem with lyrics: that tab has unfortunately disappeared from Audiobooks and Podcasts. Older lyrics are apparently still there, but in iTunes they can only be seen if you change the Media Kind to Music. In iOS, the Audiobook and Podcast lyrics can still be seen by tapping the screen, just like for Music, but if you’re looking at the same file in iTunes it’s impossible to see the lyrics without changing the Media Kind.

    So another fix I’d like: bring back lyrics, even at the old limited functionality, for Audiobooks and Podcasts! It’s very annoying to have, for example, all the text for podcast language lessons now unavailable when I’m on my computer.

    Thanks Kirk for posting all these. I love what iTunes and iOS are theoretically capable of, but the bugs and problems seem to be accumulating year by year.

  2. Another newer problem with lyrics: that tab has unfortunately disappeared from Audiobooks and Podcasts. Older lyrics are apparently still there, but in iTunes they can only be seen if you change the Media Kind to Music. In iOS, the Audiobook and Podcast lyrics can still be seen by tapping the screen, just like for Music, but if you’re looking at the same file in iTunes it’s impossible to see the lyrics without changing the Media Kind.

    So another fix I’d like: bring back lyrics, even at the old limited functionality, for Audiobooks and Podcasts! It’s very annoying to have, for example, all the text for podcast language lessons now unavailable when I’m on my computer.

    Thanks Kirk for posting all these. I love what iTunes and iOS are theoretically capable of, but the bugs and problems seem to be accumulating year by year.

  3. I’m enjoying this series of posts immensely and agree with all your points so far… Regarding the automatic adding of lyrics I use a nice little app called Get Lyrical (http://shullian.com/get_lyrical.php) which seems to do the job quite well (once you realise you have to click the Active Tagging button every time you launch it).

    Another area you might want to look at is the way iTunes now handles tracks with multiple artworks. It used to work better in that the album cover preview area had little arrows so you could page through the artwork associated with each file, then click on it to see a larger/resizable view. Now unfortunately, the only way to see the extra artworks is to do Get Info and look there but there’s no way of seeing an enlarged view of it without dragging it into another app, or swapping the order of the artworks…

    I know most users only have one piece of cover artwork (if that 🙂 but being a bit of a collector and a designer I use the feature to store multiple versions of the artwork where appropriate – sometimes the back cover or alternate designs.

  4. I’m enjoying this series of posts immensely and agree with all your points so far… Regarding the automatic adding of lyrics I use a nice little app called Get Lyrical (http://shullian.com/get_lyrical.php) which seems to do the job quite well (once you realise you have to click the Active Tagging button every time you launch it).

    Another area you might want to look at is the way iTunes now handles tracks with multiple artworks. It used to work better in that the album cover preview area had little arrows so you could page through the artwork associated with each file, then click on it to see a larger/resizable view. Now unfortunately, the only way to see the extra artworks is to do Get Info and look there but there’s no way of seeing an enlarged view of it without dragging it into another app, or swapping the order of the artworks…

    I know most users only have one piece of cover artwork (if that 🙂 but being a bit of a collector and a designer I use the feature to store multiple versions of the artwork where appropriate – sometimes the back cover or alternate designs.

  5. I too use Get Lyrical and it works well. I will add that Apple will likely never add Get Lyrical type functionality to iTunes due to copyright issues with the major music companies.

  6. I too use Get Lyrical and it works well. I will add that Apple will likely never add Get Lyrical type functionality to iTunes due to copyright issues with the major music companies.

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