Let’s start by saying never use the word “just” in your songs. Can we agree on that?
Just is one of the biggest lyrical weeds I would eradicate if I could. I know, harsh words, but hear me out.
Technically, there are a couple of situations where the word “just” is (dare I say it…) justified. It’s adverbial (I totally wanted to use the word “adverbial”) which means (and I consult my friend Google here):
A word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc.
The word “just”, in its adverbial form means “exactly” or “very recently”.
That’s JUST the thing I needed
That’s EXACTLY the thing I needed
I JUST saw you
I VERY RECENTLY saw you
One problem I see is that songwriters used “just” redundantly. They’ll say something like this:
That’s JUST exactly the thing I needed
That’s EXACTLY just the thing I needed
You only need “just” or exactly…not both (and please use “exactly”!).
How about this:
I JUST RECENTLY saw you
I RECENTLY JUST saw you
Again, using “just” is redundant.
The bigger problem I see is that lyricists aren’t even using “just” in its proper role. They use it as an exclamation point before a phrase they want to emphasise.
I JUST love you
I JUST can’t keep you out of my mind
These phrases are basically trying to do this:
I love you!
I can’t keep you out of my mind!
Notice how awkward the lines become when we replace “just” with its true definitions:
I EXACTLY love you
I EXACTLY can’t keep you out of my mind
I VERY RECENTLY love you
I VERY RECENTLY can’t keep you out of my mind
Those sound ridiculous! Removing “just” makes the lines cleaner, more elegant, the meaning clearer and unobstructed.
I love you
I can’t keep you out of my mind
One area where I think “just” works, is when “just” is in the title. For example: Pink’s Just Give Me a Reason (featuring Nate Ruess).
Pink – Just Give Me A Reason ft. Nate Ruess
I love this song. I really do. It works on so many levels. Yes, the “just” bugs me a little bit, but this song is too far into our collective consciousness to hear it anyway except with “just”. (For heaven’s sake, it was a Billboard number one hit, sold four million digital downloads, and won two Grammys).
She’s using “just” in a slang form to say a combination of “I really need you to” and “please”. For example:
PLEASE, I REALLY NEED YOU TO Give Me a Reason
Another song where “just” works is Just the Way You Are, by Bruno Mars.
Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are
In this song, Bruno is squarely using the correct definition…
Girl, you’re amazing JUST the way you are
Girl, you’re amazing EXACTLY the way you are
So I’m asking to weed “just” out of your lyrics. Get rid of it. You “just” don’t need it.
(Side note: Don’t even get me started on the word “so”!)