Lyrics vs. Melodies

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After reading my post about harmonica lessons, a friend wrote to commiserate and to ask a question.

Attempts at guitar and drums convinced him of his "less than zero musical ability." And he wondered whether his lack of musical facility had engendered his inability to "really love a song unless the lyrics catch my fancy at some level. Heck, I even like to read along with the libretto when at the opera."

I'll one-up him: I've never been a huge opera fan because I can’t understand the lyrics.

Even a catchy song loses its catch if I determine it has inane lyrics. Often, if I can't understand the words, I find them on-line. And although I've never had a passion for music—likely because I'm not musical and understanding most lyrics requires research—I've always preferred musicians who tell stories. I don't even care much about the quality of their voices and melodies. Just tell me a good tale.

Here's my friend's question: Unlike us, do musical people find tunes more important than lyrics?

I researched his query. I found mainly comical asides on "lyrics people" and "music people”—primarily highfalutin music people pitying nonmusical folks' inability to fully appreciate the art—but no studies to indicate whether people with musical ability focus more on melodies than lyrics. And I found no studies to show that it's normal for nonmusical folks to focus on lyrics over tunes.

My instinct tells me that someone with musical ability would put equal or greater weight on the melody than nonmusical people, but I have no proof. And my sample size of two leads me to think that nonmusical folks are the converse.

So let's study this together:

Are you musical or nonmusical? Do you prefer melodies or lyrics—or do you equally weight both?