Every generation needs its poets and here's the 23 musical scribes who define 2010.

Meanwhile, you can vote for the best lyricists ever here.

Words: Emily Mackay, Matt Wilkinson, Barry Nicolson, Mark Beaumont, Laura Snapes, Dan Martin, Sam Wolfson, Martin Robinson, Jaimie Hodgson


Now 40 years’ old, Dorset’s PJ Harvey is unlike any lyricist ever, regardless of gender

It seems like law that any successful female lyric writer must be likened to PJ Harvey. But how many would dare pen a song about infanticide, as PJ did with ‘Down By The Water’? Critics have tried to label her a feminist, and with songs like ‘Sheela-na-gig’ you can see why. Named after disturbing medieval carvings of women, it perverts ’60s girl group lyrics that “wash that man right out of my hair ”.

But she’s not really a feminist – Polly rarely judges, and often inhabits male as well as female bodies, a notable example being 2007’s piano-heavy ‘White Chalk’.

Any musician worth their salt – whatever gender – should strive for comparison to such an individual lyricist. LS

Key lyric: “It’s hard to walk in the dress, it’s not easy/I’m spilling over like a heavy loaded fruit taree”
(‘Dress’, from ‘Dry’, 1992)


Listen to PJ Harvey Now


Latest PJ Harvey News

PJ Harvey selling lyric sheet replicas from new album for £50

PJ Harvey selling lyric sheet replicas from new album for £50

The reproductions are selling online following the musician's public album recording in London

PJ Harvey completes first week of recording new album at Somerset House

Harvey is recording in front of members of the public at central London location

  • Jan 23, 2015

PJ Harvey: 'Somerset House will fuel me and help tap into a different level of consciousness'

Michael Morris of collaborators ArtAngel confirms name of new song 'Throwing Nothing'

  • Jan 20, 2015

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Live Review: PJ Harvey

Live Review: PJ Harvey

Troxy, London, Sunday 27th February

  • Mar 9, 2011

PJ Harvey - 'Let England Shake'

Polly’s most affecting and impressive work so far

  • Feb 9, 2011

Live Review: Camp Bestival

PJ returns to debut some new material at the southwest’s most up-market festival. Lulworth Castle, Dorset, Friday July 24-Sunday July 26

  • Aug 5, 2009

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