With iTunes 5, Apple introduced an oft-requested feature: The ability to store song lyrics in your iTunes Library. By accessing a track’s Info window (File: Get Info), you can switch to the Lyrics tab and type or paste that track’s lyrics. Even better, if you’ve got a new iPod nano, iTunes automatically syncs those lyrics to the nano, where they can be displayed during playback. (It’s only a matter of time before someone releases an iTunes Visualizer plugin that displays these lyrics on your computer screen during playback.)
But now that they’ve finally got this feature, people are asking for another one: a way to actually get the lyrics . Unlike track information, which iTunes can automatically retrieve via the online CDDB, iTunes includes no way to automatically retrieve lyrics for a song. You have to use your Web-surfing skills to find them manually—via dedicated lyrics Web sites or our old pal Google —and then paste them into iTunes, one track at a time. Not exactly an enticing proposition, especially if you’ve got a sizable music Library.
I suspect that Apple will eventually add automatic lyric-fetching capabilities to iTunes, but until then, I’m enjoying PearWorks’ free pearLyrics 0.5 ( ). Available as both an application and a Dashboard widget, pearLyrics monitors what track iTunes is currently playing and then searches seven different lyric Web sites to find the lyrics for that song. Assuming you have the “Copy lyrics to iTunes” option checked, pearLyrics automatically copies those found lyrics to iTunes’ Lyrics field. Each time the song changes, pearLyrics automatically searches for the new track’s lyrics. (The status bar notes which Web site provided the lyrics; for example, lyricsondemand.com.) I prefer to use the pearLyrics widget, which inconspicuously updates lyrics in the background.
If you’re a musician, the “Look for chords first” option automatically looks for guitar chords, which are returned instead of (or, sometimes, in addition to) full lyrics; if no chords are found, pearLyrics will search for lyrics only.
If you don’t want to have to listen to tracks just to fetch their lyrics, pearLyrics can also automatically search for lyrics for all songs in a particular playlist, or even your entire Library, via the File: Cache Lyrics for Playlist command. (Warning: This could take a while with a large Library.)
PearLyrics is smart enough to realize when a track already has lyrics in iTunes; if so, it displays those lyrics instead of searching the Web.
Unfortunately, pearLyrics can’t perform miracles; if none of the lyric Web sites return the lyrics for a track, pearLyrics simply says, “Sorry, no lyrics found.” However, if you’re using the pearLyrics widget, you get an additional option: “Click here to ask Google.” This opens your Web browser to a Google search for that track; chances are at least one of the hits will contain the lyrics, which you can manually copy from the Web site and then paste into iTunes.
In my experience, pearLyrics has a surprisingly high rate of success in finding song lyrics, even when a track’s title in iTunes is slightly different than the title(s) listed on the lyrics Web sites. That said, I’ve experienced a few minor quirks. For one, if you skip tracks at the instant pearLyrics is looking up lyrics, it can sometimes paste the lyrics from the song it was looking up (the previous song) into the Lyrics field of the current song. Second, if it can’t find the lyrics to a song, pearLyrics lets you manually edit the search parameters and search again; however, if it finds lyrics based on your modified search, it doesn’t automatically copy those lyrics to iTunes—you need to copy and paste them manually. Finally, sometimes playback pauses for an instant as pearLyrics copies lyrics into iTunes; to be fair, this latter issue seems to be a flaw in iTunes, as sometimes iTunes pauses when I manually paste lyrics into the Info dialog.
Those issues aside, pearLyrics is still the best solution I’ve yet found for getting lyrics into iTunes with little to no effort on my part. Any anything that lets me be both lazy and efficient at the same time is a Gem in my book.
The pearLyrics applications requires Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) or later; The pearLyrics Dashboard widget requires Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). Both versions require iTunes 5 in order to copy lyrics to iTunes.