What Are Words For?
My love of misheard lyrics is well known.
It provided the basis of one of my most popular posts, and I still love discovering new sets of “wrong” words. Like this classic garble of the line “Smoke on the water/Fire in the sky” from Deep Purple:
“Slow-motion Walter, fire-engine guy.”
But I’m not going to write about misheard lyrics today. Instead, I’m moving to something important. Something deep. Something more meaningful.
Having removed myself from the world of pop music years ago, I had no idea until I binged last month on Top 40 and MTV that today’s hit songs contain such an amazing diversity of verbiage. I’d like to report just a few things that I heard.
Let’s start at one extreme. Look at two of today’s biggest songs—big hitters on the pop charts, on the iTunes download list, and on my list of videos-I’ll-turn-the-sound-off-and-watch.
First, a few words from the song “Buttons” by the Pussycat Dolls:
I’m tellin’ you loosen up my buttons baby
But you keep frontin’
Sayin’ what you gonna do to me
But I ain’t seen nothin’
OK, so it rhymes … and it’s vaguely English. Who knows—maybe this will be one of Hilary’s ads in the 2008 election.
But these lyrics gotta step off, cuz here comes Fergie with “London Bridge.” Absorb this sample of her poetry:
I’m Fergie Ferg
Give me love you long time
And another example from her song, edited slightly for any visitors surfing the Web from their elementary schools:
I’m such a lady but I’m dancing like a ho
Because you know what, I don’t give a f--k, so here we go!
It’s at this point that I wonder why Western civilization dominates the world.
Remember, though, that was only one extreme. This isn’t the whole story. Far from it.
Take a look at these lyrics from another recent big hit, a song that made it to #1 on US Modern Rock chart. These words come from “Only” by Nine Inch Nails:
I’m losing focus
Kind of drifting into the abstract
In terms of how I see myself
Great. So we’ve gone from humpty-hump idiocy to barely comprehensible psychobabble. Probably a step forward, although it’s hard to judge when you’re suffering from lingual whiplash.
But I really shouldn’t complain.
After all, my formative musical memories were forged, on one side, by the lyrical blur of songs such as “Wrapped Around your Finger” by The Police, featuring lines like:
You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis
Other life lessons were learned from tunes like “Rock Me Amadeus,” “The Safety Dance,” and “I Wanna Be a Cowboy.”
And I turned out normal. Didn’t I?