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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

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.

Real lyrics.

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?

42 Comments:

At September 12, 2006 7:24 AM, Blogger Mr. Friendly replied to my musings ...

you CAN dance, you CAN dance
everybody look at your hands!

Good Times indeed!

 
At September 12, 2006 8:13 AM, Anonymous fred charles replied to my musings ...

In these dark times of barely understandable lyrics (frontin?), we need only dig back into our Kiss albums for some sanity...

"Hot, hot, hotter than hell,
You know she's gonna leave you well done"

Now that's something I can understand!

Seriously, can you imagine Fergie or the Pussycat dolls sitting around with a notepad actually writing those lyrics and nodding to each other?

 
At September 12, 2006 8:47 AM, Blogger Curare_Z replied to my musings ...

DA -- stop frontin. You know that every time you come around my London London Bridge wanna go down...
--------------
My favorite lyric is from Snow Patrol's "How to be Dead"...

Dr. Jekyll is wrestling Hyde...for my pride.

I feel like that most days.

 
At September 12, 2006 10:01 AM, Anonymous Perplexio replied to my musings ...

The video for The Safety Dance was hilarious!

Speaking of songs from the eighties that we grew up with... what about Pass the Dutchie? can't forget that one.

 
At September 12, 2006 11:15 AM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

my name is Fred and one day I'll be dead - yo yo yo! I loved that stupid cowboy song.

out of all the silly lyrics the one that comes to mind without thinking too much is "sucking on a chili dog outside the tastee freeze" :)

 
At September 12, 2006 11:34 AM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

oops - I'm thinking his name was Ted, not Fred. oh well, memory is going bad. I'll just continue riding in the chuckwagon following my man... :)

 
At September 12, 2006 12:00 PM, Blogger Maggie replied to my musings ...

Not to forget Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby".

 
At September 12, 2006 1:16 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

Well, I always thought "I remember when you could start from flour" was "I remember when you could starve a plow" from JCM's Pink Houses...

I think music today entrances people with how bad the lyrics are, that's our secret weapon against terror and how western civ has dominated the world.

 
At September 12, 2006 1:29 PM, Anonymous BarBarA (aka Layla) replied to my musings ...

Sure, David...normal, uh huh, whatever you say.

Now that you've provided me with this insight into lyrics I know what happened to me! It was this song:

Your lights are on, but youre not home
Your mind is not your own
Your heart sweats, your body shakes
Another kiss is what it takes

You cant sleep, you cant eat
Theres no doubt, youre in deep
Your throat is tight, you cant breathe
Another kiss is all you need

 
At September 12, 2006 1:55 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

Look Layla, You might as well face it. You're Addicted to Love!

 
At September 12, 2006 3:07 PM, Blogger DaBich replied to my musings ...

Normal??????

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

I don't wanna be normal ;)

 
At September 12, 2006 3:29 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Mr. Friendly: Now you've got me dancing in my seat to the song. And probably citing it's lyrics for the next week.

Fred C.: There's also the classic line from the controversial "Burn Bitch Burn" by KISS: "Ooh baby/Wanna put my log in your fireplace." Oh my.

Curare Z: That line is actually pretty clever. Hey everyone--go to Curare's site for some big news!!!

Perplexio: The video was a pseudo-pastoral nightmare. At least that's what my therapist tells me.

OMW: Yo, yo, yo. I got my boots ... dusty.

Mike: Starting from flour would be quite a trick. Maybe Mellencamp should've tried that line!

Layla: Were you wearing a tight black dress and red lipstick with your hair pulled back tightly while gyrating with similarly decorated ladies? It all makes sense now ...

Mike: Right on. Maybe she'll give us a sequel, like the copycat video "Simply Irresisable."

DaBich: Belive me, I'm far from normal, too. And that's a good thing.

-- david

 
At September 12, 2006 3:32 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Maggie: Ahhh, how could I forget the immortal words of Vanilla Ice? "Girlies on standby/Waitin' just to say hi/"Did you stop?"/No, I just drove by." Pure poetry.

-- david

 
At September 12, 2006 4:07 PM, Blogger Death Warmed Over replied to my musings ...

I wonder if Primus is still putting out music. Once you've heard:

"Wynona's got herself a big brown beaver
and she shows it off to all her friends.
One day, you know, that beaver tried to leave her,
So she caged him up with cyclone fence."

All other lyrics pale in comparison. As for vanilla ice, if ice ice baby isn't the anthem for the 80s generation, I don't know what is.

Crack that whip?

 
At September 12, 2006 4:14 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

They used to run a commercial here for a local oldies station with people singing the wrong words to classic oldies it was comical.

My sister used to sing "wake me up and make me cocoa" rather then "wake me up before you go go" :)

the Dookies huh? that's gonna be hard to root for Duke, Coach K, and boys hmm

 
At September 12, 2006 4:44 PM, Anonymous BarBarA (aka Layla) replied to my musings ...

David - yes, that was me!

 
At September 12, 2006 5:52 PM, Blogger Hel Fire replied to my musings ...

For some reason that line "Give me love you long time" makes me think of "Me give you much loving for dollar"!
I like your blog, thanks for visiting mine, as you said it is therapeutic to get depressing thoughts off your chest (i think that could be why blogging is so popular).

 
At September 12, 2006 5:57 PM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

As Death Warmed Over said, Primus is the top song writers, one of my favorite lines is:

My name is Mud.
But call me Alowishus Devadander Abercrombie.
That's long for Mud.
So I've been told.

 
At September 12, 2006 6:00 PM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

I don't care what they sing in fact they could sing the freakin' phonebook for all I care. The Pussycat Dolls videos are smokin'.

 
At September 12, 2006 7:39 PM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

Are popular song lyrics intended to make sense? I thought they just needed to speak to the soul.

 
At September 12, 2006 8:32 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

DWO, Jeff: Primus does indeed set a unique standard. I still remember the soundtrack to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey fondly, in part because of "Tommy the Cat."

Phats: That cocoa line is a classic, and a misheard lyric I hadn't heard!

Layla: I thought so. Too bad he has passed on and won't give you any more videos to star in.

Hel Fire: That Fergie line makes me think that Fergie (or her songwriters) are just palin dumb.

Fuzz: As I said, I'll turn down the volume and watch that stuff anytime. The video is much better than the audio.

GoldenNib: "I’m losing focus/Kind of drifting into the abstract/In terms of how I see myself" speaks less to my soul than to my memories of Psych 101. And "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!" speaks only to my loins.

-- david

 
At September 12, 2006 9:51 PM, Blogger Michelle replied to my musings ...

Can't beat "Boney Maroney" by Hush.
"I gotta gal called boney maroney", "she's as skinny as a stick a macaroni".....I love her she loves me, sittin under the apple tree!!

 
At September 13, 2006 3:02 AM, Blogger dragonflyfilly replied to my musings ...

so glad you brough up lyrics...i have a beef (where's the beef? you say) ...well, aside from Alberta...with Brian Adams, what is all the hoopla about? so many of his songs copy lyrics from other songs, or that one about the highway, full of cliches (sorry i don't have an accent on my keyboard)...but now my mind is gone blank, (someone out there must know the one i mean)...but everytime i hear it on the radio i want to scream..."for f....'s sake, if you don't know how, get someone to write some decent lyrics for you"...and this is one of Canada's pop idols? -- oh brother!

 
At September 13, 2006 12:44 PM, Blogger Paige Burns replied to my musings ...

I've always had a hard time hearing the lyrics in music for some reason, so I'm the Queen of singing the wrong words.

I do like Eminem's lyrics. No matter if he's angry, or sad, or silly, his words are still poignant.

 
At September 13, 2006 1:07 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

I guess you could say that admitting your fear of having a potential transexual unbuttoning your pants is, by a loose definition, "frontin'."

"Frontin'" is a very subjective verb. Luckily, I am tight with the brothahs and sistahs, so allow me to translate:

"Frontin'" (FRUHN-tin): "To behave in an overly pretentious manner, with an inflated sense of self-importance."

So the PCD are saying, "You pretentious heterosexual. Why are you denying my tranny love? You know you want it..."

That lyric makes a lot of sense. It certainly makes more sense than, "Plasticine porters with looking glass ties."

I have some heavy suitcases sometimes, and I don't know if a plasticine porter could lift it without getting a plasticine inguinal hernia. Plus, with the new upright rollerboard luggage, plasticine porters should really convert from looking glass ties to BOW ties so they don't get stuck in the wheels.

 
At September 13, 2006 2:44 PM, Blogger KC replied to my musings ...

Waaaaay back when I was in high school, REO Speedwagon had a song that used to friggin' drive me up a wall because I couldn't figure out why he was using the words "entire nation" in the following lines:

I've had enough of the falseness
Of a worn out relation
Enough of the jealousy
And the intoleration

Then many years later, I realized that he was saying "intoleration". Boy did I feel stupid for raggin' on him all those years.

 
At September 13, 2006 3:17 PM, Blogger Minka replied to my musings ...

Yeah, I guess you turned out alright. Not well, but good enough;)

Soemtimes when I listen to music, I doubt that i speak English...maybe it is just better to bob along instead of really listen. And that goes for life, not just music!

 
At September 13, 2006 3:51 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Michelle: I'm not sure that's the worst/best, but it is different.

DragonflyFilly: It lets you know how desperate KISS was in the early 80s that they looked to Bryan Adams to co-write some KISS songs! I have to say in his defense, however, that songs like "Run to You" are extraordinarily tight, well-written pop songs.

Paige: I go back and forth between seeing Eminem as a brilliant master of syncopation and vocabulary and a hate-mongering ass. In the interests of free speech, I'll lean toward the former.

ZW: Sometimes you make me feel as if your brain has reached a different plane of evolution than the rest of us. Now is one of those times.

KC: You really SHOULD have been raggin' on Kevin Cronin and the boys all these years after all. Not for singing "entire nation," however ... but for making up the word "intoleration" to force a rhyme rather than using "intolerance."

Minka: That's for the vote of half-confidence. I'm not sure most lyrics supposedly in English are, in fact, English. Perhaps it a new language.

-- david

 
At September 13, 2006 4:17 PM, Anonymous Perplexio replied to my musings ...

David, give it time, eventually Esperanto will be the language of choice for pop singers and William Shatner will become the Godfather of Esperanto Pop.

This will happen shortly after Cricket tops baseball and football as the most popular specator sport in the United States.

 
At September 13, 2006 4:26 PM, Blogger Cinderella replied to my musings ...

Was that last question a trick question? *Giggle* Just kidding ya!!

Music has gone to the wastelands..I am stuck in the 70's and 80's..the songs you mentioned are good at clubs and to hear once, and to FORGET always lol

 
At September 13, 2006 5:00 PM, Blogger Alex replied to my musings ...

Hahah it's funny you bring this up David. Bad lyrics are one of my favorite topics; I did a post about them some months back here:http://rnrkm.blogspot.com/2006/06/really-bad-lyrics-part-i.html Basically, I like making fun of stuff, and the world of rock and pop is replete with awful lyrics...even by bands that you like. I, for one, love Primus, but some of their lyrics make no sense at all. I think rock lyrics are supposed to be inherently bad; I mean, it's not as if there are a bunch of Byron's sitting around writing serious, meaningful lyrics to three-chord songs.

Roger Waters is an exception.

 
At September 13, 2006 5:20 PM, Blogger missy replied to my musings ...

I wanna be a cowboy... well, cowgirl really but not as much as I want to be a ninja :-)

Such a busy blog, this is! 32 comments already!!

 
At September 14, 2006 7:26 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

Let me get back to you on that last question ;-)

 
At September 14, 2006 10:06 AM, Blogger Ben Heller replied to my musings ...

Ambiguous lyrics have been around for a long time and I always believe it's the tune that sells, and if the lyrics are good...well that's a bonus.
Think of the 60's and Procol Harem's "A Whiter Shade Of Pale".
To the 70's and David Bowie and some of the most bizarre lyrics heard this side of the moon.
To the 80's and our pop pals Duran Duran. I've yet to make sense of ONE of their songs.
And into the 90's and Nirvana. Now we know Mr Cobain was troubled, but his mysterious lyrics didn't once detract sales.

Possibly the worst lyricists IMO were British band Spandau Ballet who baffled us all in the mid 80's with gems like this.
"she's oiling up her subject,
but all still life is here,
paint me in the home,
all the boys with framed dimension,
a cover up on lust,
he'll take his pain and paint it over,
prepare the brush for me."

 
At September 14, 2006 10:07 AM, Blogger Jenna Howard replied to my musings ...

Someone needs to tell those Pussycat Dolls to eat some sandwiches.

And normal? Really? Hm...

 
At September 14, 2006 12:42 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

I've heard that "evolutionary" comment before. It's the pink sweater...right??

 
At September 14, 2006 3:19 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Perplexio: I won't hold my breath, that's for sure.

Cinderella, Lisa B.: Now that's not very nice, to take advantage of me in a moment of vulnerability. Shame!

Alex: I went to your old post and it's great--I especially admire your willingness to point out Mr. Peart's weak lyrical moments (I'd add some of the tracks on Roll the Bones).

Missy: I prefer seeing you as a cowgirl to seeing you as a cowboy!

Ben: Ouch--that is awful. I'm with you on Duran Duran; I still can figure out "You've gone too far this time/But I'm dancing on the valentine." WTF?

Jenna: Normal is a relative term. And pussycats don't eat sandwiches, silly--only sausages.

ZW: OK, I take it back. Now I think you are a throwback to Cro-Magnon days.

-- david

 
At September 14, 2006 5:50 PM, Blogger Fated replied to my musings ...

I'll take barely comprehensible psychobabble over humpty-hump idiocy ANY time. That horrible music leaves me absolutely homicidal.

 
At September 16, 2006 5:39 PM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

Loins...soul...same thing.

 
At September 16, 2006 6:58 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Fated: I'm with you. I love the NIN song ... not so much the Fergie song.

GoldenNib: That sounds like it would be one hell of a philosophy dissertation.

-- david

 
At September 17, 2006 8:36 AM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

OMG that was funny...

Who the fuh are you? Who who...who who? Come on, is that how radio defends playing it over the airwaves or "don't me none of that goody-goody bullllshi..." The "t" is there, I know it!!!

 
At September 17, 2006 2:23 PM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

Now there's an idea.

 

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