July 21, 2006

Bad song lyrics.

Well, it's bad to get engrossed in such an obvious, easy topic, but here's the article, and here's the Metafilter discussion. I'm less interested in the plainly stupic lyrics than the more specific mistakes, like Bruce Springsteen getting baseball terminology wrong ("speed ball" for "fast ball") and this one:
THE SONG: Relient K, "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been"

THE LYRIC: "I watched the proverbial sunrise/coming up over the Pacific/and you might think I'm losing my mind/but I will shy away from specifics"

THE VERDICT: Not just the "duh" rhyme of "Pacific" and "specifics," but more importantly, why the proverbial sunrise? How is a sunrise proverbial?
Notice how the criticism -- which is trenchant -- doesn't even point out the oceanic boo-boo. I guess Mr. K couldn't think of a rhyme for Atlantic. Let me suggest: pedantic.

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm told there is no "Mr. K" ... and that I'm either not recognizing the concession that the speaker is supposed to seem crazy or that I'm being too West Coast-o-centric.


William said...

Maybe the Pacific was a riff on the "losing my mind" line?

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, that might answer the question about what's "proverbial." Maybe the line's brilliant after all!

Anonymous said...

I think the reason we may think he's losing his mind is BECAUSE he saw the sun rise over the Pacific.

He's acknowledging that's wrong.

Joseph said...

The sun comes up over the Pacific for people on the west side of the Pacific.

DannyNoonan said...

Or maybe he's in Asia.

MadisonMan said...

Or Hawaii

Paddy O said...

if only he gave us the specifics

Blazes Boylan said...

This reminds my of a lyric that drives my crazy from the Bright Eyes song "At the Bottom of Everything". This song begins:

So there was this woman and
she was on an airplane and
she's flying to meet her fiancé
sailing high above the largest ocean
on planet earth and she was seated
next to this man who you know
she had tried to start a conversation

The fact that he says "the largest ocean on planet earth" as if he didn't know that it was the Pacific , didn't have the interest to find out or even know that such a fact might be knowable ruins the song for me completely.

I guess he wanted to create some sort of dreamy feel, but the line does is call attention to the failure to achieve.

SippicanCottage said...
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Chennaul said...


the Horse With No Name.

Gad!!!!!! UGH!!!! Holy-wow I wanna swear-crap do I L-O-A-T-H-E that song.

You think you got somethin' with Hooked on A Feelin'!??!

I'm gonna take you with your broken beer bottle and beat you with a pogo stick...

Bye Bye Miss Ameica Pie

Take that you filthy animal!

{PS If I got the title wrong-I don't care- you all still know the drivel I'm refering to.}

I win.

{Sippican KO 'ed rolling on the floor spitting out his teeth-wishing he knew where or what he could even begin to google for...}

bill said...

Since SC has correctly identified the worst lyric in Horse with no name, I offer this diversion.

Maggie Estep, on the album/CD No More Mister Nice Guy, has a story about getting a haircut so bad the only job she can get is as a stripper. She ends up dancing to Madonna's Borderline:

"Borderline, Borderline, Borderline, Love me till I just can't see." And I start wondering "what the hell does that mean?" Love me till I just can see--what does that mean? Screw me so much my eyes pop out, I go blind, end up walking crazy naked and horny down 2nd Avenue. What?

SippicanCottage said...
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sonicfrog said...

Maybe Relient K was in Hawaii when he wrote it....

He could have use "romantic" to rhyme with Atlantic.

Toto has written some pretty sad bits of lyrics. I love the band, musicianship is top-notch, but I cringe at some of the innanities put to harmonies. And they're still goin' at it.

What about Sir Mix Alot: "I like big butts and I cannot lie..." Classic!!

There is a great version of the song here - find the jimmy kimmel link. Richard Cheese has proved to be a great rap translater for me.

A problem I have with most Rap music is that it seems to be nothing more that words strung together with ryhme but no meaning or narrative at all. The ability to rhyme ad-nausium is the thing, the only thing. There are exceptions. Eminem seems to put thought into a lot of his stuff.

Though I don't do much these days, I started writing lyrics when I was 13, and most of them were God awfull. Here is a lyric from the first thing I ever wrote:

Fortune fame and friends,
It sems it never ends,
But then I took a fall,
And seems I lost it all,
But now I see,
It's not them, It's me....

The song is called "Insanity" and yes, it's pretty bad. But hey. What do you want. I was 13 and depressed. I was listening to a lot of ELO at that time, and the lyric patterns are a replica of the Jeff Lynne style of song writing. So if it's bad, blame him! I was only 13.

I tried to write a song inspired by the Kurt Vonnegut book "Galápagos". Putrid and vommitous do not come close to describing the results. It is the only thing I have ever thrown away on the spot, and have NEVER tried to write a lyric based on a book again. EVER!

PS. You never see anyone do articles about good lyrics. Two of my favorite song writers are Paul Simon and Neil Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House). They both have a gift for thoughtfull lyrics. Neil wrote a song called "Pineapple Head", inspired by the feverous ramblings of his eight year old son who was very sick with a temp of 103. It was a great song.

On thoughts of ever cheating on his wife while on tour -

the guilty get no sleep
in the last slow hours of morning
experience is cheap
should have listened to the warning
but the cradle is soft and warm

into temptation
knowing full well the earth will rebel...

SippicanCottage said...
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LarryK said...

"My blood's so mad
Feels like coagulatin
I'm sitting here just contemplating..."

This is the gold standard for bad lyrics - scientists will one day prove that it is not possible to write lyrics worse than this, no matter how hard a human being may try. Hooked on a Feeling (by the great Blue Swede) sounds like Cole Porter by comparison.

Bissage said...

Re: "Hooked on a Feeling." Where I went to high school there was a jukebox in the cafeteria and that song was removed from it. "Hooked on a Feeling" had sparked a race riot.

And such a cheerful sounding song, too. Who'd have thunk it?

SippicanCottage said...
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sonicfrog said...

Sippy - better get that table leg! I'll match your "Hooked on a Feeling" and raise you "Billy Don't Be A Hero"...

Then there is that Debbie Boone song.... God it is sooo bad I have blocked it from my memory - I only remember we had to play the thing in high school band. Thank GOD for repressed memory syndrome.

And people wondered why the band went from 98 members my freshman year to 39 a year later.

But I'm holding back my secret weapon for later. It is a nuke, and no one will survive! ...and no, it's not "Eye of the Tiger"!

Chennaul said...

Oh Ya! Sippican......

My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,damn straight it's better than yours, I could teach ya but I'd have to charge...

tout fins la......

You cannot top that bilge...

{madawaskan making for la toilet-this could be a diet of sorts....}

mango said...

"Specifics" and "Pacific" do not rhyme. Nor do "bank" and "tanks" or any other combination where one of a pair of words that would normally rhyme is plural, and the other doesn't.

In a related pet peeve, girl/world is also not a valid rhyme.

LarryK said...

SonicF - the nuke - could it be "Run Joey Run"? I think I see where this is going...

Mark Daniels said...

By the way, there is no "Relient K" or "Mr. K." It's a band from northeastern Ohio. And I usually love their lyrics. I think that they're insightful, intelligent, wise, and meant to be fun.

Mark Daniels

SippicanCottage said...
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Chennaul said...

Oh gag!!!!!!!

Sippican is the master. I surrender but as I make my retreat-

I'll dump this on y'all-{special request by mango..}

I'm a barbie girl, in a barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
you can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation
Come on Barbie, let's go party!


I'm a blond bimbo girl, in a fantasy world
Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly
You're my doll, rock'n'roll, feel the glamour in pink,
kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky...

SippicanCottage said...
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JackOfClubs said...

The sunrise over the Pacific is surely intentional. The next line (not quoted above) is:
"Cause I don't want you to know where I am". Here are the full lyrics (Warning -- they only get worse.)

For all you bad-lyric-bar-fighters: "Some people call me Maurice..." do I have to go on?

SippicanCottage said...
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Jacob said...

How did they miss this gem from Counting Crows' Accidentally in Love:
Well baby I surrender
To the strawberry ice cream
Never ever end of all this love

My favourite thing about Relient K is that, as a Christian pop-punk band, it's hard to tell when they're talking about Jesus and when they're talking about their girlfriend. For example:
"if it wasn't for him i would still be searching/if it wasn't for him i wouldn't know my best friend"
"oh god oh god, I needed you. all of this time i needed you."
The second one is actually referring to God but the first one is addressed to his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, thanking him for being a jerk so the girl's now with him.

Blog Goliard said...

Aww, c'mon, "Accidentally In Love" is just charming-goofy...it doesn't deserve to be in the company of some of the other root-canal-without-anaesthesia songs that have been bandied about.

Next thing I know y'all are going to tear into R.E.M. or some similar outrage:

"Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom!"

("It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)")

I don't care who you are; that's top-shelf, quality nonsense there.

Bissage said...

The thing about Steve Miller is a lot of his weird lyrics were allusions to other songs. For example.

Still, I don’t think this explains:

Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas
You know he knows just exactly what the facts is
He ain't gonna let those two escape justice
He makes his livin' off of the people's taxes

sonicfrog said...

OK, I'm back from work for the moment. I do need to carify that there is a difference between bad and bland. Bland is any number of songs by Peter Cetera, Phat Heart, or Cher's thirty some-odd years worth of comeback albums. Bland is also repetition, such as Lenny Kravitz "I Wanna Flyyyyy Away, Yeah Yeah Yeah" OK. I'll buy the ticket, now leave already. Here is my warm up for bad:

A) Shameless reference to a hit movie in hopes that it will spur record sales:

Neil Diamond "Turn On Your Heartlight". Not one of the career highlights from a good artist.

There was a disco "Superman" song in 78, but it's not worth looking up.

B) Non-sensicle:

Phil Collins built his career on this one.

"Two hearts, believing in just one mind
Beating together till the end of time". I though it was "beating in just one mind, which would cause an anurism for sure, and still make about as much sense.

And then there is "Susudio, just say the word...". Uhm, NO.

C) Dumb:

Bryan Adams on "Cuts Like A Knife". The song is about a guy who finds out his girl has been cheating on him. He's sad and bummed out that she's "thown it all away". And in the chorus he sings "Cause it cuts like a knife" but follows with "But it feels alright..." Huh???

Or BS:

"People--people who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world,
We're children, needing other children
And yet letting our grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside,
Acting more like children
Than children.

We travel single-oh
Maybe we're lucky, but I don't know--
With them,
Just let one kid fall down
And seven mothers faint.
I guess we're both happy, but maybe--
We ain't. "

Gotta go eat lunch. Will finnish this off with one more salvo....

Yes Steve, you did get lucky no one noticed the "Pometus Of Love" bit, but COME ON! Did you really think you could get away with THIS???


Word Ver. "JEPLN", as in "I'm leavin', on a JEPLN". :-)

Palladian said...

Sippican- as a sort-of-amusing project, I have been collecting all the recordings of "MacArthur Park" I can find. So far, I have 73 including Liza Minelli, the Ray Conniff Singers, Psychotica, Howard Keel, Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Four Tops.

nedludd said...

"The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia"

Not a bad song in and of itself, but there is a bit that has always left me confused,

He was on his way home from Candletop
Been two weeks gone and he thought he'd stop
At William's and have him a drink 'fore he went home to her
Andy Wolloe said "Hello"
And he said "Hi, what's doin', Wo?"
"Seth, sit down, I got some bad news, it's gonna hurt"
He said "I'm your best friend and you know that's right"
"But your young bride ain't home tonight"
"Since you been gone she's been seein' that Amos boy, Seth "
Well, he got mad 'n' he saw red and Andy said "Boy, don'tcha lose your head"
" 'cause to tell ya the truth, I been with her myself"

By gum, I was upset my wife was out runnin' on me, but since my best friend banged her also I suddenly don't feel so bad.

The part that confuses me is that Andy Wolloe isn't described a a contractor (and neither is that Amos by, Seth) so how are they getting her bedded? Oh well, so long as my best friend is one of the ones she's running with.

Gerry said...

Palladian, I can get you a Sinatra one.

As for the bad lyrics, I take a second to no one here in my knowledge of them. MacArthur Park is the worst, but...

What you really have to go for is a song that is kicking despite god-awful lyrics. I present "Kung Fu Fighting?"

They were funky China men from funky Chinatown
They were chopping them up and they were chopping them down
It's an ancient Chineese art and everybody knew their part
From a feint into a slip, and kicking from the hip

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing

Whoa ho ho hoooooooo HUHHH!
Whoa ho ho hoooooooo HAHHH!


(And let's not let a brilliant musician off the hook either. Take it away Sir Paul:

So won't you listen to what the man said?
He said
"Do do do, do do do do do. Do do do, do do do do do.")

Simon Kenton said...

And, for the Ladies con-tractin',

Johnny get angry, Johnny get mad
Give me the biggest lecture I ever had.
I want a brave man, I want a cave man,
Johnny show me that you care really care for me.

sonicfrog said...

This isn't the A-Bomb. I'm softening you up with some artillary.

D) Bad, but on purpose and all in the name of fun.

Some one already mentioned REM's "It's The End Of The Word As We Know It". You can include any number of Oingo Boingo song in this category. But my favorite?

Squeeze, from the fantastic 1991 album "Play". A song called "House of Love":

She was full of lies and boredom
It came as no surprise that she would cheat
Her nails were long and sharp
But she didnt play the harp
She wasnt an angel I told her
But she wasnt able to understand my words
Rich pickings in reverse

I wasnt shakespeare
Its simple
Did she expect me
To kiss her feet

A very acidic tongue
Waggled in her head
Life was lots of fun
At times I had to smile
In front of everyone
We seemed the best of friends
Life had just begun
When on the roof a tile began to slip
The house of love caved in and that was it

She was full of tears by nature
It came to me so clear that she would creep
Her eyes were stale and spun
Like marbles in the sun
She wasnt a princess I told her
And so I witnessed the slaying of my life
That lasted half the night

I wasnt jesus
Believe me
Our love was seedless
And incomplete

A very acidic tongue
Waggled in her head

PS. This album is my all time second favorite, bettered only by "Duke" from Genisis.

Palladian said...

"Palladian, I can get you a Sinatra one."

Got it!

As far as I'm concerned, one of the all-time worst songs is Bobby Goldsboro's wretched "Honey":

She was always young at heart
Kinda dumb and kinda smart and I loved her so
And I surprised her with a puppy...

This song also has the added bonus of an unexplained and unnecessary death, and an ending that is a reiteration of the beginning of the song, suggesting that the song goes on, over and over, for eternity.

Cousin Don said...

Another REM one:

I am, I am, I am Superman and I know what's happening
I am, I am, I am Superman and I can do anything

You don't really love that guy you make it with now do you
I know you don't love that guy cause I can see right through you

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Mango: Country music is notorious for non-rhymes. [And LeAnn Rimes, but that's another story.]

Take the Coal Miner's Daughter, Loretty Lynn:

"Yeah I'm proud to be a coal miner's daughter
I remember well the well where I drew water
The work we done was hard
at night we'd sleep cause we were tired
I never thought I'd ever leave the Butcher Holler."

I swear. When she sings it, "tired" does rhyme with "hard".

SWBarns said...

I hate to do this to everyone but:

Someone left the cake out in the rain

I don't think I could take it, `cause it took so long to bake it

And I'll never have that recipe again, oh no!"

sonicfrog said...

OK. I may not be able to type for long. I was transcribing the lyrics to the A-Bomb song, and my computer crashed, complete with the blue screen of death.

I TOLD YOU the song was not only hideous, but possibly so bad as to be deadly.

SippicanCottage said...

Sippican- as a sort-of-amusing project, I have been collecting all the recordings of "MacArthur Park" I can find. So far, I have 73 including Liza Minelli, the Ray Conniff Singers, Psychotica, Howard Keel, Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Four Tops.

Be careful. If you play them all in the wrong order, the twelfth imam will appear.

No kidding aside, I think I can safely say no one's going to beat Levi Stubbs singing that one. I can't think of anyone offhand who sounds more like they're having a tooth out over every line.

sonicfrog said...

As promised - The A-Bomb!

Would I calm her down by throwing stones at her?

If you have to ask this, then I think you are the one with the disconnect. These are the lyrics from the sixties band "The Move" and the song is "The Lemon Tree".

There's a girl next door to me who's round the bend
But she wonders why she can't make any friends
From her garden she could see me
In her silver plaid bikini
Singing, dancing round her fruit

Here we go round the lemon tree
Mister can you hear me
Here we go round the lemon tree
Mister don't come near me

Would I calm her down by throwing stones at her
If only I could make the right approach to her
Think I'd rather tame the tiger
Turn those lemons into cider
Still I'd like to get beside her


(silly bridge with violins)

Morning came and into action went my plans
Went to meet her dressed in bright green underpants
I crept in and sang discretely
Seemed to change her mind completely
Danced together singing sweetly

Here we go round...
blah, blah, blah

Capitulate and Surrender Sippy!

How I came across this gem of a song is posted on my blog.

WTRA said...
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WTRA said...

Proposition: Nominees for the worst-ever song lyrics should get extra points in proportion to the popularity of the song, and if it tends to have another dreaded aspect (to be revealed below.)
Nominee for the worst
song lyrics:
Clair, the moment I met you, I swear
I felt as if something, somewhere
Had happened to me, which I couldn't see
And then, the moment I met you, again
I knew in my heart that we were friends
It had to be so, it couldn't be no

But try as hard as I might do, I don't know why
You get to me in a way I can't describe
Words mean so little when you look up and smile
I don't care what people say
To me you're more than a child

Oh, Clair

Clair, if ever a moment so rare
Was captured for all to compare
That moment is you in all that you do
But why in spite of our age difference do I cry
Each time I leave you I feel I could die
Nothing means more to me than hearing you say
"I'm going to marry you
Will you marry me, oh hurray"

Oh, Clair

Clair, I've told you before "Don't you dare"
"Get back into bed"
"Can't you see that it's late"
"No you can't have a drink"
"Oh, alright then, but wait just a minute"

While I, in an effort to babysit, catch up on my breath
What there is left of it
You can be murder at this hour of the day
But in the morning the sun will see my lifetime away
Oh Clair
Oh Clair
Can't prove it, but I would guess
this is a revised version, substituting "Oh hurray" for "Uncle
Ray," possibly because of the implications of extremely illegal behavior - which I do not suppose actually occurred. ("Wait just a minute" also appears to be a revision from "just a bit," which rhymes with "baby-sit," but who knows why that would be revised.) Interestingly (to me, anyway... not that I am by any means some kind of nitpicking dweeb) I been familiar with this song for decades, only now realizing that the "Uncle Ray" part
could actually be somewhat redeeming, as the songwriter's real name is
Ray! Anyway, I probably should be ashamed of myself for picking on this innocent song... but I am stuck with my evaluation that the lyrics are among the worst ever.
Worse still, every time I think of this song, like now, I get it stuck playing in my head for hours!
Apologies to any reader of this who remembers the song and is likewise afflicted. I must get back to "The Boys Are Back in Town," if possible. WTRA