By Nury Vittachi
So many readers wrote in with examples of shockingly awful song lyrics that I could fill this whole newspaper with them. Don’t worry—I won’t. But I would be interested to see more examples of Canto-pop or other East Asian lyrics. In the meantime, here are 10 astonishingly bad lyrics from international stars.
The title of Phoniest Intellectual should go to Sting, the guy who writes the songs in The Police. In Don’t Stand So Close to Me, he sings: “He starts to shake/ he starts to cough/ just like the old man in that famous book by Nabakov.”
I have some sympathy for these guys. If you have only one brain cell, or you are a typical pop star (oops, tautology), it’s hard to think of words which both rhyme AND make sense. So you write rhyming nonsense or tortuous semi-rhymes.
The first option can be clearly seen in the huge hit Love You Tender by Armi and Danny: “I love you, I wanna love you tender, I just want to be your loving fender.”
The second is evident in Take the Money and Run by Steve Miller: “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 living off of the people's taxes.”
A third trick is to get a rhyme by ignoring grammar, as in Martian Martian by Jonathan Richman: “Here come the Martian Martians, they're baking up a Martian pie, I hope the Martians like me and give some to I.”
Often songwriters are so happy to find rhymes that the meaning whizzes over their heads. In Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under, Shania Twain sings: “I heard you've been sneakin' around with Jill, and what about that weekend with Beverly Hill?” Er, Shania, I hate to tell you this, but Beverly Hill isn’t a girl. It’s a mountain. If your husband has spent his weekend showing affection to a local hillock, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
Here are four examples of songs in which the writer starts off well, but loses his thread.
Paul McCartney’s Listen to What the Man Said goes: “Listen to what the man said, he said: do do do do do do do do.”
Sting came out with a song called De Doo Doo Doo De Da Da Da, the chorus of which goes: “De doo doo doo de da da da is all I want to say to you.” Profound stuff.
The rap group So Solid Crew closed one of their songs with these words: “I got 21 seconds till my vocal’s done; two multiplied by 10 plus one.”
Spandau Ballet released a song called True, which went: “I bought a ticket to the world, but now I’ve come back again; why do I find it hard to write the next line?” Well, maybe it’s because you are a typical air-headed pop star, sir?
Perhaps the last word should go to Paul McCartney who admitted lyrics didn’t really matter. His favourite songwriter was Little Richard, whose biggest hit goes: “A wop bop a loo mop a lop bum bum; tutti fruiti, oh rootie, tutti fruiti, oh rootie, ooooh, tutti fruiti, oh rootie, tutti fruiti oh rootie, a wop bop a loo mop a lop bum bum.”Now that’s poetry.