The ghastliest song lyrics ever will have you reaching for a ladder
By Nury Vittachi
Schools all over Asia have started teaching English poetry using pop song lyrics. This plan is excellent in every way, except for one small drawback: the average pop lyricist has as much poetry in his soul as a bag of ready-mixed concrete with accountancy qualifications.
Here’s proof. Your humble narrator was hanging out in a radio station with a deejay friend recently playing Rebel Rebel by David Bowie. We noticed the lyrics were just random phrases: “You got your mother in a whirl, she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl, hey babe, your hair’s all right.”
So we faded that out and put on Champagne Supernova by Oasis, one of the top bands of recent years. It went: “Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball.” Hey, Liam, can I give you a bit of info? Fast things are fast, whereas slow things are slow.
We went to the cabinet for music from the 1960s, a time when they knew how to write lyrics. One of the biggest hits was Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park: “Someone left the cake out in the rain/ I don’t think I can take it/ It took so long to bake it/ And I’ll never have that recipe again/ oh no, oh no, no, no, oh nooo.”
We switched to Asian rock groups. From India, we found a song from a group called Top Hero with a chorus which goes, “Smoking is injurious to health, smoking is fashion today.”
East Asians we found to be oddly sentimental. Cantopop star Leslie Cheung sang: “You have left/ Now everything is falling apart/ From that day on/ I fall in love with my left hand.” A hit by Japanese band Strawberry Path goes: “Every little thing you used to do makes my heart to cry.”
Native English speakers were no better. Still You Turn Me On by Emerson Lake and Palmer has these lines: “Every day a little sadder/ A little madder/ Someone fetch me a ladder.” To which we can only, reply, yes, someone give him a ladder and somewhere high to jump from.
The winner of a bad lyrics contest held by the BBC was Des’ree, with a song called Life: “I don’t want to see a ghost/ It’s the sight I fear the most/ I’d rather have a piece of toast.”
Logic problems are common in lyrics. Consider Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy. “Tonight there’s going to be a jail break somewhere in this town,” sings Phil Lynott. Okay, Phil, let’s talk about this. Where in the town do you think the jailbreak might take place? How about—just to pick a location at random—the jail?
Sometimes rock singers get ambitious and try to write lines that rhyme. So in Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, we have the couplet: “Generals gathered in their masses/ Just like witches at black masses.” Hey, guys, “masses” doesn’t rhyme with “masses”. Look closely. Yes. They are the same word! Incredible.
But I think Asia can be proud of being the birthplace of the worst pop song in history. I refer, of course, to Haseena Maan Jayegi’s What is Mobile Number? Which goes like this: “What is mobile number? What is your smile number?”
To which we reply, what is point of this song? Why it make us feel like jumping off ladder?