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Cringe-Worthy Song Lyrics (And the Woman Who Hates Them)

November 26, 2013

Make it Stop!

I was reading some critics' reviews of Britney Spears' new song and accompanying lyric video, Perfume. I figured it couldn't possibly be as bad as they said it was, so I gave it a listen.

I'll give the disclaimer that highly produced music isn't my favorite. I prefer a song that can be reproduced with integrity by a bar band that doesn't have a computer hooked up to the sound system. So, Queen-of-Autotune Britney already has a strike against her when I'm the reviewer.

That said, this song struck me as just plain awful. In this case, it's not the predictable music, but the lyrics that annoy me the most.

So I, wait for you to call
And I try to act natural
Have you been thinking 'bout her or about me
And while I wait I put on my perfume
Yeah I want it all over you
I gotta mark my territory


Writing them down, I realized that my reasons for not liking the lyrics might not be obvious to everyone--maybe not even to me. So I thought about it and came up with two reasons. 1) Britney has a whole bunch of fragrance lines, so this seems like a big product endorsement scam and 2) It's about a woman being insecure. Come on, Britney, aren't we past that yet?

There are a lot of songs with lyrics that I have a hard time listening to, for various reasons. And these reasons fall into categories.

Song lyrics that have grammatical errors that make them mean the opposite of what is intended.

I am not trying to be the grammar police here; I recognize that popular music means popular venacular. People sing like they speak, and that doesn't bother me. I can holler along with I Can't Get No Satisfaction with the best of them. The grammatical errors that bother me are unintentional. For example:

I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free...

The culprit here is the phrase "at least." When used in a sentence, it indicates that everything prior to the phrase is a problem, and whatever comes after the phrase is good. As in "My boyfriend is an idiot, but at least he takes out the garbage." The way it is written, the song would seem to indicate that being an American is a bad thing, but at least there's freedom. Pretty much the opposite of what this uber-patriotic anthem intends.

There's another one I can't remember, but I'll probably think of it in the middle of the night after it's too late to add to this post. I think it's an Earth, Wind and Fire classic, but I can't remember which one. Oh, hell, it'll probably play on the the oldies station on my way home.

Song lyrics that include nonsense words just to fit the rhythm or to rhyme

Again, it's not a grammar thing, and I don't know why it bothers me. Here's an example from John Mellencamp:

Blah Blah Blah  

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from...

I admit that, with Mellencamp's everyman sensibility, turning it around so that the preposition does not come at the end of the sentence would have not only messed up the cadence, but also sounded too formal:

No, I cannot forget from where I come...

Yeah, that doesn't work. On the other hand, I think he could have just left out three words, done one of those vocal things where a single syllable is sustained across several beats, and made a sentence that doesn't make my teeth hurt:

No, I cannot forget where I come from...

There, now. Isn't that better?

The biggest offenders in the non-sequitur rhyme category are, without a doubt, rappers. Nikki Minaj's lyrics merit their own category (see below) but I had to include one here. I thought I had misheard it, so I looked it up. Nope, it is as nonsensical as I first thought.

Bad Rapper

Hang it up, flatscreen, plasma.
Hey, Nicki, hey Nicki, athsma.

Athsma? Seriously?

How about this one, from LFO:

When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet
Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets.

Besides the horrendous attempt to rhyme "hornet" and "sonnets," there's the implied comparison with William Shakespeare. Ludicrous, and I don't mean Ludacris.

It's really too easy to just keep going with this category, but I can't resist one more, from Mase:

Young, black, and famous, with money hanging out the anus.

Um, thanks, but no thanks.

Song lyrics that are just plain dumb

Britney makes an appearance in this category, too, with this stinker:

Email my heart and say our love will never die.

Can someone please tell Spears that all serious love-related correspondence should take place via text message?

To prove that I am an equal opportunity complainer, I will include something from Paul McCartney, who has actually penned some of the best lyrics ever written. But even Sir Paul has the occasional off day, as illustrated by the following:

Someone's knockin' at the door
Somebody's ringin' the bell
Someone's knockin' at the door
Somebody's ringin' the bell
Do me a favor,
Open the door and let 'em in

To be fair, it's possible that the melody annoys me at least as much of the lyrics. And, yes, there are people out there who insist the song is chock full of deep symbolism, blah, blah, blah. I ain't buying it.

This next one, from Train, falls into the WTF? category:

Someday I'll find a love like yours
She'll think I'm Superman, not super minivan
How could you leave on Yom Kippur?

I think of Train as a relatively "serious" band, and I can't help but picture them all sitting around in the studio, brainstorming lyrics, when these lines are suggested. "Yeah, let's put that in," someone says. "It'll confuse the s**t out of everyone."

One more, since I didn't include a "song lyrics with bad math" category:

Thirty-two grams raw, chop it in half, get sixteen, double it times three.
We got forty-eight, which mean a whole lot of cream
Divide the profit by four, subtract it by eight we back to sixteen...

Not sure which of the various collaborators on this Nas song wrote this lyric, but I hope he has an accountant looking over his royalty statements.

Song lyrics so bad they defy description - AKA the "All Nikki Minaj" Category

That Stinks!

This one...I can't even think of an adequate comment.

You a stupid hoe, you a, you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, (yeah) you a, you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, you a, you a stupid hoe (stupid, stupid)
(Repeat endlessly)

I was about to say "words fail me" then realized that is apparently what happened to Nikki Minaj when she wrote this monstrosity. And, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

Quack quack to a duck and a chicken too
Put the hyena in a freakin' zoo.

Seriously, I could do twenty blog posts just on bad NM lyrics, but I think I had better just. Stop. Now.

Song Lyrics I Find Offensive

Confused Cat

I'm actually going to skip this category, because offensive lyrics are so ubiquitous that they've become invisible. Not long ago, In my post entitled Misogyny or Mars and Venus, I talked about disliking a couple of Robin Thicke releases, including the 2013 "Song of the Summer," Blurred Lines. I didn't think my opinion was so different than that of other reasonably intelligent women. Then, I was out with some friends (make that middle aged, educated, feminist-minded, female friends) and the song came on. My friends all started to sing along with it. When they all shouted "YOU'RE THE HOTTEST BITCH IN THIS PLACE" aloud with apparent glee, I was astonished. "You don't find this song offensive?" I asked one friend. "No, I love it!" she replied. My other friends nodded agreement. I shut my mouth and ordered a martini.

So, I'll just leave this category alone. And maybe go listen to Mick Jagger croon about a Siamese cat of a girl who's under his thumb.

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