We all love bands that have lyrics that make us cringe. We tend to forgive them because, hell, we love their music, and that can make us overlook some terrible things. Terrible, unspeakable things.
I won’t tell you what he did, but it rhymes with “Shmrangled Shmookers Shmuried in his Shmackyard”
But sometimes, heroes among us have to call out otherwise good songs by good bands for the complete shittiness of their lyrics. If more of us had stepped forward to stop this kind of lazy songwriting, we might have been able to avoid the horrors that were “My Humps” entirely.
Meet Rodney, the lyricist of the Black Eyed Peas
Must I be that hero? That hero to say “Hey! This song is good, stop being lazy with the lyrics!?”
I don’t know, maybe?
6. The Wombats- Kill The Director
The Wombats, when not busy being photographed mid-jumping jack, are a fun, energetic, upbeat addition to the wave of Brit-Rock of the early-mid to late aughties. Why by no means the best addition to this canon, at the very worst, the Wombats are “harmlessly high octane fun.” At their best, they made the 10th best album of 2007.
One of their best, and first released, jingle-jangles was “Kill the Director,” which features numerous clever, tongue-and-cheek one-liners like, “If this is a rom-com, kill the director”. How could this song get any better!?
Answer: If this was their lead singer
Carrots help you see much better in the dark
Don’t talk to girls, they’ll break your heart
Okay, what the shit guys? Really? REALLY? How the hell did they come to think this was a good lyric? I can see the process that went into writing this, they were probably all like (in a British accent) , “Yeah, let’s put in this line about talking to girls breaking your heart! Gov’nuh! Bollocks lorry lift herb-where-I-pronounce-the-letter-H! What rhymes with heart? Dark? No? Well, close enough…what about the dark though… Bally-ho! I just realized, you know what helps you see better? In the dark!?”
And people wonder why England isn’t even a real country anymore.
5. Immaculate Machine- No Caution
Immaculate Machine is a three piece power-pop group from Canada (that’s some state or something just north of New York, I think), whose second album was the 3rd best album of 2005, whose third album had the best song of 2007, and who released a fourth album this year that has music on it. The band features Kathryn Calder, a formerly-estranged niece of the New Pornographer’s A.C. Newman, and a current member of the band. She also happens to be a person who I have a long documented it’s-cute-and-funny-unless-he’s-serious-in-which-case-hand-me-my-mace crush on.
You eat ice cream? No WAY, that’s SO weird! I eat ice cream too! We have so much in common!
Immaculate Machine’s debut actually-pretty-damn-good EP, The View, kicks off with “No Caution”, another song that would be amazing if it weren’t damaged by a single ridiculous lyric. It’s basically how the movie A.I. would have been really good if it weren’t for the shitty final 30 minutes or so.
Jeff, WE don’t even get that movie reference. And we were in the fucking movie.
I want you to know that I’m not holding back
It might seem like I am
But you should know that I’m not
I’m letting you know
I’m not holding back
If this is song is about a woman the singer has feelings for (and given the fact that it’s a song, and a man is singing, that’s probably a safe bet), I’ve got to ask the boys at Immaculate Machine something about the women they’ve dated, based on this lyric.
Do you date retarded women, or just people suffering from severe memory loss?
While the whole song basically follows the theme of “seriously, I’m not holding back. I’m not. Seriously.” this segment is the part where the repetition just gets to be a bit too much. What sort of conversation was this, anyway?
“I want you to know that I’m not holding back.”
Really? It seems like you are
“It might not seem like I am, but you should know that I’m not”
Okay. What are you letting me know?
“I’m letting you know, I’m not holding back.”
Wait, are you holding back?
“…Wanna have sex?”
Well, as long as you’re not holding back. Wait, are you holding back? I’m confused, start the song over
I hope she was hot enough to be worth it, fellas.
4. The Dresden Dolls- The Perfect Fit
The Dresden Dolls were probably one of the best bands to come from the school of “let’s add cabaret music with something rock and roll to be unique”. They also manage to get a surprisingly “punk” (well, they DO claim to be “punk cabaret”, so you know) sound out of just a keyboard and a drumset. Also, lead singer Amanda Palmer once got naked and made out with Connor Oberst on stage at the Glastonbury festival, which would be totally hot if it were with anyone else but Connor Oberst.
“Whine Whine Whine Whine Whine D-Chord Whine Whine Whine Emo Gaze”
The Dresden Dolls also cover a variety of, oh, let’s say unusual topics with generally great, in-your-face lyrics. And when I say unusual topics, I’m talking about child molestation (where the kid likes it), sex change operations, and morning masturbation. In the perfect fit, Palmer waxes poetic in short little couplets of things she can and can’t do, usually quite effectively, all in a pretty-standard-for-the-Dresden-Dolls deliciously warped view of sexual relationships.
…And she wants us to, um…lick her legs. Yeah.
I can paint my face
And stand very still
It’s not very practical
But it still pays the bills
Okay, now I agree on one point of this lyric. It is very impractical to paint your face and stand still. However, I will disagree on your statement that you can successfully pay the bills.
I’m not sure what the shit Palmer was going for here. While the rest of the song has legitimate “oooo that’s cool” lyrical moments, this seems like a throw away that has nothing to do with the rest of the song. Is she saying that she’s one of those street performers who paint themselves to look like robots and don’t move all day? If so, I call bullshit. Not to be sexist, but have you EVER seen a woman street performer robot? No! Try google image searching that shit, the closest you get is a woman posing with one of those goddamn robots.
Fuck! And more importantly, why am I even trying to read that deeply into this lyric? That’s the worst part about it, it makes so little sense that you spend all your time TRYING to make it make sense, when really, it’s just retarded. Plus, it led me to find this picture, which substantially complicated my feelings regarding boobs.
Dear Reader, try to get this disturbingly sexual image out of your head. Love, Jeff. PS- I’m an asshole
3. Deerhoof- Panda Panda Panda
Okay, so this one isn’t really fair. Deerhoof isn’t really a band that you’re supposed to get into because of their lyrics, the lead vocals are almost more of an instrument than anything else. I think I’m only putting this on here because a lot of people are in mad crazy love with the band, and I put them in the category of “they’re good, but I listen to other stuff”. Plus, whenever I make fun of the band’s musical style, I usually use this song. You can consider this as a metaphor- it’s the filler entry in an entire article centered around filler lyrics.
Oh, I disagree, Sum 41
I Like Panda
Bye Bye Panda
Panda Panda Panda Panda Panda Panda Panda (ok we get it, they say panda a lot, knock it off- ed.)
I have to draw a line somewhere, in terms of nonsense lyrics over strong instrumentals. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree, but when it gets to the point where you are only hearing the lead singer say “panda panda panda” over and over and fucking over again, I say just make the damn song an instrumental. Fuck it, it’s not a popular belief in the Indie circles, I’m sure, but cut it out. No panda, no!
Hey, Deerhoof, I wrote a song. It goes “me me me me me me me me me”
2. Badly Drawn Boy- You Were Right
Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough) used to be awesome. Then they weren’t. In between, they released the soundtrack for the film adaptation of “About a Boy”, and another “Hey, I guess this is pretty ok” album before succumbing to “I don’t even care if he’s releasing new shit” status.
“You were right” was on the meh album, but his work before that illustrated a songwriting maturity that was both subtle and profound. I can’t stress this enough- Hour of the Bewilderbeast, as an album, was so good, I can’t even write a joke making fun of it. So I won’t. Do you want to see another picture of a robot with naked woman, instead?
“No, Jeff, I really don’t want to see another OH GODDAMN YOU! HOW DO YOU FUCKING FIND THESE PICTURES!?”
I was married to the Queen
And Madonna lived next door
I think she took a shine to me
And the kids were all grown up
But I had to turn her down
Cause I was still in love with you
See, this is why it’s a terrible idea to put real, pop culture people in your song. Eventually, it becomes completely unrelatable. In 100 years, when the Chinese dust through the ruins of American society, they’ll find this CD, and once they convert it to holographic MP9s, and translate it, they’ll probably think to themselves “Why does this guy want to bone Jesus’ mother?”
“I don’t know what a Lindsey Lohan is, but it sounds like it would taste terrible”
And it’s even worse today, when the pop culture reference is still recognized, but has taken a terrible, terrible turn for the worse. Saying “I’m turning down Madonna. For you!” only really worked before Madonna hatched from her cocoon of hotness and emerged as a terrifying alien wasp thing from Starship Troopers.
“SHIT! RUN! IT’S MADONNA!”
“SHIT! THERE’S ANOTHER ONE! WE’RE SURROUNDED!”
1. Wilco- I’m a Wheel
Oh, Wilco, where am I to begin. The alt-rock jams of Summerteeth, the sheer brilliance of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, pre-Sky Blue Sky Wilco had it all. And one of the strengths of Wilco was the lyrics. Jeff Tweedy got a poetry book published, and there’s an entire fan based website devoted entirely to the band’s lyrics. Even now, after it seems their best music is behind them, you can’t find too much fault in the lyrics of the song. That is, except for one particular entry in their otherwise-really-good album A Ghost is Born, which awkwardly stands out, sort of like Jonah Hill in every role he plays that’s not in the movie Superbad.
“Hey, fuck you, you know you liked me in Superbad. You need to go easy on the movie references, anyway.”
Once in German someone said nein
I don’t even know where to begin. These lyrics are so absurd, I’m speechless. Though, I suppose, there is some truth to it. I’m sure once, in the history of all of Germany, someone said “no” in German. So in that sense, I guess this song is like an alt-rock sesame street. It combines the best features of the Count with, I don’t know, whatever Sesame street character spent his free time teaching history to inner city youths. I’m guessing Oscar the Grouch.
“And class, I don’t mean to get real on you, but once, in German, someone said ‘ja’. I know, right?”
Ugh. All these bad lyrics…ouch…my…head is starting to hurt. I’m…I’m done. Screw it, here’s a picture of two robots fucking.
“WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS!? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS!? YOU’RE A MONSTER!”