Monday, January 11, 2010

Odd Thought Break: When Pop Song Lyrics Irritate

I was listening to Frank Sinatra singing "My Way" and when the line of "Regrets, I've had a few" came up, I thought, "Well, I've certainly had more than a few regrets. In fact, I've got several volumes of them."

But old Frank's isn't the only pop song that has a line or two or advice that doesn't mesh with experience or logic or which pushes a hot button. The "Nothing to kill or die for" and "no religion" lines from "Imagine" always drive me up the wall and yet I know many people who regard that song as sort of a personal anthem. [Confession: But for the one line, I like "My Way."]

There are probably loads of tunes we enjoy and yet if we'd listened more closely or gave any weight to the lyrics, the enjoyment might diminish. Gordon Lightfoot even got to the point where he'd apologize to audiences after singing "That's What You Get For Loving Me" and the ramifications of some lines are amusing. For example, isn't Carly Simon's hit "Nobody Does It Better" really saying you're a great lover but there were plenty of comparisons?

Are there any acclaimed songs with lyrics that - logically or not - bug you?


Dan Richwine said...

As far as lyrics goes, I think you are dead on that "Imagine" has terrible, terrible values which I would never teach my children. But I also have to laugh as I remember the 2000 4th of July celebration, where the DC fireworks display was set to that tune.

In my head, as I watched fireworks simulating rocket's red glares for a holiday commemorating the war for an independent nation, I was singing along "Imagine there's no country, it isn't hard to do! Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too."

One of the greatest moments of unintentional irony I have ever witnessed.

Cultural Offering said...

I remember listening to the popular Police song "Every Breath You Take," thinking what a terrible song. It is about a stalker, I thought:

"Every move you make and every vow you break.
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake, I'll be watching you."

Yet the song became a number one hit and was considered a love song. To his credit, the lead singer for the Police later acknowledged that it wasn't meant to be a love song.

Also, Michael, Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" has a part where Robert Plant moans "ah, ah, ah, ah, ahhhhhhhhhh." I think it is overblown. Why not just three ah's? ;)

I consider Imagine to be Utopian pablum.

Great post.

fran melmed said...

sting and you might not see "every breath you take" as a love song, but a friend of mine clearly did. he played it at the close of his partner's memorial service. it was a heartbreaking three+ minutes and speaks directly to the fact that songs can be transformed by the listener and where/when the listening takes place.