Thursday, May 7, 2009

Play List: Blarney

I still don't know if I like the song "Poker Face". Theoretically I should -- Lady Gaga seems to be a hybrid of the positive attributes of Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. The first few times I listened to the song it passed the American Bandstand test ("It's got a good beat and you can dance to it"). I heard the chorus once as a ringtone and it sounded like something I would enjoy, though I couldn't fully distinguish what was being said. Something along the lines of "hee-ba-hi, hee-ba-hi hee-ba-ho-bi-ba-na-de-daadaaa (huminana huminana)". It wasn't until one of the students on my staff included it on a mix CD that I was able to put all the pieces together (and rip the track for my own purposes). Yay, now I can have the song on my Shuffle and get the real translation of "hee-ba-hi".

And that's where the problem lies...

With the song playing directly into my ears, I can actually listen to the lyrics and...they're not good. Like, at all. It reminds me of the "poems" that people would write in my high school creative writing class, though to Gaga's credit her metaphors aren't as thoroughly mixed. I realize it is pop music we're talking about here and expectations are low. It's not like this song will be passed to future generations, but the lyrics are so bad that it actually detracts from the listening experience. It's hard to get my dance on when I keep on stopping to say "that's dumb".

There are plenty of instances of this bizarre phenomenon in pop music. Here are some examples:

"A Horse with No Name" ~ America

"There were plants and birds and rocks and things"
"The heat was hot"

"MacArthur Park (Abridged)" ~ Donna Summer


"The War Song" ~ Culture Club

"War, war is stupid / and people are stupid / and love means nothing / in some strange waters." Besides being absolutely insipid, I think this may be a protest in response to the Falkland Islands conflict.

"Video" ~ India.Arie
"Keep your Cristal and your pistol / I'd rather have a pretty piece of crystal"

These songs, with the possible exception of "MacArthur Park", are perfectly serviceable but have the occasional lyric that makes my earholes say "ouch". I have a couple of theories as to the causes of these errors, though it is hard to pinpoint what exactly happened. I can't tell if the songwriter painted him/herself into a corner and didn't want to have to undo an entire section (India.Arie maybe). Or, in America's case, they may have come up with the riff and cadence first and then tried to see what would fit in with whatever story they were trying to tell. A thesaurus might have been handy, but a lack of one didn't stop them. As for Culture Club, this just screams "filler track", though if it was released as a single that might explain why the group dissolved not too much later. Sadly, I think Lady Gaga is expecting people to not pay that much attention, which is fair since it is a great club song -- just keep it off your iPod.

Are there other songs that you have encountered where one word choice or line makes you cringe, affecting your reception of the song?

1 comment:

Jason Yee said...

I know what you mean about Lady Gaga. I like the song but there isn't much variety to the lyrics. It makes great music though.