Monday, January 08, 2007

Start Making Sense

Here's what I am thinking about today. Lyrics that don't make sense. I think I like lyrics to make some sense, in a pretty linear, clear, perhaps simple-minded fashion. Why? I don't necessarily have this requirement for any other type of art. I can watch a Pinter play and enjoy it thoroughly. I can see a Merce Cunningham dance piece and take it all in. And modern art-- you know the kind that people always say "my five-year-old could do that" or "I don't get that, WHY exactly is there a black dot in the middle of the canvas?"-- that's actually some of my absolute favorite art ever. But with music, if I start to sing along, and I realize I don't know what the hell I am saying, it starts to bug me. So I present to you, a discussion of some of Librarian Girl's "Whatchoo Singin' "bout Willis?" greatest hits collection, volume one. If any of you out there can enlighten me on these, please do. I beg of you.

"Listen to the Music" by the Doobie Brothers. (Hey, I didn't say these were good songs, just confusing ones). I get the overall jist of this song. The title says it all. Have a good time, feel fine, dance your blues away, etc. Got it. But one verse always gets me. It goes like this "Well I know, you know better, everything I say, meet me in the country for a day." Ok, the meeting in the country part I get. But the first part? Well I know, you know better"? I know you know better about what? And how does "everything I say" get inserted into the middle of it? Is it like, I know that you know better than to listen to everything I say? Or I know that you know better than everything I say? Whaaaat? I know this is a dope-toking free love song, but really. What the hell?

And then there's Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Something." Again, the bulk of the song I get. It's about starting trouble. Simple. But then what's the whole deal with "it's too high to get over, too low to get under, you're stuck in the middle, and the pain is thunder"? What is this weird blockade of which he speaks? Is the person who talks shit about someone else causing the other person to be "trapped" in the web of lies? Is that the symbolism? An aside: this lyric used to be even more disturbing as my friend Heidi and I, when we were in the 6th grade, thought that the "pain is thunder" line was actually "the penis finger." We used to try and understand what the eff the penis finger was and why it was in this song. So I guess I can be thankful that we were wrong about that. And then don't even get me started about the whole "you're a vegetable" repetition at the end of the song. I know, I know, the lyrics of this particular song are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions about Michael, but still.

Even The Jeffersons. Pretty straightforward theme song. Short, sweet, to the point. They're movin' on up. They've finally got a piece of the pie. Uplifting, clearly. But why is that lady singing about "fish don't burn in the kitchen, beans don't burn on the grill"? I mean, why is that in there? The song is all about them movin' on up. Why is she talking about cooking? Wouldn't that be a line better sung for a theme song for, I don't know, Top Chef or something?

Ok, and what about this one: you know that song "Hell is For Children?" Good old Pat Benatar, you gotta love her. But what is with the "Hell is for hell" line over and over before she finally says "hell is for children"? Hell is for hell? What kind of jacked up double talk is that? How can hell be for hell? Hell IS hell. It's not FOR hell. I mean, really. What if we all started making statements like that? Knickers are for knickers! Twinkies are for twinkies! See what I'm saying here? It's just not right.

All of this confusion is enough to make you want to give someone the penis finger. Honestly.

Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Librarian Girl

14 comments:

velocibadgergirl said...

I have no enlightening knowledge to offer, but I love you forever for saying "penis finger."

Anonymous said...

Long ago I invented the Ippadallion Award for mistaken lyrics. ("Ippadallion" was my interpretation of a Sade song in which she sings "If I tell you" several times.) Perhaps there should be a similar award for cases in which the songwriter instead of the listener was mistaken?

Anonymous said...

Ah, Thriller! Pre-creepy Michael Jackson! How I love thee! If we're going to talk about lyrics that make no sense, I have to mention "mama see mama sa nowah coo sah" or whatever the hell happens at the end of 'wanna be startin' somethin'. Such a great, dancey little song. Until the last 65 seconds or so. It all goes downhill with the vegetable lyric.

Melinda said...

Ok, here's the one that always gets me. REO Speedwagon: "I don't want to sleep/ I just want to keep on loving you." I'm always like: dude, you can totally do both. I'm just going to sleep, not to my death. Love me while I snooze!

Anonymous said...

How about Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf? How exactly does one "Smell like I sound"? I never quite got that one.

WineGrrl said...

How about "Tears of a Clown?" It took me years to understand that Smokey was singing "Just like Pagliacci did, I try to keep my sadness hid."

Re Pre-Creepy MJJ: That's when he should have stopped the plastic surgery, too.

french panic said...

Not neccessarily in the messed-up lyrics category, but messed-up meaning altogether: Cotton Eye Joe. Legions of drunk college kids having a hoe-down to a song about abortion.... supposedly. Apparently "cotton-eye joe" refers to the needle used for old-timey abortions.

Yeeee haaaawwww!

(Though I must admit that I have been unable to verify this with a reputable source, despite well-intentioned efforts).

Kaijsa said...

"Hell is For Children" is about child abuse. So sad.

Desperate Housewife said...

Hmm, maybe the lady singing about the beans and chicken not burning is talking about the quality of the appliances. Maybe the dee-luxe apartment in the sky has a big fancy Martha Stewart-type range.

Librarian Girl said...

THANK you, DH! Now that actually makes sense!

You are so smart.

Sphincter said...

I resolve that I am going to use Penis Finger in a sentence tomorrow! I'll try to refrain from saying it to patrons.

Anonymous said...

You know what other song has really nonsensical lyrics? "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann. Just listen, and you'll be as confused as I am.

Katie Kiekhaefer said...

Back when I was in college, I took a poetry class and became convinced that if your poem gets mocked in a poetry class for being nonsensical and cliched, add some music and have a hit song! Huh, I should drop out of school and become a rock star.

Oh and by the way, what I love most about your blog and am most envious of is how you end your entries... they are hilarious and perfect. The penis finger? Hilarious!!!

Anonymous said...

For years I thought I was hearing these lyrics, "Come on Baby, Don't Feel the Reefer... We can be like they were... Don't Feel The Reefer."