Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Pet Peeves in Pop

If you're looking for sense in pop music, I feel bad for you, son. It's got ninety nine problems, and but a coherent, overarching philosophy, with well-defined logical parameters and a thoughtful, concise narrative development over the course of a three verse, repeated chorus refrain ain't one.

Lol! Whut?

I'm sorry, Jay-Z! I know pop lyrics aren't supposed to be meaningful! I know they're just a bit of fun! I mean! Who even listens to the lyrics in the tunes from the modern hit parade these days anyway?

Hello. My name is Leanne, and I think too much about the words in pop songs.

And before you ask, it's not that I'm obsessed with standardised spelling, grammar and punctuation. You see, those things have no place in pop music! But what does really get my goat is the misappropriation of poetic devices in pop lyrics!

My Goat

C'mon guys! We all did GCSE English Lit. We know this stuff! I don't mean to be picky, but here are just a few of pop songs that fall wide of the mark for me:

City of Angels by 30 Seconds to Mars 
This particular song is a decent, paint-by-numbers power ballad. No problems there. My gripe is with Jared Leto's terrible swallowed-syllable, mumbly-Joe delivery in the chorus, during which he tries (and fails) to rhyme the words "angels" and "strangers".

The result is that Mr Leto ends up singing about "the comfort of strang-els". It really is enough to put you off your dinner.

Unconditionally by Katy Perry
Don't tell me you haven't noticed the frankly bizarre way that K.Pez pronounces the word 'unconditional'. If you have a little listen, you can hear for yourself.

A wise poet once told me that you should never pronounce words in weird ways just to make them fit in with your poetic metre. It's frowned upon pretty much everywhere. Plus, the practise of adding stress where it doesn't belong is a sure-fire way to sound drunk in charge of a microphone - and it's likely that you'll be kicked out of the karaoke bar. Again.

In this particular song, the weird elongation of "un-con-di-shuuuuuurrrrrrn-nal" in the chorus makes it sound like the Perry-bot has experienced a temporary loss of power half-way through a long word. Why did they have to do this? The English language is chock-full of marvellous, ear-catching synonyms, for goodness sakes! You should never have to squash a syllable! (Unless, of course, you're making yourself a tasty glass of syllable purée.)

Seriously though, don't squash syllables.

And when pop lyricists aren't pulling apart metre and rhyme like ragdolls of disputed ownership, they're making a mockery of the laws of physics too!

Summer Time Sadness by Lana Del Ray
This is actually a pretty decent tune. It contains a pretty nice simile in which Lana sings that the telephone lines above are "sizzling like a snare". That's pretty evocative, right?

But it was tricky for me to hear that nice bit of figurative work from Ms Del Ray the first time I heard the track. Why? Because I was so incensed by this nonsensical line:

I got my red dress on tonight, dancing in the dark in the pale moonlight.

Damnit, Ray! This is madness! You cannot be dancing both "in the dark" AND "in the pale moonlight"! It can't be both light and dark at the same time! Did you even run this song passed a copy-editor, like, at all?

I thought not.

Sigh. Maybe this isn't the sort of thing you care too much about. That's probably healthy. But I, for one, find it hard to sleep at night, without know whether Lana's mopy encounter with an unnamed and ill-enthused lover takes place in pitch blackness or in some kind of glowy moonlight. I just really need closure on this one...

I hope I'm not the only one who feels like this about pop songs? If you can think of any lyrics that  don't make any blummin' sense, I'd love to hear about them! If we get enough, I'll do a top ten!


  1. Ok, I may be guilty of the forced rhyme, and as my English O levels were so long ago I can't even remember what books I studies I have to say I don't really listen to what's new on the music scene (unless I hear it on BBC radio Cambridgeshire!) but I get what you are saying. I've long since given up trying to understand what the average pop song is trying to say. I'm enjoying your posts though, so thanks for keeping me smiling.

    1. Thanks for your comments Theresa! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. And I think forced rhyme definitely has it's place in poetry, and it works brilliantly when used for comic effect! -x-

  2. "Concrete jungle where dreams are made of" still makes me cringe, and a quick search of the internet shows I'm not alone. Some would have you believe she's singing "where dreams are made up" or "where dreams are made, oh". She isn't.


    1. Oh yes. That's a particularly bad one. I think I'll might have to do another one of these posts...