Nonsensical Pop Songs

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th June 2012.

I love a good pop song. Always have. Probably always will. As a kid, I’d hang out at the newsagency near my bus stop every weekday morning. Each fortnight, the latest issue of Smash Hits would hit the newsstands and I’d usually have it read by the time I got to school.

My favourite part of the magazine was the song words pages. At the time, there was no quick and easy method, such as the internet, to look up the lyrics to the latest pop songs. If you were lucky, a cassette sleeve might have the lyrics, but most of the time it came down to Smash Hits magazine or just listening to the song repeatedly until I worked out the words. Or at least thought I had worked out the words.

I still come across songs that I’ve been enjoying for decades and realise that I’ve been singing the wrong lyrics. How on earth did I think that Starship built this city on logs and coal? And it turns out that their pony doesn’t play the mamba…

Occasionally, I come across a pop gem that on scrutiny of the lyrics, appears to make absolutely no sense. The song probably has some meaning to the writer but every now and then, I’m certain that it’s all a conspiracy to make millions of people around the world sing ridiculous lyrics. Here are my top five prime offenders.

5. MMMBop – Hanson Cute as three cloned buttons, the Hanson brothers peaked at number one in 1997 with this ditty about well, nothing. The chorus is phonetic soup. On closer lyrical inspection, I think that an mmmbop is a unit of time. So in that case, it is safe to say that Hansonmania lasted about an mmmbop.

4. I Am the Walrus – The Beatles I know it’s hard to believe but there are actually bad Beatles songs. For every Hey Jude, there’s an Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Walrus sits somewhere in the middle. It’s almost as if the lyrics are simply a method of delivering a melody to your ears in the same way that corn chips are simply a method of delivering salsa. Is it homage to Lewis Carroll or a salad recipe? You decide.

3. Blue (Da Ba Dee) – Eiffel 65 Apparently Italian dance group Eiffel 65 wrote the tune first with the lyrics coming later. No kidding. This 1999 hit is about a man who lives in a blue world. A lot of his stuff is blue too. How interesting. As you can see by the title, those looking for further explanation need go no further than the clarification of the title in brackets. The Teletubbies really need to stop writing songs.

2. We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel Yes, I know. It’s a list of historical events. The problem is that the chorus doesn’t really give the verses any perspective. You don’t believe me? Try replacing the lyrics from the verses with your shopping list. It’s pretty much as meaningful as the original.

1. Africa – Toto Surely this ditty must have some deep spiritual meaning? It mentions rain in Africa, doesn’t it? Sing along with me. “It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you. There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do. I bless the rains down in Africa. Gonna take some time to do the things we never have.” Nope, I have no idea either.

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