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.

There’s only One Direction and that’s towards obscurity

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st May 2012.

Am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue about One Direction? It seems that they simply appeared from nowhere. For about a week they dominated the media, including high brow broadsheet newspapers and every breakfast TV show on the air.

As a good columnist, I’ve done my research. One Direction is the latest boyband from somewhere overseas and every member is named Liam (pronounced “Lame”). They are also definitive proof that human cloning is underway.

I’ve had a listen to their debut album and as far as pop songs go, it’s completely inoffensive. The tunes are well written and catchy enough, although that’s more of a credit to the songwriters and auto-tune than the performers. The voices are nothing special but they blend together nicely.

The album cover and title puzzle me though. The picture on the sleeve shows the Liams all fresh faced and smiling, but the name of the record is Up All Night. I wish I looked like them when I’ve been up all night. I think a more appropriate album title for the cover art would be It’s Almost Recess.

On a recent trip to Sydney, I was shocked to come across the One Direction Official Merchandise Store in Pitt Street. Teenage girls were lining out the door to purchase t-shirts, shopping bags and badges adorned with the mugs of the Liams. You could even buy the complete doll set of the group for $200. I’m sure the store is a nice little earner for someone, probably One Direction’s manager. As far as I’m concerned, it would have been much more efficient to simply erect a big sign in front of the shop saying, “Attention teenyboppers, please drop your parents’ hard earned cash here.”

Apparently tickets for One Direction’s upcoming Australian arena tour have been selling like there’s no tomorrow. Most of the concerts are sold out and tickets have been appearing on ebay with huge mark-ups. If you are lucky enough to have acquired tickets, my advice is to sell, sell, sell. You see, the concert tour is scheduled for September 2013. That’s right, sixteen months from now.

Having survived the musical fads that were New Kids on the Block, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Girlfriend, Bros, Milli Vanilli, Spice Girls, B*Witched and Daryl Somers, I’m pretty sure that the average peak popularity of these groups is less than a year. I did manage to avoid Bieber fever because I got vaccinated.

Whoever is pulling the strings on One Direction’s marketing is a genius. Make a fortune selling tickets now for concerts so far ahead in the future that it’s most likely that fans would have moved on to the next big thing by then. Trust me girls, list your precious tickets on ebay now because you’ll probably be giving them away next year. Use your profits to buy shares in a boyband marketing company.

It won’t be so bad for the Liams when One Direction inevitably fade into obscurity. They’ll still be young enough to go back and finish school. Primary school, that is.

Bah humbug! Your Christmas Album sucks.

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th December 2009.

It must be Christmas. In the record shops, a plethora of greatest hits albums now adorn the shelves. Within this week’s top 50 albums, eight are greatest hits compilations. And there are plenty more now available, just in time for Christmas, many of them from artists who are no longer commercially or creatively active, such as Enya, Seal and Fleetwood Mac.

However, it is not just the ever expanding array of Greatest Hits albums that indicate the imminent arrival of Santa. There is a much more insidious threat to your wallet in the record stores each December. Beware of the Christmas album.

Usually recorded to fulfil a contractual obligation, or cash in on fleeting fame, by definition, the Christmas album is only useful for one month a year or so.

With money too tight to mention, here are some Christmas atrocities to avoid.

In 1989, Neighbours was the biggest show on television, both here and in the UK. With Kylie Minogue riding high in the charts with The Loco-Motion the year before, the cast of Neighbours at the time warbling their way through a few carols was going to be a sure-fire hit, right? Wrong. Christmas With Your Neighbours features Anne Charleston (Madge), Ian Smith (Harold), Alan Dale (Jim) and others massacring all your Christmas favourites. It will make you wish for a Silent Night.

Tiny Tim is best known for his ukulele playing and high falsetto which he used to great effect in his 1968 hit Tiptoe Through the Tulips. In 1993, he recorded Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album in Sydney. Backed up by a terrible heavy rock band, Tim rushes through an hour of Christmas standards in 30 minutes with his trademark looney tunes approach. Now a collector’s item, this cd is particularly hard to find on the second hand market, probably because no-one bought it at the time.

Cashing in by following your first (and perhaps only) hit album with a collection of Christmas songs must be one of the golden rules for boy bands  as this is exactly what ‘N Sync, New Kids on the Block and Hanson did. Merry, Merry Christmas by New Kids features the rather tedious original song This One’s for the Children which was obviously referring to their fans. Hanson’s Snowed In bubbles with youthful effervescence. Unfortunately, with this high energy comes very high pitched vocals which mean the album could easily be mistaken for a Christmas record by Alvin and the Chipmunks. And for the record, there have been 8 Chipmunks Christmas albums.

Happy Holidays by Billy Idol was released in 2006. With a stripped back sound, Idol croons his way through such fare as Frosty the Snowman, Silver Bells and, of course, Jingle Bell Rock. Sporting a cheesy grin and a suit and tie on the cover, Billy sets out to confuse his fans, who I’m sure would prefer he wear leather, growl the songs and then punch Santa in the nose.

Other notable Christmas albums to avoid include such dubious fare as A Romantic Christmas by John Tesh (of Entertainment Tonight fame), Christmas by Jim Nabors (of Gomer Pyle fame), These Are Special Times by Celine Dion, This Is The Time by Michael Bolton (of big mullet fame) and Mr Hankey’s Christmas Classics which features carols sung by an animated poo from TV’s South Park.

If you must buy a Christmas CD, may I suggest you purchase the annual Myer Spirit of Christmas album which raises funds for The Salvation Army or Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You which features his famous Wall of Sound and is considered the greatest Yuletide album ever.

Published in: on December 15, 2009 at 08:01  Comments (2)  
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