Hello, good people of the blogosphere! Today I am absurdly tired from staying up too late writing my blog post last night, and I have spent most of the day in a hilarious haze (in case you haven’t figured it out, most of my posts are written at least a day in advance, so I’m talking to you from Thursday). In light of my inability to form coherent sentences, I’m going to forego the intelligent (?) literary analysis today in favor of talking about fantastic songs that use juxtaposition of content and musical style for comedic effect. It will be kind of like that time I listed songs that told stories, only with way less of a point. MUSIC, BITCHES!
1. We Will All Go Together When We Go ~ Tom Lehrer
Of course, we have to start with the man pictured above–the all-time king of cheerfully dark comedy music, Tom Lehrer. This dude has dozens of songs that fit into this category, including So Long, Mom (a song about World War 3), Pollution (about how we’re destroying the environment and killing ourselves) and Poisoning Pigeons in the Park (exactly what it sounds like). But the one that really takes the cake, for me, is this cheerful ode to the apocalypse:
And we will all go together when we go.
What a comforting fact that is to know.
An inspiring achievement,
Yes, we all will go together when we go.
Have you ever seen anyone happier about a nuclear holocaust? Almost makes you wish the world would end tomorrow (but not really.)
2. I’m A Gangster ~ Josh Tobin
Some of you may recognize the name of this particular satire artist from his other (much more annoying) viral hit Fanny Pack, but in my humble opinion this is really his master work. I’m a Gangster is the sort of song that you catch yourself singing under your breath in public, only to realize what you’ve just said when it’s too late. The entire thing is in incredibly bad taste, and while this is clearly parody, it is easily the cheeriest example of the sort of misogyny and casual racism found in some varieties of rap music you’re ever likely to come across.
I’m a gangster. Grrr, I’m mad.
I’m a gangster. My rhymes are bad.
I’m a gangster. I’m iced out like a freezer.
I’m a gangster. I don’t listen to Weezer.
How can you not laugh at lines like that, delivered straight? Josh Tobin: a straight up G. The sad part is that there are legitimate rappers who don’t rise much above this level of rhyme. (It is also worth mentioning that when I googled the title of this song in search of accurate lyrics, the top three hits all attributed it to Josh Groban, which would be equally amazing.)
Related (but only vaguely):
–Jonathan Coulton’s cover of Baby Got Back (NOT the Glee rip-off version)
3. I ~ Pizzicato 5
This song is in Japanese. Yes. I know. I’m sorry if you can’t understand it (if you can, oyahou! okengi desu ka?). But that’s actually good for you, because it means you can fully appreciate the adorable cheer of the musical stylings of this song before looking at the lyrical translation. Sadly, I can’t find a version of it on youtube, but you can listen to it here.
Adorable, isn’t it? So cheery and light, like the sort of thing you’d listen to on a warm summer day during a stroll through the park, ice cream in hand, feeling like a cheerful cog in the wheel of life. But it’s on this list, so you already know what’s coming. Here are the lyrics in English:
That’s right! I am / Irresponsible, / Capricious, / Cheeky,
Selfish, / Extravagant, / Affected,
A liar, / Uncertain, / And irresponsible.
But I get away with it
Because I am cute.
Yup. It’s a song bragging about being an awful person. On a side note, this song was first recommended to me by my friend Emily, who does not speak a lick of Japanese. At the time I was still learning it in high school, and while no where near competent (though much better than I am now), I knew enough to recognize the word “wagamama” — selfish. This is what inspired us to look up the translation, and boy am I glad we did.
Other foreign songs that are not about what you think they are about (which are all featured in this video):
–The Macarena ~ Los del Rio, which is about cheating on your boyfriend
–Dragonstea Din Tea ~ O Zone (also known as “the numa numa song”), which is about stalking
–Promise ~ Hirose Kohmi, which is about a dead boyfriend
Also, Nena again.
4. No Children ~ the Mountain Goats
For those with a contentious relationship with life, or people serially bad at relationships, or just the lyrically inclined, the Mountain Goats are basically a dream come true. Though his voice is not palatable for everybody, nobody writes lyrics like John Darnielle. This is one of his more popular songs, along side This Year (which is my personal favorite and definitely one you should check out), and you might listen to it a few dozen times without really paying attention to the meaning–but that would be a mistake.
I hope I lie,
And tell everyone you were a good wife.
And I hope you die.
I hope we both die.
Yeah, nothing says “romance” like “I hope you die.” This is a song with its middle finger firmly in the air, and it makes no apologies for it. Rock on, John Darnielle.
Other deceivingly pleasant-sounding stick-it-to-the-ex songs:
–Smile ~ Lily Allen (see also Fuck You and Not Fair)
–Nothing Better ~ the Postal Service
–Somebody More Like You ~ Nickel Creek
–You Don’t Know Me ~ Ben Folds
See also Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye, though that is less stick-it-to-the-ex and more oh-god-why-did-you-leave-me.
5. Oh No You Didn’t (Mercenaries 2 Anthem) ~ Wojahn Brothers
And, finally, we’ve arrived at the song that inspired this post. Before you ask, yes, this is the theme song for a video game. No, I haven’t played that video game, because I am terrible at video games (really, truly, miraculously godawful at them). But you don’t have to know anything about the game to appreciate the comic genius of this song. Really, I’m depriving you of its glory with every word I write, so let’s just:
Fool tried to diss me. Now you’re gonna wish you were dead!
Oh no you didn’t!
After I deliver, your blood will be a river of red!
Oh no you didn’t!
Yup. This is basically the Happy Tree Friends of songs: child friendly until the carnage starts. And every second is delightful.
Other cheerful songs about death and destruction:
–Richard Cheese’s cover of Get Down With the Sickness (he also covers a number of other unlikely songs, including Chop Suey and Gangnam Style)
–When You’re Evil by Voltaire (he has a number of other deceptive songs along these lines–also see Hell in a Handbasket and Bomb New Jersey)
–Still Alive from Portal, also by Jonathan Coulton (you were waiting for this, weren’t you?)
So there you have it. What did I miss? I know y’all have some suggestions, so I want to hear them.
“We do what we must because we can, for the good of all of us. Except the ones who are dead.” –Still Alive
P.S. It has been pointed out to me that I should at least mention Tim Minchin. While I love his work and it is all brilliant, most of his songs don’t achieve the same sort of juxtaposition I’m talking about here, with one exception: