Music

Self-Defeating Lyrics

Like most people, I spend the vast majority of my time in public spaces with headphones plugged into my ears, listening to whatever music has caught my fancy most recently. Unlike some members of my family, however, I can’t not listen to lyrics. The lyrics are the first thing I notice in a song, and I can’t properly tune them out until I’ve memorized them. As a result, I’ve memorized a lot of songs, and probably paid a lot closer attention to their meanings than the average person. And some of them are…well…poorly thought-through. Here are just a few.

All For You ~ Sister Hazel

Not going to lie–this is one of my favorite songs, not least of all because it’s in the vanishingly small category of songs that exist within my singing range. It’s a cute song of love and devotion to the titular “you,” and its upbeat tempo is entirely in keeping with the fun, bubbly love story. What’s not in keeping with that sentiment, though? The first line of the chorus:

“It’s hard to say what it is I see in you.”

Maybe it’s just me, but in general, when someone says they love me, I like to think that I’ve given them a reason for it. “It’s hard to say” just sounds like a nice way of saying “I can’t think of anything lovable about you.” This singer has no idea why their person of affection is worthy of love. NO IDEA. Completely baffled, like there’s just no explanation for it. Kind of insulting, isn’t it? And this complete lack of understanding gets repeated, with enthusiasm, in every chorus. But at least it’s not as bad as…

Want You Back ~ Jackson 5

This song purports to be a love song, in which the narrator is desperately trying to win back a girl who is no longer interested in him. That’s the whole reason the songs exists–to win her over. Why, then, does he choose to start the song off with these words:

“When I had you to myself, I didn’t want you around.
Those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd.

Let’s think about that for a minute. Those pretty faces–the faces of other girls–always made you stand out. He is saying she isn’t pretty. That’s literally what this lyric means: the crowd is full of pretty girls, and you are not one of them. In fact, you are so ugly that you stand out among them. You could argue that a super duper extra pretty girl would stand out among merely pretty ones, too, but coupled with the previous line in which he didn’t want her around, that is clearly not the intended meaning here. Now I ask you: if you were trying to win somebody over, would you lead with a reminder of how unattractive they are? No? Yeah, me neither.

The rest of the song is just kind of meh as love songs go, but frankly, after that poor lead-in I doubt the girl in question is still listening.

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go ~ Wham!

JITTERBUG. That’s pretty much 90% of the lyrics to this song, right? Just–JITTERBUG. It’s a song about bugs!

Kidding. The narrator of this song is upset that his girlfriend went out dancing while he was home sleeping. Thus the title–wake me up before you go-go-dance. He’s butthurt that his girlfriend went out and had fun without him, and he’s showering her with his devotion in a desperate plea to convince her to include him in her revelry. And he’s like, really devoted, and it’s pretty cute.

Except then we get to the bridge, where he says this:

“Cuddle up, baby, move in tight.
We’ll go dancing tomorrow night.
It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in bed.
They can dance; we’ll stay home instead.”

Dude, your girlfriend wants to go dancing so badly that she ditched you at home alone. Do you really think trying to talk her out of going dancing in order to stay home doing it with you is going to convince her to invite you next time? You literally just spent a whole song promising to go dancing with her, only to bait-and-switch with a thinly veiled or-we-could-have-sex. If she wanted to have sex, she would have stayed in bed with you. She wants to go dancing, which is why she ditched you in the first place. Pay attention.

Bonus: Everywhere I Go ~ Hollywood Undead

One of these songs is not like the others. Hollywood Undead is one of those bands that I totally love despite finding them incredibly problematic, and this song is a perfect example. It’s catchy as hell and fun to shout along to, but it’s also super offensive, in a really obvious, trying-to-upset-you kind of way. It’s basically an anthem for excessive drug and alcohol use, violence, reckless promiscuity, and rampant misogyny. Typical gross juggalo stuff.

Except, amid all of this self-conscious look-what-a-terrible-person-I-am posturing, there’s this line:

“Gotta get drunk before my mom wakes up;
Break up with my girlfriend so I can bang sluts.”

Let’s break this down. He wants you to think that he is a really irresponsible person, so he tells you that he’s planning to break up with his girlfriend before he goes and “bangs sluts.” Break up with her? Like, have a conversation about all the sluts you want to bang but for some reason can’t until you’ve broken up with her? Could it be that you’re committed to the concept of faithful monogamy and have a sense of responsibility toward your relationship? Is that why you feel the need to break up with her before doing all this slut-banging, instead of just cheating on her like a really terrible person would do? I mean, that’s not very gangster, but it’s kind of cute. Aww, what a responsible little juggalo you are.

Yours in self-defeat,
M.M. Jordahl

“You know I’m bad. I’m bad–you know it.” -Michael Jackson’s Bad (a stunningly self-aware song, lyrically)

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