21 December 2012

Faith Hill: Where Are You, Christmas?

You should know that here at Lyrics, Weakly, we are at this moment treading on the knife’s edge of danger.

It’d be reasonable, of course, to ask why—so i’ll tell you.

It’s because this week i’m taking on my oldest child’s favorite Christmas song ever, the 2000 tune “Where Are You, Christmas?” as performed by Faith Hill in its adult contemporary top-ten form, as adapted from the Taylor Momsen version (as Cindy Lou Who, in the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas)—and if you haven’t ever met a teenage whose music has just been dissed, well, you just haven’t lived yet.

(Fortunately, though, she may never get to read this if the Mayans were right, so at least there’s some hope for me.)

By the way, if you clicked on the link to the Faith Hill version of the song, please let me know if it’s just me, or if Ms Hill looks surprisingly like David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King in it.

Fun fact: According to this song’s Wikipedia page (motto: Now with 30% more truthiness!), Mariah Carey was originally going to be the one to sing the song, but Ms Hill ended up getting the gig due to some legal issues. I think this was good for us all, if only to maintain the karmic balance of the universe. After all, if Ms Carey had recorded this song as well as “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, then the speakers at round-the-clock Christmas music stations would probably explode from all the unnecessary high notes.

Anyway, enough with the intro, and on to the lyrics!

Where are you, Christmas?

See, here’s a problem right in the first line.

So, Ms Hill, you’re singing here to a personified holiday, which is kind of weird, but whatever.

However, the holiday you’re singing to doesn’t exist in space, it exists in time—and therefore, the answer to a question about where Christmas is would have to be mu. (Basically, if you can’t be bothered to read through that whole thing, the place where Christmas is is the same as the sound of one hand clapping—it doesn’t exist.)

Now if you’d asked “When are you, Christmas?” we’d have an answer for you right away: 24  or 25 December in most of the world, but 6, 7, or 19 January in a few places (including, notably, Russia).

There, problem solved. But for some reason Ms Hill continues with…

Why can’t I find you?

I already answered this one above. You’re welcome.

Why have you gone away?

Because, under most circumstances, time progresses in a unidirectional linear fashion. Therefore, by living and progressing through time, Christmas has receded into the past relative to you, and Christmas (though a different one, thus opening the door to more philosophy) will not arrive until the next 24  or 25 December (or 6, 7, or 19 January, depending on where you’re living at the time).

Where is the laughter
You used to bring me?

In the past. Once again, see above.

Why can’t I hear music play?

I don’t know the answer to this one, really. I mean, you’re in a music studio singing this, so one would suppose that you’re hearing a lot of music playing. Maybe you should ask the recording engineer to fix the studio monitors, or at least check the acoustics to find out what’s wrong?

My world is changing

Ah! So you’re finally getting the whole transitory nature of timebound existence thing! Good on you!

I’m rearranging

Pablo Picasso would have been so proud of you!

(Just to take a break from the snark for a second, though, i have to say that, truly and honestly, this line makes no sense at all.)

Does that mean Christmas changes, too?

Well, it depends, doesn’t it? I mean, you can’t really change Christmases in the past, but those in the future aren’t yet set in stone (well, depending on whether you’re into the whole predestination thing or not, i guess). So maybe Christmas hasn’t changed, but possibly will?

Where are you, Christmas?

Like i already said, Christmas isn’t a…never mind. I’ll just head into the corner to sigh about the state of American education a bit.

Do you remember
The one you used to know?

Christmas, being a time rather than a sentient entity, presumably does not remember anything.

You’re welcome.

I’m not the same one
See what the time’s done
Is that why you have let me go?

See, Ms Hill came so close here. Yes, time has changed you, but Christmas has not actively participated in those changes.

Got it? Good. Let’s see how things go now.

Christmas is here

Um, okay. I mean, if you sang this on 25 December, then sure.

Everywhere, oh

Actually, this isn’t true, even if you’re singing on 25 December—for example, on that date it isn’t Christmas in Russia, since it won’t be Christmas there until 7 January.

Christmas is here
If you care, oh

You know, even though i keep trying to explain basic concepts of logic and reality to you, i will admit that i have pretty much ceased to care. I suppose that means it isn’t Christmas yet, right?

If there is love in your heart and your mind
You will feel like Christmas all the time

Fortunately, contrary to widespread urban legend, Christmas is not accompanied by increased depression. Otherwise, this song would have suddenly gone very, very dark, you know?

I feel you Christmas

Okay, never mind—this is a creepy enough image that it’s gone dark anyway.

I know I’ve found you

It’s not hard to do, provided you have a calendar with the right entries on it.

You never fade away
The joy of Christmas
Stays here inside us
Fills each and every heart with love

Except for the hearts of those it doesn’t, of course.

Where are you, Christmas?
Fill your heart with love

And that’s the end of the song—yes, after four minutes of refusing to understand the way time (and our usual method of tracking time by using calendar dates) works, Ms Hill offers us a non sequitur. Weird, but whatever.

Anyway, that’s all for today. Since i assume that you, gentle reader, can read and understand a calendar, i wish you an enjoyable Christmas, even if Christmas isn’t your thing.

And whether it is or not, here’s a bit of Christmas randomness for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

14 December 2012

NewSong: The Christmas Shoes

So this makes two weeks in a row for Lyrics, Weakly, thus making it the first time we’ve lived up to the pun in our name in a long, long time.

Let the throwing of confetti commence!

And what song is so remarkably bad that it got me to actually post something so soon? None other than the 2000 hit (#1 on the US adult contemporary chart!) “The Christmas Shoes”, by the Christian rock (ahem, sorry, make that “rock”) band NewSong, in which we learn that the way they perform music is by standing around, emotionless and impassive, while one of them sings the lyrics. (For some reason, incidentally the “the” in the song’s title annoys me. Well, actually, the entire song annoys me, so maybe that isn’t unexpected.)

(I would have done “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” this week, but let’s face it, that anthem to getting your date drunk for sexual purposes has already been taken down by lots of people, even in the line by line format that I use, so much that i wasn’t going to be able to add anything new. This one, though, is widely criticized for being schmaltzy, but i haven’t seen much talking about how utterly dumb the story is.)

And yes, i realize that a lot of people hate this song, but a lot of people love it—remember, this song was a #1 hit. Ponder, o ye mighty, and despair!

Because, as the ice piano plays, we learn that…

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line

And, to be honest, it’s not a bad start. The song runs just short of five minutes long, so it makes sense that Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom, the writers of the song, would give us the setting right at the outset: It’s nearly Christmas time (so mid- to late December, i’m thinking, especially given the next line), and the narrator of the song is standing in a line at a store somewhere.

Incidentally, it’s just too weird to talk about Messrs. Carswell and Ahlstrom when talking about the narrator of this song (since he refers to himself in the singular), and so since Mr. Ahlstrom had the good sense to bail on the band right about the time this song came out, for the rest of this entry i’m going to blame Mr. Carswell for it. (Besides, according to NewSong’s Wikipedia page Mr. Carswell was one of the founding members of the band, so without him the whole thing could never have taken place at all.)

So anyway—Mr. Carswell is standing in line. Why is he standing in line?

Trying to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood

Yeah, i know how it goes—there’s always that one person on your list who’s just impossible to shop for, and then you have to wait in line to purchase whatever you end up choosing…It can be very non-fun.

Or you could just shop on Amazon. Not only would you not have to stand in line, you would have never experienced the events of this song, leading you to never have written it—a win for you, and a win for us!

Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing ’round like little boys do


I mean, yeah, some folks pace, sure. But pacing ’round like little boys do implies that little boys pacing is something that all or nearly all little boys do.

Mr. Carswell, i don’t know about you, but i was once a little boy, and i didn’t pace. I fidgeted plenty, sure, but pacing? Nope—and i haven’t seen many little boys pace, especially not when standing in line at a store to buy something.

Basically, i’m suspecting you haven’t, you know, actually observed little boys in stores. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, it just leads to a bit of mental whiplash—and that doesn’t bode well when it comes in the fourth line of a five-minute song.

And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

This, at least, makes sense. Most places, you want to buy a pair of shoes, you carry ’em to the counter. So maybe Mr. Carswell does know something about normal people and the ways they shop.

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe

If you had the stomach to make it through the video for this song, you will perhaps have noticed how utterly clean and all-American wholesome the boy is (along with his whole family). Guess being dirty didn’t play well in Peoria.

And when it came his time to pay
I couldn’t believe what I heard him say

I’d be pretty thunderstruck, myself, since what the kid says is the chorus to a #1 song, and yet the rhyme scheme is totally messed up—and just so that you can get the whole horror of it, i’m going to show you the whole thing before i talk about it.

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

Okay, let’s take this piece by piece.

First of all: Kid wants to buy shoes for his mother. Not the usual sort of gift a kid gets for a parent, but he apparently did enough research to know what her shoe size is, so it all works.

We also find out that it’s Christmas Eve, which means that Mr. Carswell was stretching things a little when he said at the beginning of the song that it was almost Christmas time—sorry, dude, you procrastinated. Fortunately, you’re not alone in that.

The kid’s in a hurry, though—apparently his father told him there’s not much time. And not much time for what? wonders the naïve bystander, blissfully unaccustomed to such glurge…Well, i’ll tell you:

It’s DEATH!!1!1!!1!11!!

Yep, that’s right, this kid has gone to the store, away from his dying mama, so that he can buy her a pair of shoes that she can die in.

And not just a pair of shoes she can die in, but a pair of shoes that’ll make her look pretty for Jesus.

Okay, see, this is wrong on too many levels to list—but here’s my initial thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Wasn’t one of Jesus’s big things that we shouldn’t cling too much to the things of this world, but that we should give to others? I mean, i guess that’s what the kid’s doing in some odd way, but someone with that philosophy probably isn’t going to be impressed by a pair of shoes, you know?
  • At least, though, this vignette lets us know something about Mr. Carswell’s theology, which is that you can take it with you. (Or at least that you can take your shoes with you.)
  • I know, it’s probably just me, but every time i hear this i get this image of people hanging out in heaven, wearing nothing but the shoes they died in and being really catty about them. “You mean you let yourself die while wearing those old things? How gauche!”

I mean, i’ve never died, and i’ve never even gone through a long sickness where it looked like i was going to die, but my suspicion is that if i ever am that sick, caring about shoes isn’t going to be at the top of my list, and i really hope it isn’t at the top of my kids’ lists.

But apparently that just makes me an evil heartless bastard who just doesn’t get The True Meaning of Christmas℠, as we’ll discover by the end of this song.

But that’s okay, ’cause even with his misplaced priorities, at least the kid has a plan, and maybe it’s done him good coming up with this, you know, to keep his mind off of impending death and all that.

He counted pennies for what seemed like years

Wait—he’s paying in pennies?!?

Then the cashier said, “Son, there’s not enough here”
He searched his pockets frantically

And so the kid didn’t have a plan? You mean he just left his dying mother to go shopping at the mall? You mean the whole buying shoes thing was an accident? What kind of psychopath-to-be is this child, anyway?

Then he turned and he looked at me

Because looking at the person behind you in line is what you does when you don’t have enough money to buy something, thought nobody ever.

He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without

Once again, the disjunction between the content of this song and the visuals of the video would amuse, if they weren’t quite so lame.

And really, what little kid actually speaks like this? I mean, really, read it as prose: Mama made Christmas good at our house, though most years she just did without. Now imagine it coming from the lips of a ragamuffin ten-year-old boy. Can’t do it, can you? That’s because actual real human kids don’t speak this way!

True story: This song was inspired by a chain email from back in the 90s called “Golden Slippers”. Yes, this song was based on an urban legend email hoax, so you know it must be quality!

Next week, NewSong releases a song about getting drunk with strangers and waking up with a missing kidney.

(At least in the original the kids wanted to buy their mother gold-colored shoes so they’d match the gold-paved streets of heaven. In this song, it’s all about being pretty for Jesus. I don’t like either sentiment, but if forced, i’ll admit to being more impressed behind the thought of the first one.)

Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I’ve got to buy her these Christmas shoes

See, if i’m the guy in the song, i’m thinking scam here. This kid just told an immensely improbable story about a dying mother who he’s abandoned to die on Christmas Eve so he can buy shoes for her, and i’m supposed to believe this? I know a setup when i hear it kid, get outta here before i call for security.

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out

But Mr. Carswell is a more trusting sort than i am, so he pays for the shoes.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama’s gonna look so great

Especially since she just got her New Year’s Eve dancing shoes for free, just like mama told me it’d work!

And then we get the chorus again. Instead of making you read through it here, i’ll just note that this song (which, remember, was “inspired” by a chain email) itself led to both a book and a movie. Yes, that’s right, a full-length (made-for-TV) movie.

The current version of the movie’s Wikipedia page includes a plot synopsis, which gives names to the characters: the narrator of the song is named Robert, the little kid is named Nathan, and Nathan’s mother is Maggie. So various things happen and then Robert’s mother dies, after which Robert helps Nathan buy the shoes for Maggie, and then finally Maggie dies.

The end of the synopsis reads: The scene then cuts to the cemetery where Robert is visiting his mother’s grave, 17 years later. He runs into a young man wearing the same baseball cap Nathan had been wearing. After he leaves, Robert sees that the man had been visiting Maggie’s grave, and recognizes the shoes the man had left at the grave. Robert then realizes that the young man was Nathan.

This is even more disturbing than the song, ’cause it turns out that the kid never even gave the shoes to his mother—he just bought them to buy them!

(And “wearing the same baseball cap Nathan had been wearing” seventeen years earlier? I mean, i don’t even remember what my wife was wearing as we drove off from our wedding reception a bit less than seventeen years ago, and this guy recognizes a baseball cap?? I mean, i guess that makes sense, since no two baseball caps are alike, but it still rings a bit off to me.)

And now we’re at the bridge…

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out

See, it’s lines like this that have contributed to the world’s oversupply of treacle, and until the situation is rectified there won’t be enough demand to bring back the treacle mines that produce the stuff us gourmands know to be the best, no matter how much cheaper the artificial mass-produced stuff is.

I’m just thinking the boy was glad he wasn’t going to have to end up giving his mother the hat he’d knitted for her.

I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

That’s right. God made the kid’s mom sick, and made sure the boy was poor and dirty (for the video, read: upper-middle-class—though out of money—and freshly scrubbed) enough to tug at your heartstrings, just so that you could learn The True Meaning of Christmas℠. Sorry, Mr. Carswell, but i’m thinking you’re not really that important, you know?

And then a children’s chorus kicks in to end the song with a repeat of the chorus. Seriously, by this point it doesn’t sound cute, it sounds like the kids’ voices in The Haunting.

(And i was going to repeat the chorus here just like it's done in the song, but i can’t bring myself to do it. Instead, enjoy a Christmas song with an uplifting message the way it should be done. See you next week.)

07 December 2012

Band Aid: Do They Know It’s Christmas?

So here at Lyrics, Weakly headquarters there hasn’t been muchany blogging going on for quite a while.

Yeah. Well, we’ve been…busy? Had to rake the leaves falling from the birch tree in the front yard, you know. (Sidebar: Who came up with the idea that birch trees are good landscaping elements? And are they still around, so that we can round them up and do mean things to them?) So, of course, new posts haven’t gone up.

But it’s December, and you know what that means: Endless Christmas songs on the radio! And, of course, most of those songs are really just not that good.

There are two types of not really good Christmas songs, though. First, there are the badly done versions of Christmas songs that have been around for a while, clearly just done to get some royalty payments when the annual Christmas song gorgefest comes around. (Yes, Barbara Streisand may be a singing genius, but her rendition of “Jingle Bells”? Please, no.) The second category is where today’s entry falls: Original compositions about Christmas that really, really, really don’t work.

And with that, i present for you Band Aid’s syrupy 1984 masterwork, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Now, before i go any further, i want to say that when Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote this song (people usually forget Mr. Ure’s contribution to the song, since Mr. Geldof is rather more famous, so i figure i might as well do the same from this point on, ’cause it’s easier to write about one person than a group), the sentiment was precisely spot-on. I mean, for those of us who were around then, the mid-80s Ethiopian famine was heartrending—all these people dying and we couldn’t do anything. Well, most of us, at least—some people had the means to put plans into operation, and Mister Geldof was one of those. He got a bunch of really, really famous mostly-British rock stars together to have them record the song, and the rest is history.

So Mr. Geldof wrote a song for charity, and it was successful—and i’ve seen various numbers for how much it raised for famine relief floating around the interwebs, but $14 million seems to be the most widely cited figure. So good for him and everyone else associated with the song.

Anyway, the song starts with dome foreboding minor-key tonality, very doomy, which is kind of cool for a Christmas song. Fitting for one that has to address human suffering and all.

But the lyrics! Ah, the lyrics…

It’s Christmas time
There’s no need to be afraid

Well, that’s a relief. I mean, given the fact that 68% of the population suffers from a phobia of Christmas…Oh, wait, you mean they don’t? Oh, well, then, i suppose it really is true that there’s no need to be afraid.

For the record, i did find one site that lists “xristougennaphobia” as the fear of Christmas, but i think it says something about how made upwidespread that is that it only shows up on that one page in a Google search. (Well, two, once this page gets indexed by Google’s all-knowing database.)

I also found a lot of listings for “christougenniatiko dentrophobia”, which was defined as the fear of Christmas trees.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.

(Best discussion of the effects of christougenniatiko dentrophobia, by the way, from a page that seems to be serious, giving advice to aspiring fiction writers: “A person with this phobia would most likely not grow Christmas trees for a living. Since all live Christmas trees are a type of pine tree, is a person with this phobia afraid of pine trees year-round? Or just at Christmas time? Could they be afraid of them because of bugs they could bring in the house? Or maybe it is the possibility of the tree catching fire that scares them. Are they also afraid of artificial Christmas trees? And does the tree have to be decorated for them to fear it?”)

At Christmas time
We let in light and we banish shade

I would just like to say, as a resident of Alaska, that this is not possible, at least in the northern latitudes (and the British Isles aren’t in the far north, but even London, near the south end of the islands, is up there with Calgary, of all places). If you open the curtains at Christmas time in the northern hemisphere, you get…dark, at least for most of the day. The opposite of light. In order to provide light, you have to flip a switch or light a candle or something in your house.

I mean, c’mon, people, this is basic kid-level earth science!

And in our world of plenty
We can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time

Okay, this is a softball, but one i have to take: Those are some really long arms!

These lines, though, are delivered by Boy George, and they’re worth a listen to remind us of how just absolutely amazing his voice was before he went all VH1 Behind the Music on us.

(Admit it—you were totally expecting that last link to be this one, weren’t you?)

Anyway, at this point the music changes and we get an uptempo rhythm (largely courtesy of Phil Collins, taking a break from ruining the band Genesis) sounding much like…well, actually, sounding like every single other uptempo synthpop song released in the mid-80s, and the lyrics continue.

But say a prayer
Pray for the other ones

So we’re supposed to pray for The Others? Why? According to the Wikipedia page for the movie, it’s done quite well for itself without any prayers on our part.

(Yeah, yeah, i know. After reading that, though, you may be happy to learn that there are plays on words out there that are even worse.)

At Christmas time, it’s hard

I single out this line just because i can’t make any sense of it. The lack of punctuation between lines in the source i was able to find doesn’t make it easier, but all i can figure is that it’s supposed to follow from the preceding lines, so that it reads But say a prayer, pray for the other ones—at Christmas time, it’s hard, and that doesn’t make any sense, really. Maybe it’s supposed to go with what follows? Well, that’s worse: At Christmas time, it’s hard, but when you’re having fun there’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dreaded fear.

So all i can figure is that At Christmas time, it’s hard is supposed to be a standalone sentence, not syntactically connected to the phrases either preceding or following it. Unless this is a something about the widely-held but false belief that Christmastime is associated with mental illness, it seems just a throwaway attempt to get from George Michael to Simon Le Bon.

Anyway—sorry about the grammatical aside. I’m a linguist by profession, though, so i can’t really help it.

But when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dreaded fear

Okay, so here’s where we start to go properly off the rails.

They’re trying to say that right outside your window, while you’re having fun at Christmas, people are starving in Ethiopia—essentially, it’s guilt trip time! Now, of course, Ethiopia isn’t literally right outside the windows of this song’s target market, but that’s okay—i’ll happily let them be figurative here.

But dreaded fear? I mean, could this be a little bit clumsier? After all, what other kinds of fear are there? Welcomed fear? Appealing fear? Pleasing fear?

Sometimes you just want to shake your head, you know? I mean, Mr. Geldof, you’re the guy who wrote “I Don’t Like Mondays”, which is full of amazingly turned lines about a horrific event, so we know you’ve got the ability. But dreaded fear? Srsly?

Anyway, enough rant. Back to…

Where the only water flowing
Is a bitter sting of tears

Now i realize that we didn’t Wikipedia to answer all our questions back in 1984, but this. I mean, Mr. Geldof, couldn’t you at least be bothered to look at an atlas? The Blue Nile, for heaven’s sake, originates in Ethiopia!

And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom

Actually, no.

Ethiopia (and Eritrea, which has since become independent but was part of Ethiopia at the time) are both majority-Christian nations, and they have a number of churches that, presumably, could ring bells on Christmas—and even though i’m not actually there to confirm this, i’m pretty sure that they’d choose bells that sound at least minimally joyous on what is, after all, one of their big celebration days.

And then, finally, we get to Bono shouting out…

Well, tonight thank God, it’s them
Instead of you

Let’s take a step back for a moment and consider.

There are a lot of people out there who hate this song. A lot. And, in my review preparing for this entry, this line was mentioned by approximately every single one of them. (In fact, if you simply google this line you get several of them fairly high in the results. Of course, you also get a few defenses of the line, but at least a couple of them also claim that Wham!’s “Last Christmas” is a great Christmas song, so they can of course be dismissed as simply ludicrous.)

I mean, it’s arguably the most clearly sung line in the whole song, and it’s sung with a fervor that nothing else in the whole thing is. Further, it’s even the structural fulcrum of the entire piece, with the following lines coming at a rather more frenzied pace.

And Bono—dear, dear Bono—with all he’s done to try to improve the world, gets remembered for this.

(Actually, i did run across a claim that Bono objected to it, but that Mr. Geldof insisted on it being sung as written. If this is true, then it seems that Mr. Geldof didn’t just play someone with a bit of a dictator complex.)

I like to wonder, though, what such a thanks to deity would sound like. “Dear Lord, we are thankful to thee that thou hast made those people in Ethiopia to starve, and not us.” Now, i don’t precisely no what the response of deity to such a prayer might be, but i do know what it’d be if i were the one so addressed.

And then we get a lesson in climatology…

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time

And you know why? Because, a couple of very specific locations aside, there’s nearly never snow in Africa. In fact, snow in Africa is an event worthy of international headlines.

This is simply a fact of geography and climate. I mean, just look at a map, for starters! The vast majority of the African continent lies in the tropics—absent really insanely high elevation, you don’t get snow.

But you want to know the best part of all this? It’s that the claim about no snow in Ethiopia actually isn’t even technically true. Yes, most of Ethiopia is completely snow-free, due to the aforementioned tropic-ness of the place. But Ethiopia also contains the Semien Mountains, where snow can accumulate in the winter. (Skiing, though, would be difficult.

The greatest gift they'll get this year is life

Um, just to be non-snarky for a moment here: Isn’t that true of all of us?

I mean, i don’t care how much you wanted that particular gift, if you’re dead it’s not going to mean as much to you.

(Clearly, the shelf life on non-snarky is short here.)

Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow

See above on the fact that there are rivers in Ethiopia. Quite a few rivers, in fact.

There’s also rain in Ethiopia. Yes, the mid-80s had record low rainfall in much of the country, but it certainly rains there.

And things also grow in Ethiopia. In fact, agricultural products make up 80%  of Ethiopian exports, according to what i could find on the web.

Yes, yes, i realize that the popular conception is that Ethiopia is a desert, but it’s not actually true. Once again, Mr. Geldof, would it have hurt so much to look in an atlas?

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Well, since (as already mentioned) Ethiopia and Eritrea are both majority-Christian nations, i would have to say that yes, they do know it’s Christmas time, thank you very much.

But what difference would it make? I mean, are you saying they need calendars, too?

But yeah, there’s a pretty good-sized Muslim population in both countries, and so there may well be villages and towns that are entirely unaware that it’s Christmas time, because the entire population is Muslim. And you know what? Come in close, listen carefully, because this is an important secret about those villages: They don’t care!

Now, they may well care whether it’s Eid al-Adha or not, but you know what? They already know.

Here’s to you
Raise your glass for everyone
Here's to them
Underneath that burning sun

So what do we learn from these lines? That when faced with hunger in a distant land, the proper response is to get drunk and party.

Um, yeah. Well, whatever works for you, i guess.

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Again, yes. Or no. But it doesn’t really matter, you know?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world

In all seriousness, i didn’t know what these lines were until i wrote up this post. Nice sentiment, it’s just a pity that it had to get stuck in a song like this.

And then we get this on repeat and fade:

Let them know it’s Christmas time again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again
Feed the world

It can’t be just me who hears this and thinks it’s pretty much a “Neener neener neener! We know it’s Christmas time! So there!”

But in all seriousness, why should it matter to you whether they know it’s Christmas time? If what you want is to feed people, then send them a pizza, no matter the day. I mean, there’s really no connection at all, is there? (Or at least there shouldn’t be.)

So now we’ve got a logical inconsistency to go along with everything else, what with the whole Christmas-famine relief non sequitur.

Anyway, this little gem was released in 1984. In an attempt to redeem the year, here’s a better (though, admittedly, darker) song released the same year, and it even had the year in the title! Enjoy.

20 May 2011

Bryan Adams: Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?

So i knew i was overdue to post something here at Lyrics, Weakly, but i wasn’t sure which song to post. But then, like a bolt from the blue, this past Tuesday i heard Bryan Adams’s 1995 #1 hit “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?

Now, i realize that i’m wading into dangerous territory here—if you read the comments on the sort of site that collects user comments about songs, you discover that there are people out there who really, really, really love this song, and by featuring this song here i’m certainly likely to draw their ire. However, if this blog is about anything, it is about truth, justice, and the American way, where “the American way” is defined as “the right to point out that songs are really, really, really bad”.

Well, that and the right to point out that, despite my utter loathing of AutoTune, Bryan Adams may be the poster child for a singer where i really, really, really wouldn’t mind having his voice subjected to the process.

But even if somebody with a much smoother voice were to sing this song, i still wouldn’t be a fan of it. Why not? Well, let’s take a closer look at the lyrics:

To really love a woman
To understand her

Oh, cool! This is a how-to song! Not only are we going to learn how to love women, we’re going to learn how to understand them, too!

You gotta know her deep inside

So i need to know about her insides? Cool, that’s easy.

Hear every thought, see every dream

Well, now this might be a bit more difficult.

But really, Mr. Adams, are you sure that knowing so much about her dreams is really a sign of love? I’d think of it as more a stalker thing, myself.

And give her wings when she wants to fly

I’d actually advise against this, given claimed historical experience.

Then when you find yourself lying helpless in her arms
You know you really love a woman

Please excuse me for a moment while i figure out what lying helpless in someone’s arms has to do with loving them.


No, hold on, i still haven’t figured it out.

No, still trying.

Ah! I’ve got it!

When you love a woman you tell her that she’s really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she’s the one

Okay, so i’ve had some fun with the first few lines of this song, since Mr. Adams was providing some very bizarre advice—but then he turns around and gives us this, the sort of thing you’d find in any sort of relationship self-help book?

I suspect that it may be the result of this song being written not just by Mr. Adams, but also by Michael Kamen and Robert John “Mutt” Lange, and the three of them working together just threw lines out there, figuring that something had to stick. Now, i don’t know who wrote which part of this song, but my vote is that the sensible lines came from Mr. Lange, for no reason other than him having the nickname “Mutt”.

’Cause she needs somebody to tell her that it’s gonna last forever

Or, in other words, she’s insecure.

So tell me have you ever really, really, really ever loved a woman?

Let’s see…Yes on the telling her it’ll last forever, yes on telling her she’s the one, yes one telling her she’s really wanted, no on hearing every thought she has…Dang! And here i’d been thinking i was in love with—really, really, really in love with—a woman, what with me having been married to her for nearly fifteen years and all, but i guess i’m not. Glad Mr. Adams was here to set me straight!

To really love a woman

But fortunately, Mr. Adams will now tell me what i need to do!

Let her hold you ’til you know how she needs to be touched

Um, Mr. Adams? I’m cool with the let her hold you part of the advice here, and i think that that’s actually rather good advice. But how in the world is letting her hold me going to let me know how she wants to be touched? I mean, why not just ask her? Wouldn’t open, clear communication about physical needs and desires be more effective than hoping for a Vulcan mind meld sort of experience with…

Oh, sorry—that’s right, you’re the teacher, i’m just the student. I’ll be quiet now.

Please, Mr. Adams, teach me. Teach me what i must do.

You’ve gotta breathe her


I mean, since she’s isn’t made of oxygen, i don’t really see how i’m supposed to do that.

Therefore, i assume you mean this as a sort of metaphor—but no matter how much i try, i can’t figure out how exactly this metaphor works. I guess that means there’ll be some clue to it in the next line.

Really taste her ’til you can feel her in your blood

Um, dude?

I mean, i know that this isn’t without precedent in the natural world, but beyond the fact that it’s usually the other way around, i have to say that i’m just really, really, really not into eating other people.

I can sense your disappointment from here. Sorry.

And when you can see your unborn children in her eyes
You know you really love a woman


Oh, my.

You know, after hearing that line i don’t think that i really, really, really care that i’ve disappointed you, Mr. Adams.

I mean, seriously. If you look on the intertubes, you find lots and lots of people who say that this is the most romantic line of any song ever recorded.

No, i mean it. Really, really, really seriously.

But as always, i tend to subject lines like this to a “singles bar” test—that is, would it come across as creepy if it were used as a pick-up line in a singles bar. Well, let’s imagine the scene:

Mr. Adams: I love you.
Random woman: Get out of here.
Mr. Adams: No, i mean it. I really, really, really mean it.
Random woman: What?
Mr. Adams: I know i love you, because i can see my unborn children in your eyes.
Random woman: Um, bouncer? Can i have your help over here?

See, it just wouldn’t work.

Of course, if you see unborn children in anyone’s eyes, i’d suggest that it’s time to excuse yourself from the room, and never to return. Of course, that’s just me, and i’m clearly just not romantic enough to really, really, really love a woman.

And then we get the chorus again. Just to remind you, it’s all the things that you do when you really, really, really love a woman.

When you love a woman you tell her that she’s really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she’s the one
’Cause she needs somebody to tell her that you’ll always be together
So tell me have you ever really, really, really ever loved a woman?

But apparently that’s not all! Mr. Adams provides us with some additional things you need to do:

You got to give her some faith

Okay, fine—but how exactly do you do this? Faith is an abstract concept, and a very personal experience—how do you give that to someone?

Well, unless Mr. Adams means that you’re supposed to give her cheaply made shoes. That i could certainly do.

Hold her tight
A little tenderness
Gotta treat her right

Here’s the sanity of “Mutt” showing up again, i’m thinking.

She will be there for you, taking good care of you
You really gotta love your woman, yeah

Well, at least we know that Mr. Adams isn’t entirely altruistic in the whole enterprise—after going through all the trouble of saying nice things to her, telling her she’s the one, hearing her thoughts, giving her wings and shoes, there’s payback. I wonder if there are any clues about what she’s supposed to do in the next couple lines?

And when you find yourself lying helpless in her arms
You know you really love a woman

You know, i’m actually still trying to figure this one out, trying to figure out the conversation that would lead up to this sort of feeling.

“Hey—that rag smells of chloroform”
“That’s not chloroform, babe, it’s love!”

Apparently, she’s supposed to supply the drugs.

And now, to review:

When you love a woman you tell her that she’s really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she’s the one
’Cause she needs somebody to tell her that it’s gonna last forever
So tell me have you ever really, really, really ever loved a woman?

Well, according to Mr. Adams, the answer is no. So hey—to my wife, sorry about that.

Just tell me have you ever really, really, really ever loved a woman?

Um, dude, i already answered this question. It’s really, really, really annoying when someone keeps asking a question once it’s been answered.

Just tell me have you ever really, really, really ever loved a woman?

In all honesty, have i really, really, really loved a woman? Yes. Stalked and been dangerously obsessive about her? I really, really, really hope the answer is no.

01 April 2011

Rod Stewart: Do Ya Think I’m Sexy

So things have been pretty quiet the past several weeks here at Lyrics, Weakly (new motto: Where the pun in the blog’s name becomes less apt with each passing day!), but i’ve been wanting to post a new song, really i have. And since yesterday was Thursday, Thursday…, tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards, it’s certainly time to do so.

But we’re not going to be looking into Rebecca Black’s “Friday” this evening. After all, as no less an authority than Rolling Stone has pointed out, “Friday” is one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

No, this week i’m presenting something much, much worse—Rod Stewart’s 1978 worldwide hit “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”.

Oh, wait. That was the wrong video (though you and i both know it’s much, much better than anything Mr. Stewart would have created). Try this one, instead.

But enough of the visuals—let’s bounce to the disco beat as we get to the lyrics…


One of the advantages of posting these is that i get to learn what the lyrics really are to songs where i’ve never been able to figure out the words. (Well, at least most of the time.) Of course, i have to say that learning what Mr. Stewart moans at the beginning of this particular song has never been all that high on my to-do list, but i suppose that now i can say that i know this additional piece of information and so i should be happy, since knowing is half the battle.

She sits alone waiting for suggestions
He’s so nervous avoiding all her questions

Okay, here’s a problem: If she’s alone, how exactly is she asking him questions? This is, after all, 1978, so it’s not like she’s on her cell phone or texting questions to him or such.

But let’s just gloss past this issue so that we can get a good idea of the scene: We’re in a discotheque, probably in New York City (we find out there’s high-rise apartments nearby later in the song), filled with young men wearing polyester leisure suits and women wearing unexpected amounts of eye makeup, and Mr. Stewart informs us that they’re avoiding any meaningful human interaction.

Wait a minute! I never made the connection before, but it makes sense! Young, urban, and putting forth the image that they don’t really need any of the people or things around them—these are hipsters, 25 years before there was a word for such a thing. Even John Travolta makes sense now.

Dance, sad dancing hipster, dance! (Make sure you scroll down a bit on that link, by the way.)

His lips are dry, her heart is gently pounding
Don’t you just know exactly what they’re thinking?

I don’t know about her, but i’d guess he’s wondering if she has any ChapStick.

If you want my body and you think I’m sexy
Come on, sugar, let me know
If you really need me just reach out and touch me
Come on, honey, tell me so

You know, this is ordinarily a text-only blog, and i provide links to any audiovisual content. Here, however, i do feel the need to provide some embedded images to demonstrate my point.

A picture of Rod Stewart looking uglyA picture of Rod Stewart looking uglyA picture of Rod Stewart looking ugly

No, Mr. Stewart, we do not think you’re sexy, and believe me, we have absolutely no desire to touch your body.

Your money, on the other hand, there’s apparently a lot of women out there who wouldn’t mind touching that.

He’s acting shy looking for an answer
Come on, honey, let’s spend the night together

Okay, a couple things here.

First of all, this is acting shy?!? I mean, what would be more forward? Maybe “Should i call you in the morning or just nudge you?” “That dress will look better once it’s on my bedroom floor”? “Pardon me, are you in heat?” “Nice shoes, let’s screw”?

Second of all, i realize that i hadn’t even hit puberty when this song came out, and so i wasn’t busy figuring out the intricacies of the whole human mating ritual thing yet, but did this sort of line actually work back in the late 70s? ’Cause if it did, i think we have all the evidence we need that people now are way more intelligent than people were back then.

(Yeah, I know, we already had evidence of that. I mean more evidence, i guess.)

But anyway, the woman Mr. Stewart (you know he just has to be wanting us to believe he’s the guy in this story) is speaking to goes for it and accepts the offer—because she responds back with what has to be the most mindbending acceptance of a sexual proposition ever:

Now hold on a minute before we go much further
Give me a dime so I can phone my mother

Okay, dude, let’s say you’re after no-strings casual sex, and you find someone who’s willing. Just as a rule of thumb, if his or her response runs along these lines, leave. Now. Yeah, it may just be one furtive night, but you don’t want those sorts of mommy issues anywhere near any part of your body or property. Seriously.

Of course, even given that a dollar went further back then than it does now, purchasing a woman’s, um, services for only 10¢ seems like a pretty good deal, if you’re into that sort of thing. So you’ve got that going for you, at least. (Warning: That link isn’t safe for work, particularly if your boss is reading over your shoulder.)

They catch a cab to his high rise apartment
At last he can tell her exactly what his heart meant

Apparently he needs to be more direct, since the line come on, honey, let’s spend the night together was just a bit too circumspect for the occasion.

If you want my body and you think I’m sexy
Come on, sugar, let me know
If you really need me just reach out and touch me
Come on, honey, tell me so

True story alert! (Well, at least according to the Wikipedia page for the song, which means it must be true, right?) Mr. Stewart lifted the melody for this song from Brazilian artist Jorge Ben’s song “Taj Mahal”. Listen and decide for yourself!

Or, alternatively, you could listen to one of the many covers of Mr. Stewart’s version. And then you can weep for the future of humanity.

His heart’s beating like a drum
’Cause at last he’s got his girl home
Relax, baby, now we are alone

Actually, this seems like cause for concern to me. This is particularly worrying, given that he’s at home alone with this woman who is likely untrained in emergency medical procedures, and there are indications elsewhere in this song that there is an expectation of sexual activity. All in all, it looks like Mr. Stewart might have to end this story with a trip to the hospital.

Of course, that would mean the song would have to end, so it would be a win for us.

And actually, an instrumental break right here gives us hope that maybe Mr. Stewart has, in fact, left the building, but it turns out to be a false hope, since we’re told that

They wake at dawn ’cause all the birds are singing

You know, any time i’ve ever been in a high-rise building, i haven’t heard the birds singing in the morning. I’ve occasionally heard cars driving in the morning traffic, but that’s not nearly as romantic an image, now, is it?

Also, if there was any justice in the world one of them would have been awake and gone already by this point. The other one would be waking up about right now with a missing kidney.

Two total strangers but that ain’t what they’re thinking

Well, that would be because they’re not total strangers.

Think about it. Even if they never exchanged engraved calling cards, they have had at least one short, fumbling, but very goal-directed conversation, as given earlier in the song’s narrative. Therefore, i’m pretty sure that both Emily Post and Miss Manners would agree that they can still consider themselves properly introduced, and no longer strangers.

Outside it’s cold, misty and it’s raining
They got each other, neither one’s complaining

No, they’re not complaining because they’re inside, not because they’ve got each other. I strongly suspect that if they were outside in the cold misty rain, they’d be complaining even if they were with each other.

He say’s I’m sorry but I’m out of milk and coffee
Never mind, sugar, we can watch the early movie


Really, does this line even begin to make sense? I mean, i’m trying to think of any way that this would happen in normal human conversation. Think about it:

“Oh, bummer, i can’t find anything to drink.”

“No worries—let’s watch a movie instead.”

I mean, for some reason i doubt that watching a movie is going to slake y’all’s thirst, you know?

Of course, this is the same couple that had a conversation earlier that essentially started “Let’s have sex”, which was answered by “Sure—but first i have to tell my mother i’ll be exchanging bodily fluids with someone i just met”, so i guess i shouldn’t be surprised by the content of any further unusual reported conversation between these two.

If you want my body and you think I’m sexy
Come on, sugar, let me know
If you really need me just reach out and touch me
Come on, honey, tell me so
Tell me so, baby

Historical fact: This song was released in 1978, but AT&T didn’t start using their “Reach out and touch someone” slogan until 1979. Of course, i figure Mr. Stewart didn’t make any claims against AT&T for any sort of infringement, because, as we all know, they were omnipotent, so the odds would have been stacked against him.

Anyway, that’s all for this round—just a song about one more day in the history of gonorrhea. Pleasant dreams!

21 January 2011

Ke$ha: Take It Off

So the pun in the name of this blog hasn’t been at all appropriate lately—a weekly schedule just isn’t happening, apparently.

However, the lights haven’t been completely out here at Lyrics, Weakly headquarters. There have been a couple songs waiting on the back burner, waiting merely for the moment that a bit of spare time would appear, would appear to save them from the limbo that they were stuck in.

Or something like that.

Well, spare time hasn’t arrived, but nearly six months ago one of my daughters requested that i write a Lyrics, Weakly post on the lyrics to the Ke$ha song “Take It Off”. Yes, a child of mine recognized the utter horror that is that song, for which i would simply like to say, along with the nation, thank heaven for little girls.

Incidentally, you really should click on the link up there that takes you to the video of the song—it’s really a nicely shot cautionary tale about the dangers of providing a bunch of poorly dressed dancers unlimited access to paint pigments.

Oh. And meth. Lots of meth.

Anyway. This song has blessedly receded from the airwaves, but a few months ago you couldn’t avoid it—i think i heard it on the local classical station at one point. But, just for old times sake, let’s deal with it once more.

There’s a place downtown
Where the freaks all come around
It’s a hole in the wall
It’s a dirty free for all

Now, i’ll let it be known that i’m all about giving credit where credit is due—so let’s give Ms Ke$ha credit for coming up with an interesting opening. The first time i heard this song, i found the use of a classic children’s dirty song coupled with AutoTune shifted into overdrive intriguing, and i wanted to hear what followed.

(What followed, of course, was that i shouldn’t have bothered. But so it goes.)

Fun fact! According to Wikipedia (so you know it must be true), the children’s song referenced here has several titles, including “The Streets of Cairo”, “The Poor Little Country Maid, “The Girls in France”, and “The Southern Part of France”. Ms Ke$ha, hats off to you for presenting us with such an endearing allusion to our shared childhoods.

Pity you didn’t stop there.

When the dark of the night comes around
That’s the time that the animal comes alive
Looking for something wild

Wow. I have to say, that’s a reference i didn’t see coming.

(See also “Wolf, Hungry Like the”.)

And now we lookin’ like pimps in my gold Trans Am

Ms Ke$ha, to be quite honest, it doesn’t take a gold Trans Am to make you look like a prostitute.

Got a water bottle full of whiskey in my handbag

You know, i think it might be time for an intervention.

Got my drunk text on I’ll regret it in the morn

No. You won’t regret drunk texting in the morning, ’cause you know you’ll just pretend it was all autocorrect’s fault.

Also, i would like to point out that this is actually Ms Ke$ha’s second time appearing on Lyrics, Weakly. The first was for “Tik Tok”, and i would like to remind both of my listeners that i noted at the time (about nine months ago) that what she was really going to regret was her morning regimen of brushing her teeth with Jack Daniels rather than a fluoride toothpaste.

And why do i mention this? Because mere days ago, xkcd made the same point.

This is significant, because Randall Munroe is a recognized Internet Genius—but if i posted an idea eight or nine months before he came up with it, then that means that i…

I’ll leave the obvious conclusion as an exercise for the reader.

But enough about me—i must selflessly turn my attention back to Ms Ke$ha, who is busy telling us

But tonight
I don’t give a
I don’t give a
I don’t give a

Oh, wild and crazy performer that she is, she teases us with the hint that she’s going to say a naughty word, and then doesn’t—not once, not even twice, but three whole times. Oh, ho, ho, Ms. Ke$ha, i bow in the general direction of your most original and never-before-thought-of use of the language.

(Though upon typing that, i realize that i shouldn’t have been so sarcastic—at the very least, “oh, ho, ho” appears to be a completely accurate way to describe her.)

There’s a place downtown
Where the freaks all come around
It’s a hole in the wall
It’s a dirty free for all

Yes, we’re aware—you told us so at the beginning of the song. I guess we should be happy for the reminder, what with alcohol’s effect on memory and all.

And they turn me on when they take it off when they take it off
Everybody take it off

See, i’m puzzled.

I have to admit that i don’t frequent strip clubs—it’s not my personal kink. But from what i am led to understand, at the sort of club where strippers take their clothes off, everyone else is definitely not supposed to take theirs off—that would distract from the performer.

But i suppose that if you’re willing to pretend to be unconventional to the point of spelling your name with a dollar sign, such norms make no difference to you.

There’s a place I know if you're looking for a show
Where they go hardcore and there’s glitter on the floor

Ah! Hardcore, hmmm? So now i get it—it’s one of those places. Sorry to have misunderstood.

But glitter on the floor? Fine, i’ll take your word for it—you look at the floor, i’ll stay over here.

And they turn me on when they take it off when they take it off
Everybody take it off

I still don’t understand why everybody has to disrobe, though.

Lose your mind lose it now

You’re a bit demanding, aren’t you, Ms Ke$ha?

Lose your clothes in the crowd

So what’s so unusual about crowds of naked people?

Oh, sorry, i forgot—you’re edgy, and therefore whatever you’re demanding we do must be wild and crazy and unprecedented. My mistake. Carry on.

We’re delirious tear it down ’til the sun comes back around

So now you want to tear the place down?

Weird. And what sort of a plan do you have to put that into effect, Ms Ke$ha?

N-now we’re getting so smashed knocking over trash cans
Eurbody breakin’ bottles it's a filthy hot mess

So let’s see if i understand.

You’re going to get drunk enough that you can’t pronounce the word “everybody”, and then knock over some trash cans.

Oooh, crazy. I’m sure that will just completely subvert the existing systems of power throughout the world. I don’t know if i can handle the sheer and utter enormity of this level of social nonconformity.

Seriously, Ms Ke$ha, just stop it. Please.

And I’m gonna get faded and I’m not the designated driver so
I don’t give a
I don’t give a
I don’t give a

You know, if i was the designated driver for Ms Ke$ha i’d worry that i’d end up with glitter and puke on the floor of my car. But maybe that’s just me.

There’s a place downtown where the freaks all come around
It’s a hole in the wall
It’s a dirty free for all

More repetition.

Speaking of repetition, as i mentioned earlier, this is the second time Ms Ke$ha has appeared on this blog—though, since i covered Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” a while back, some would argue this makes three times.

And they turn me on when they take it off when they take it off
Everybody take it off

I have decided that there is nothing more unsexy than Ms Ke$ha singing these lines.

Okay, so maybe there is. But not by all that much.

There’s a place I know if you’re looking for a show
Where they go hardcore and there’s glitter on the floor

I’m having this weird feeling of déjà vu, almost like i’ve heard these lines before, and recently.

Oh, wait—that’s because i did!

C’mon, Ms Ke$ha—if you’ve run out of ideas, just stop. it’s not like you’re going to make more money off of a nearly-four-minute song than a barely-three-minute one. And besides, then we wouldn’t have to listen to you push the AutoTune into ludicrous speed for quite as long, so we’d all win.

And they turn me on when they take it off when they take it off
Everybody take it off

You know what? I don’t care any more.

Oh, oh, oh!

Oh, wow! Something big and different must be coming up! Let’s see what it is.


Never mind.

Oh, Oh, Oh!

And again. In case we’d blacked out the first time.

Right now! TAKE IT OFF!
Right now! TAKE IT OFF!
Right now! TAKE IT OFF!
Right now! TAKE IT OFF!
Right now! TAKE IT OFF!

You seem a bit urgent about this, Ms Ke$ha. I wonder why that might be.

There’s a place downtown where the freaks all come around
It’s a hole in the wall
It’s a dirty free for all
And they turn me on when they take it off when they take it off
Everybody take it off

Yep. More pointless repetition.

There’s a place downtown where the freaks all come around
It’s a hole in the wall
It’s a dirty free for all
And they turn me on when they take it off when they take it off
Everybody take it off

I just counted. There were twenty-six—yes, twenty-six!—repetitions of the phrase “take it off”. This is a three minute and forty-three second song, which means that she said that more than once every ten seconds. Come on, Ms Ke$ha—just knock it off.

17 December 2010

Wham!: Last Christmas

So Lyrics, Weakly has been silent for a long time—and I can tell you precisely where the blame lies: Kurtis Blow’s favorite sport. Yes, one of my children decided to play basketball this past fall, and it basically sucked away all the time i would have spent bringing joy to you, the reader of this blog.

But this leads to a problem—how are songs going to receive the mockery they so surely deserve? This is a problem, particularly during this time of year, when we get subjected to the same horrible, horrible Christmas songs over and over (and over) again. Well, i hear your pain—and so i’m back, at least until my daughter decides she wants to play lacrosse or something equally time-intensive, and i’m back with a Christmas song that really defies all logic.

The song? “Last Christmas” by Wham! (and many others, most recently Taylor Swift—but Wham! gets all the credit for being first).

(You really need to click on the link to the video and watch it all the way through, by the way. I mean, there’s the 80stastic hair everybody in it has, but i also like to imagine it as a movie, providing dialogue. The dinner scene’s the most fun for that. In other news, i probably need to develop different hobbies.)

Yes, 1984 may not have brought us into a dystopia of thought crimes and memory holes, and it was actually a pretty good year for music, but it still brought us songs like this one.

(I find it somewhat amusing, by the way, that the album this song came from was titled Music from the Edge of Heaven. I suspect that that’s actually correct—it was found there as it was about to be pushed off of that edge so that it would fall into hell, where it more properly belonged. But no, George Michael had to rescue it and bring it to earth, where it gets to torture our ears every. single. year.)

So let’s get on to the lyrics, shall we?

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away

See, we’ve got an issue with logic already.

Fine, Mr. Michael, you gave her (we’ll go with her, given the video) your heart. Taken literally that’d be disgusting and a bit extreme, though certainly not without precedent. (It’d also be a bit counterproductive, since you’d be dead within a minute of giving the gift, maybe longer if you laid down first. But i digress)

But we know you don’t mean it literally (though, after listening to this song every other hour for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we might wish you did). You mean it figuratively—you mean that you told her you were in love with her.

Fine. And on Christmas, too. How cute.

But then, on Boxing Day, she gave it away. (Which, given the origins of the holiday, makes sense, at least as long as she gave it away to a commoner.)

But, tell me, how exactly did she give your heart—that is, your expression of love—away? I mean, if i were to say to you something completely random, like, oh, say, “Wang Chung didn’t last nearly as long as Wham!, but their stuff has actually aged better”.

At this point, Mr. Michael, i have given you a metaphorical bit of my mind. However, it’s not actually possible for you to give a bit of my mind, even that particular bit of my mind, to someone else. You could give them a bit of your mind, certainly, and that bit of your mind might have the same content as mine (which would be refreshingly honest of your mind, by the way), but it wouldn’t be mine. My mind isn’t for you to give away.

Same with hearts.

So anyway, we’ve got an impossible situation, but fine, we’ll roll with it—we’ll take your word for it and pretend that it’s possible. So then—now that you’ve gotten into this, how are you going to deal with it?

This year to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special

Um, doesn’t this just kind of prove my earlier point? If she actually was somehow able to give away your heart after you’d given it to her, you wouldn’t have it to give away to someone else. Since you have it, that means that she didn’t actually give it away—well, unless she gave it back to you. If that’s the case, though, then you should be happy that your circulatory system is whole again, and you should really stop complaining.

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away (you gave it away)
This year to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special (special)

Yes, he sang it again.

You know how most pop songs, you might have the chorus three times, maybe with an extra one at the end with some vamping thrown in? This chorus gets repeated six times (with occasional minor variations in the backing vocals)—and it gets repeated more times in the extended mix, if i understand correctly.

There's an extended mix of this song? Why yes, yes there is. It goes by the name of the “Pudding Mix”. I never knew Bill Cosby sang with Wham!, but then again, i don’t know a lot of things about the band, like whether the exclamation point at the end is actually a sound we should all be saying, like with the band !!! or when Xhosa clicks are phonetically transcribed.

Once bitten and twice shy

I am not posting a link to Great White’s cover of “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” here. You should all be in awe of my self-restraint.

I keep my distance but you still catch my eye

Or, in other words, Mr. Michael is now stalking her.

Tell me baby, do you recognize me?

Well, if you’re wearing a good enough disguise, then no, she won’t.

Well, it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me

Okay, this is just a bizarre line. I mean, i can’t figure out what it’s supposed to mean. Is it supposed to mean that it’s been a year and so it doesn’t surprise you that she doesn’t recognize you, or does it mean that it’s been a year and so you expect that she recognizes you, what with the anniversary of the day she gave away your heart and all? Either way, i’m managing not to care.

(Happy Christmas)

In the song, this line is whispered almost menacingly. I worry a bit about your mental stability, Mr. Michael.

I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying “I love you”, I meant it

Aha! (Or, as we might say if we were talking about a much better 80s hair-band song, a–ha!) All is clear now.

When he talks about giving her his heart, he actually means he gave her a present! (According to the video, it was apparently actually a particularly hideous jeweled brooch.) She seems to have not liked the present, and so she then proceeded to regift it to someone with poor enough taste to want it.

Now I know what a fool I’ve been
But if you kissed me now I know you'd fool me again

So if she’d just kiss you, you’d provide her with more tacky jewelry? Sounds fair to me.

(More seriously, lose the desperation, Mr. Michael. It’s not helping your cause.)

Then we get two more repetitions of the chorus, leading us to the bridge.

Oh, oh my baby

Exciting bridge.

Crowded room, friends with tired eyes
I’m hiding from you and your soul of ice

I’m trying to picture this—a big living room, people hanging around after a long evening of drinks and gossip, Mr. Michael crouching down behind the couch…

Maybe they’re tired because they’ve all spent too much time on the edge of nervousness, waiting for your inevitable snap. Or maybe you’ve already snapped, and you’re keeping everyone around to hide you from this woman with a soul of ice, who, because of that soul of ice, um, doesn’t…really want…to, um…find you.

Yeah, Mr. Michael? I think we’ve found a problem with your logic. I mean, i know this will shock you, but if she doesn’t care about you, then you have absolutely no need to hide from her.

She’s just not that into you.

My god, I thought you were someone to rely on

I’m resisting the urge to take this line and go on a riff about how it’s a statement on the existence of a loving yet distant god in relation to the problem of evil. Not because i think it wouldn’t amuse me, but because this song is starting to bore me, and i still have more than a verse to go.

Me, I guess I was a shoulder to cry on

So you caught her on the rebound and expected it to work out long-term? Dude, even a simple Google search would give you better advice.

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart

Honestly, i have no idea what this means. All i can come up with is images involving fire from zombie movies, and you can thank me now for not inking to any of them.

But whatever it means, it must be important, because Mr. Michael later repeats the whole verse it begins at the end of the song.

A man undercover but you tore him (me) apart

No, Mr. Michael, we’re on to you now—we know that it wasn’t really your heart, it was jewelry. Yeah, we know that means you’re out some cash, but don’t make it out to be some sort of medieval torture.

Ooh hoo, now I’ve found a real love
You’ll never fool me again

Well, unless your old love kisses you—then you’ll be a fool again, and presumably just as unfaithful to your current fling as your previous fling was to you. Yeah, way to promote “real” love, Mr. Michael.

And then we get two more repetitions of the chorus, plus one more repetition of the verse immediately above. I’ll be merciful and omit them, leaving you with the feeling that love is simply a game in which people tread on each other’s feelings with no worry for how the other might feel.

No, that won’t do, we need something more upbeat—Christmas is coming! Therefore, in honor of the phrase “a man undercover” in that last verse, as my Christmas present to you i give you what has to be one of the five best television theme songs ever, complete with Ted Koppel hair and mid-60s dancing white kids in the background.

(p.s. This was post number 50 for this blog. Here’s to hoping i have the time to post number 51 next week!)