30 April 2010

Natalie Imbruglia: Torn

If i wanted to, i could divide the songs that have been featured here on Lyrics, Weakly into a number of different categories: There are songs that could have been good, but the lyrics are so bad that it distracts from the music; there are songs that are just plain horrible, and the lyrics are badly done as part of the whole package; there are songs that you could argue i like precisely because the lyrics are so awful it makes for a so-bad-it’s good listening experience.

And then there are songs like today’s feature, Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”: Songs i like even though the lyrics are nonsensical enough that you would have thought it would result in me downgrading it.

I can’t explain why i like this song, unless it’s the result of context—it was released in 1997, which wasn’t really a good year for music. (You don’t believe me? Just consider one fact: The Spice Girls made Spice World that year. ’Nuff said.) So maybe it’s all wrapped up in the fact that this song stayed at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for eleven weeks, thereby reducing the number of times we all had to listen to “Wannabe” yet again.

But, like i said, the lyrics of the song leave a bit to be desired. Just listen:

I thought I saw a man brought to life

Methinks Ms Imbruglia spent too much time watching Frankenstein movies growing up.

He was warm
He came around
And he was dignified

Two things here.

First of all, if someone is alive, that person is generally warm, at least assuming you think 98.6 degrees fahrenheit/​37 celsius counts as warm. (If that doesn’t count as warm to you, though, i suggest you urge this man to seek medical attention quickly.)

Second, of course he’s dignified, as any fan of Gene Wilder and/or Peter Boyle could have told you.

He showed me what it was to cry

Maybe it just comes of being a parent, but i strongly suspect that no human needs to be shown how to cry.

Maybe Ms Imbruglia isn’t human? One might now suspect. Just sayin’.

Well you couldn’t be that man I adored
You don’t seem to know
Or seem to care
What your heart is for

Ooh! Ooh! I know what the heart is for! Do i get extra credit for that?

I don’t know him anymore

In all seriousness, i can’t figure out this particular lyric—Ms Imbruglia switches from second person (you) to third person (he) without a bit of warning. Is she complaining about us, and then suddenly switches to complaining about some guy she knows? ’Cause that’s what it sounds like, and to be quite honest, if she wants me to lend a sympathetic ear to her man troubles, she really oughtn’t lead into it by kvetching about me to my face.

Or, of course, it could simply be that she doesn’t understand human emotions, and this is actually the way they talk about such things on her home world.

There’s nothin’ where he used to lie

Um, that’s because he used to lie there. See? It’s in the past tense, which means it was like that at some point previous to the present. Further, the construction ‘used to’ means that the past-tense state or action is completed, meaning it doesn’t exist that way any more. Therefore, since he used to lie there, he no longer lies there. Glad to have been able to clear that up for you!

(Sometimes it’s good to have a professional linguist around to help out in such cases. Just doing my civic duty, folks, nothing more.)

My conversation has run dry
That’s what's going on
Nothing’s right

Might i suggest medical help, yet again?

I’m torn

Or, perhaps, medical attention for other symptoms?

I’m all out of faith

Well, on that one at least i suspect WebMD isn’t going to be much help.

This is how I feel
I’m cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on the floor

If lying on the floor while naked makes you cold, it might be worth standing up, or at least lying on carpet rather than tile.

No, really, no need to thank me—just happy to help.

Illusion never changed
Into something real
I’m wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn

Normally, “torn” isn’t used to describe perfect things. So, then, if the sky is torn, it wouldn’t be perfect, right? So how can the perfect sky be torn? And if the sky was torn to any significant degree, wouldn’t we lose our atmosphere, which would mean that there was no sky at all?

In other news, this sentence is completely false.

You’re a little late
I’m already torn

You know, even taking this couplet as i’m pretty sure it was actually intended, being that torn up over someone being a little late seems like it’s kind of an extreme reaction. But maybe that’s just me.

So I guess the fortune teller’s right

Just wondering what would we do without YouTube to let us know how to gain access to such useful technologies?

(Alternatively, there’s this one, but it’s not entirely safe for work.)

I should have seen just what was there and not some holy light

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

But you crawled beneath my veins
And now, I don’t care
I have no luck
I don’t miss it all that much
There’s just so many things
That I can’t touch
I’m torn

Please see my previous comments about gaining information on treating medical "issues.

There’s nothin’ where he used to lie
My inspiration has run dry
That’s what’s going on
Nothing’s right
I’m torn

More depression.

Wow—this has really turned into a downer of a song. Therefore, i will leave you with something to lighten the mood.

23 April 2010

Tommy James and the Shondells: Hanky Panky

Welcome back to Lyrics, Weakly.

For this week’s episode, we take you back to 1966. 1966 was a pretty decent year for music, no matter what genre you prefer—for a few examples of the great things that happened that year, consider this partial list: The Beatles continued their move from just another upbeat rhythm and blues band to something original with the release of the Revolver album, arguably their best ever; Simon and Garfunkel released the Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme albums; the Beach Boys released the Pet Sounds album; Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released the Freak Out! album; Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had four (yes, four!) albums in the Billboard top ten; the Buffalo Springfield, Cream, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were formed; the Metropolitan Opera House opened in New York City; the first Mostly Mozart Festival was held in New York City; and Charley Pride got his major label deal.

In the midst of this most excellent music year, Frank Sinatra had a few chart-toppers, including the biggest hit of the year, “Strangers in the Night”—and even someone (like myself) who’s not really into Frank Sinatra has to admit that that’s just a beautifully performed song.

And what was the song that pushed Ol’ Blue-Eyes from the top of the charts?

None other than “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Yes, this was a year that gave us #1 songs like not only “Strangers in the Night” but “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers, “Monday Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas, “We Can Work It Out” and “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles, “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful, “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops, “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones, “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge, “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra, “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, and “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals.

And, um, “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. Yes, this song hit #1. Apparently, Frank Sinatra singing love songs was too complicated, and America had to move down a couple notches on the complexity scale to this thing.

(By the way, there are a lot of links in that list of #1 songs, but they’re there to jog your memory if you don’t remember hearing any of them—and also to let you compare even the least tuneful of them, not that i’m calling out Nancy Sinatra specifically here, and hear how much better it is than Mr. James and his Shondells.)

So let’s go ahead and listen to Tommy James telling us about his baby.

My baby does the hanky panky

Yes, this is a thinly-veiled—okay, a pretty much completely non-veiled—sexual reference.

I actually tried to google “hanky panky” to see whether this was actually the name of a dance craze back in the 60s (i mean, there was one called the “frug”, so it’s entirely possible), and after excluding a whole huge bunch of search results due to this song and a brand of lingerie, i conclude that no, this isn’t even a double entendre—this is about as blatantly sexual as you’re gonna get on commercial radio in the 60s.

So, you know, props for keepin’ it real and all that.

Yeah, my baby does the hanky panky

Repeated for emphasis, apparently.

My baby does the hanky panky

Um, dude? We got it the first two times.

My baby does the hanky panky

No, make that the first three times.

Hey, my baby does the hanky panky

Now you’re just gloating.

My baby does the hanky panky

No, seriously—it’s getting old now. Stop it.

Yeah, yeah, my baby does the hanky panky

Please just make it stop. Is that too much to ask?

Hey, my baby does the hanky panky

Yes. Yes, it was.

My baby does the hanky panky

Mr. James, i hate you.

Hey, my baby does the hanky panky

[vaguely coherent angry mumbling]

I saw her walkin’ on down the line

What’s that? New lyrics? Good—i was about to do something i was probably going to regret later.

And they’re even coherent—looks like we’re building up to a story here.

Yeah, you know I saw her for the very first time
A pretty little girl standin’ all alone

Ah! A story about young love! The beauty of that innocent first meeting and such.

“Hey pretty baby, can I take you home?”

Or maybe not.

You know, this strikes me as a bit forward for a first meeting. But then again, as we know by now, this girl does the hanky panky. Maybe offering a proposition right at the outset is Mr. James’s method of finding out whether she’ll put out right from the start—kind of a “tell me now before i spend twenty dollars on drinks” kind of thing. I suppose we ought to give Mr. James credit for being up-front with his desires.

Or maybe this is how he starts out because she’s actually a very specific sort of pretty little girl. Either way it works for him, i suppose.

I never saw her, never really saw her

And so now our two lovers head home together, and…


The only way this makes sense is if Mr. James is blind (which he isn’t, i checked). No, wait, i take that back. It doesn’t make sense even then, after saying I saw her walking on down the line earlier.

This is making my head hurt—not a good move for a little pop song.

My baby does the hanky panky

And now my head hurts worse.

Yeah, my baby does the hanky panky

Seriously, dude, stop it. Now.

But, of course, Mr. James doesn’t stop it.

And in the interest of your continued sanity, i’ll skip the three repetitions of this line that immediately follow. For those of you keeping score at home, though, those additional three repetitions mean that Mr. James has seen fit to tell us fifteen times that the woman he propositioned is sexually active.

I’m starting to wonder about that, by the way—Mr. James is starting to sound like there’s a bit more talk than action going on in his bedroom, you know?

Anyway, now we get to more storyline.

I saw her walkin’ on down the line

Oh, cool—it looks like we’re going to get a bit more detail about how he met her. That’s good—maybe we’ll finally find out what was going on with the whole I saw her vs. I never saw her paradox.

Yeah, you know I saw her for the very first time

Oh, dear. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

A pretty little girl standin’ all alone
“Hey pretty baby, can I take you home?”
I never saw her, never really saw her


You mean it’s not enough to repeat the same six words over and over and over, you even have to repeat the only semblance of storyline word-for-word?

And that means…Oh, please, for the love of all that is holy, no.

Hey, my baby does the hanky panky
Yeah, my baby does the hanky panky
My baby does the hanky panky
My baby does the hanky panky
My baby does the hanky panky
Yeah, my baby does the hanky panky
My baby does the hanky panky
Yeah, my baby does the hanky panky
Hey, my baby does the hanky panky


Nine more times, no less.

Yes, twenty-four times we had to be told that Mr. James is getting busy with his girlfriend. Dude and dudette, just get a room and leave the rest of us alone, okay?

Anyway, sorry to subject all of you to a song this repetitive. As a consolation prize for having made it through all this, i offer you this amazing video—it starts out with one of the most amazingly psychedelic lyrics i’ve ever heard from before the psychedelic rock era, and evolves into an even more psychedelic performance. Seriously, don’t give up on it after the first minute or so, and take the opportunity to learn more about the sexual fetishes that existed in 1944 than you ever thought existed—they had more going on than you ever dreamed, apparently. You’ll never think of your grandparents and great-grandparents the same way.

09 April 2010

Ke$ha: Tik Tok

So Lyrics, Weakly is going to be preempted next week by your host flying in really tiny airplanes across Alaska, so this week i’ll be taking on a song that i’ve wanted to deal with for months: the hit song “Tik Tok”, by the unpronounceably named Ke$ha.

I’ve held back on this one up to this point even though the idiocy of the lyrics strikes me anew every time i hear it come up on the radio, though. Why? Because i can’t escape the feeling that Ke$ha (sorry, can’t type that with a straight face—her name’s actually Kesha Rose Sebert) wrote lyrics that idiotic completely on purpose. But you know what? I’ve decided that idiocy is idiocy, even when it’s a front.

So let’s join our heroine (technically our antiheroine, i suppose) as she starts our story at the beginning of her busy, busy day…

Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy (Hey, what up girl?)

So you wake up in the morning feeling like an overweight black man? That makes this, I think, the only reference to hallucinogens in this entire song.

Oh, and Ms Sebert—i would have thought that someone as with it and hip and all as you profess to be would realize that, at least in the United States, calling Diddy “P Diddy” is so five years ago.

Put my glasses on, I’m out the door
I’m gonna hit this city (Let’s go)

I would recommend against hitting cities. Since they’re usually made of things like asphalt and steel and tempered glass, you’re more likely to end up with bruises on your hand than anything else.

Well, unless this city is built on rock and roll. In that case, go right ahead.

Before I leave brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back

Two completely separate but related idiocies here.

First of all: You brush your teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniels?!? Yes, i realize that whiskey has a fairly high alcohol content and so may have antimicrobial properties, but really, regular brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is your best route to dental health.

And then the next line gives the reason for this unconventional dental health regimen. So why, exactly, is Ms Sebert doing this? Because she isn’t coming back tonight.

Yeah, that works. And you know why i’m going to eat lunch around midday tomorrow? Because my coat needs cleaning.

Makes about as much sense as she did.

I’m talking pedicure on our toes, toes
Trying on all our clothes, clothes

I’m sure that all the retail clerks and pedicure practitioners (what are they actually called, anyway?) out there will be more than happy to serve your drunkard’s breath-smelling self, Ms Sebert. It just makes their day when a lush walks into their place and demands service, it really does.

Boys blowing up our phones, phones

I know what this line is supposed to mean, but i can’t get away from the literal reading.

Drop-topping, playing our favorite CDs

I think my life would be perfect and complete if one of these was a recording of Los Romeros performing Vivaldi guitar concertos.

Pulling up to the parties
Trying to get a little bit tipsy

Trying? This from a woman who brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels? All i can say is either you’re not trying hard enough, or you’ve built up a really frightening tolerance.

Don’t stop, make it pop

Notice that she never tells us what this it is that’s supposed to pop. I’m not certain, but i have my suspicions.

DJ, blow my speakers up

More explosions. All we need is a car chase, and we’ve got a summer movie.

Tonight, Ima fight
Til we see the sunlight

Drunken catfight!

Tick tock, on the clock
But the party don’t stop no
Woah-oh uh oh
Woah-oh uh oh

The party isn’t stopping even though the clock is ticking? Wow, she is a party animal. I know that any parties i go to stop instantly the moment the clock starts ticking.

In other news, i sometimes use sarcasm on this blog.

Ain’t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer
Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here

Can somebody explain that last line to me? I mean, i’m trying to imagine a conversation in which that would be a logical thing to say. Well, unless somebody asked her how much money she has and where she is, which is just a bizarre thing to ask someone at a party, but she apparently goes to different parties than i do. And even if that’s what she was asked, the but in the middle of the line continues to make no sense.

You know, i may be on thin ice about this, but i’m starting to suspect that some of the phrases Ms Sebert uses in this song are simply to fill gaps in the meter rather than actually conveying logical meaning in any of the ways people usually use language.

And now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger


Mick Jagger?

Mick Jagger, the lead singer of the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger?

I generally put links to pictures in this blog, but i think this merits an actual picture right here:

You really mean that is what a guy has to look like for you to allow him to hang out with you?

So not only are you a drunk with no sense of logic, you’re also either blind or have no taste.

I’m voting no taste, by the way.

I’m talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk
Boys trying to touch my junk, junk
Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk

Nice double standard—you’re allowed to get drunk, but this Mick Jagger-looking dude isn’t? Now you’re a jerk, too.

Now, now we goin’ til they kicked us out, out
Or the police shut us down, down
Police shut us down, down
Po-po shut us

Ima let you finish, but the Police were the best shut-down trio in the business!

DJ, you build me up, you break me down
My heart, it pounds, yeah, you got me
With my hands up you got me now
You got that sound, yeah, you got me
DJ, you build me up, you break me down
My heart, it pounds, yeah, you got me
With my hands up
Get your hands up
Put your hands up

This bridge makes no sense either. The DJ builds her up and breaks her down, all because of the sound? I mean, I get the heart pounding thing—heart palpitations are a symptom of binge drinking, after all—but the rest of it simply seems an excuse to break out the Auto-Tune while continuing to say nothing. Again.

Now, the party don’t start until I walk in

So up to this line we had her pegged as a drunken jerk with no sense of logic or taste. Let’s add arrogant to the list of character traits.

Yeah, you’re making yourself look real desirable here, Ms Sebert.

And for what it’s worth, the party was going fine before you walked in. You walking in simply brought in enough alcohol vapors that the place is explosive now.

And then we get a few more repetitions of the chorus, which i’ll skip—i think i’ve had quite enough of this encounter, and y’all probably have to.

I’ll see y’all in two weeks. Go party in the meantime, and be happy neither Ke$ha nor Mick Jagger is there.

02 April 2010

Duran Duran: Is There Something I Should Know?

You know, people really don’t give Duran Duran enough credit, i’d argue. Yeah, like many new-wave synthpop bands they were better known for their hair and clothing than their musicianship, but this was a band that could actually perform, and perform well. Unfortunately, their ability to write quality lyrics was a bit more hit-or-miss. Take, for example, their hit “Is There Something I Should Know?”, which aside from ending in a question mark and therefore providing tons of headaches for later writers (should I or should I not have placed a comma after the song name?), is wonderfully catchy but garbled enough to make no sense whatsoever.

And it’s not like this is something the song works into—it starts out pretty intensely, but really rather nonsensically.

Please please tell me now, please please tell me now
Please please tell me now, please please tell me now

You know, Duran Duran, i’d happily tell you, and i’d happily tell you now, in fact, except that you haven’t given me enough context to be able to figure out what in the world i’m supposed to tell you.

Well, unless i’m supposed to take you literally and say “Now”, in which case this is a pretty silly request.

I made a break I run out yesterday
Tried to find my mountain hideaway
Maybe next year maybe no go

So let’s parse this and see if it makes any sense.

So the Misters Duran have escaped from something. It’s gotta be something big—prison, or maybe they’re soldiers behind enemy lines?—since they’ve got to go hide out in the mountains.

But then they decide, oh, never mind, maybe next year. No biggie.

Ah. So that means that the answer to the implied question i started this section of the post with—does this makes any sense?—is no. Glad to get that figured out.

I know you’re watching me every minute of the day yeah

Paranoia’s the destroyer, dudes.

I’ve seen the signs and the looks and the pictures that give your game away yeah

First of all…No, never mind, there is no first of all. There is only vague confusion.

I guess this is the reason for the paranoia in the preceding line. After all, there are very few situations in which one would ever be associated with things like signs and glances and photographs, so obviously the person or people that the Durans are running from are not to be trusted.

There’s a dream that strings the road
With broken glass for us to hold
And I cut so far before I have to say

I’ve tried to come up with something to say about this, i really have, but it’s so completely meaningless that it’s just not possible. I mean, if there were a coherent message embedded in here, even the vaguest bit of narrative coherence, well then i could say something. But if someone comes at you with completely pathological speech, there’s no sensible reaction except maybe to pat their hand and reassure them it’ll all be okay if they calm down.

Please please tell me now is there something I should know

Okay, then, i will. You should know that nobody’s going to believe your little conspiracy theories. Harsh, i know, but it’s true.

Is there something I should say that’ll make you come my way

If they’re chasing you into a mountain hideaway, it sounds like you don’t need to say anything at all—they’re going to come after you whether you say anything or not.

Do you feel the same cause you don’t let it show

No, they’re chasing you, you’re being chased. Believe me, those two roles do feel quite different.

People stare and cross the road from me
And jungle drums they all clear the way for me
Can you read my mind can you see in the snow

Mm-hmm, let’s see…Things are pretty stressful for the Durans, i see. People cross the street to avoid them, there are jungle drums beating, i don’t get why that clears their path but whatever, it does, there’s more paranoia, par for the course, expecting that your pursuers can read your mind, and then…What?!?

Where in the world does can you see in the snow come from??

I think i jut suffered a whiplash injury to the logical reasoning section of my brain. I mean, what in the world does this have to do with anything else in this song?

And fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door

Aha! Snow is a problem because of all those fiery dancing demons.

No, never mind, this still doesn’t work. Sorry.

Don’t say you’re easy on me you're about as easy as a nuclear war

According to the 1983 documentary WarGames, though, global thermonuclear war is easy—it’s tic-tac-toe that’s hard.

And then we get more neediness, with the Durans asking, nay, pleading that we tell them…well, exactly what we’re supposed to tell them i’m not sure, but it’s certainly something, right?

Please please tell me now is there something I should know
Is there something I should say that’ll make you come my way
Please please tell me now can you see what makes me blow
Can you see how much I’d die every time it passes by
Please please tell me now what it takes to make it show
Is there something I should know
Is there something I should know

Well, I guess so. Deuced if i know what it is, though.

(p.s. Is there any way to spin the can you see what makes me blow line into anything other than either a drug or sex reference? I can’t come up with any alternative, but then again, i wasn’t one of the cool kids in the early 80s, so maybe i’m just missing something obvious.)