24 September 2010

Spice Girls: Wannabe

So this week Lyrics, Weakly takes a trip back to 1996 (well, more 1997 in the United States), and specifically back to the start of the whole Spice Girls phenomenon and their debut single, “Wannabe”.

Yep, they named a song allegedly about girl power and friendship (though, as you’ll see below, it really seems to be about much weirder stuff than that) with a word denoting someone trying to fit in with a group that’s more popular than they naturally are. Something’s really rather bizarre about that disjunction, you know?

But the Spice Girls really were a bizarre thing overall, weren’t they? They claimed to be all about girl power, but they were also presented so as to appeal to a pretty wide range of male fantasies (the redheaded one, the athletic one, the rich and well-dressed one, the dark-skinned one, and—most creepily—the one presented as a large-breasted fifteen-year-old). Basically, the Spice Girls were a heterosexual Village People.

Anyway, here are the lyrics to the song. All of the Spice Girls take various turns in this, but i’m not about to try to identify which one delivers which line, or which one is the lead singer—i’m really not taken enough with them to spend that much effort on figuring out which voice is whose. You’ll just have to take it as a given, then, that there’s a good bit of call-and-response going on here, and so the pronoun shifts aren’t actually as jarring as they might look in print.

That said, the discourse incoherence is jarring at times. Like, oh, in the very first verse…

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

Cool. I mean, it’s not like I have the means of giving it to you, what with you being in a British band and me being on the other side of the Atlantic and all, but it’s nice to know what’s on your Christmas list. You know, should i ever be in a position to provide you with what you really, really want.

So tell me what you want, what you really really want

And this comes from someone else in the band. Nice of her, i think—she hears that her bandmate has a need, and so she signals that she wants to know the details of the request, presumably so that she can fulfill the need (at least, if she has the resources to do so).

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

No, dude, your friend already said you should tell her—if you repeat this in that context it simply sounds like a desperate plea for attention. And, of course, you being a Spice Girl, you wouldn’t want to give the impression that you’re after undue attention, would you?

So tell me what you want, what you really really want

Nice of her friend—i’d’ve already walked away. (But then again, i have better things to do with my time than engage verbal teases in conversation—i mean, i could be at YouTube watching Russians yodel or something useful like that.)

But it appears our tease of a Spice Girl is finally going to give an answer, namely:

I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna

With this much buildup, it must be something amazing!

I wanna really really really wanna zigaziga ha

Or not.

Seriously, every time i hear this verse (and i’ve been hearing it way too often writing this up) i feel like i’ve been rickrolled. I mean, zigaziga ha?!? Seriously?

But maybe this bit of arcane cant will be explained in the verses that follow. I mean, there’s no way we’ll be left with something that meaningless, right?

If you want my future forget my past

Read: I know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. And i plan to invoke my fifth amendment rights should you ask how i came by that knowledge.

If you wanna get with me better make it fast
Now don’t go wasting my precious time
Get your act together we could be just fine

It appears that the particular Spice Girl who’s singing here is really, really worried about her biological clock. This is perhaps unexpected, given that the oldest of them was about 24 years old when this song was released, but i suppose that that only goes to show how much value our modern Angloamerican society places on motherhood. There’s a sociology dissertation in there waiting to be written, i’m thinking.

(If you’re interested, i’ll even provide you with a title to use: On the Relationship Between Lyrical Content of Modern Dance Songs and Maternal Longing: A Post-Lacanian Analysis. No, no need to thank me—you don’t even have to acknowledge my contribution if you use it. In fact, upon further thought, please don’t acknowledge my contribution if you use it.)

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

You’re just toying with us now, aren’t you?

So tell me what you want, what you really really want

You know, this response has gone beyond niceness—it’s now just enabling. You really want to avoid these sorts of co-dependence issues, you know.

I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna
I wanna really really really wanna zigazig ha

Well, i guess we should at least be happy that she only claimed she’d tell us what she really, really wanted once before providing us with this line this time.

Small blessing—it’s all about counting the small blessings.

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends
Make it last forever friendship never ends

So this starts out actually making sense—if you want to be some particular Spice Girls’ lover you first have to pass through the gauntlet of being approved by her friends. Fine—that’s ordinary enough. But if you’re going to make such a request, you could at least give a rational reason for it. But the reason that’s given here? Because friendship never ends.

Right. That’s why all of you have been hanging out with the same people since kindergarten, right?

Of course not! Friendships ebb and flow—it’s part of the whole circle of life thing. There’s no shame in admitting that you won’t always be friends with the people you’re friends with now—just deal with it.

Of course, there may be shame in admitting you’re a very young woman with biological clock neuroses, but we’ve already dealt with that line of the song.

If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give

I’m guessing they named themselves the Spice Girls because Material Girl was already in use?

Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is

First, i wish to highlight the triteness of the way this line ends—i mean, that’s the way it is? What, was the Pop-Song-O-Matic 5000 down the weekend this song was written, so they couldn’t come up with anything better? Even worse, is is, as far as i can tell, being used here as a rhyme for give. Really? You couldn’t even have come up with something that rhymed with the word give?!?

Here, try this: Taking is too easy, so that’s how you will live. It’s no better than the actual line in the song, sure, but i spent all of about four seconds on it and it actually rhymes—and it was easy to come up with, and i’m an amateur!

Second, taking is too easy? Um, you just said that this guy has to give—sounds like you’re gonna be doing some taking, but he doesn’t get to. Sounds, um, fair. You know, if you come across someone who really is that desperate to sleep with you, that is.

What do you think about that now you know how I feel
Say you can handle my love are you for real

If he’s imaginary he can handle anything you want him to handle, i’m thinking.

I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try

But earlier you said you wanted him to hurry—but you reserve the right not to?

Yeah, i’m calling you out right here as nothing but a manipulative b…um…ackbiter.

If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye

First of all, by now the guy you’re singing to may be craving such a release.

But also, what’s the big deal about this? I mean, isn’t that the way romantic relationships work? Seriously—we don’t dwell on it all that much, but there’s a reason there are a lot of breakup songs, it’s because people end relationships with some frequency.

Face it, this doesn’t make you special. At all.

Yo I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

I already know what you want, what you really, really want—you want to be able to dictate all of the terms of your relationships. And i suspect you’re going to be successful at that, too. Amazing what semi-attractive people are able to get away with, isn’t it?

So tell me what you want, what you really really want
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna
I wanna really really really wanna

Might i suggest a chocolate biscuit?

zigaziga ha

No such luck.

By the way, according to various sources on the internet, one of the Spice Girls has informed the world that zigaziga ha actually means sex. I think this is like Bryan Adams claiming that the song “Summer of ’69” is actually about sex, not about 1969—if you say something stupid in a song and people call you on it, claim it’s about sex. Somebody’ll believe you.

You know what? I don’t.

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends

I didn’t mention it earlier, but if this song is about sex, this is an almost-creepy line—to “get with” someone is to engage in romantic touching, possibly even sexual acts. So, once again if this song really is about sex, it seems to also be about polyamory.

Not necessarily an intrinsically bad thing, but not something my obviously old-fashioned-and-stuck-in-the-simpler-times-of-the-eighties self is really comfortable with pre-teens singing about, you know?

Make it last forever friendship never ends
If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give
Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is

Another option: Taking is too easy, but my brain’s like a sieve.

And now we get told about various personality traits of members of the group—and i’ll warn you, things get somewhat less family-friendly here.

So here’s a story from A to Z, you wanna get with me
you gotta listen carefully

So if i don’t want to get with you, i get to ignore you? Cool—two wins with one action!

We got Em in the place who likes it in your face

Oh. My.

I’m trying to maintain a PG rating here, i really am, but…

Wow. There’s really not much i can say about this one, then, is there. (Warning: Link almost certainly unsafe for work.)

We got G like MC who likes it on an

This is, quite seriously, the entire line. As a result, i really do have nothing to say about this—mainly because there’s no actual propositional content.


Easy V doesn’t come for free, she's a real lady

So whichever Spice Girl happens to be V, i’m finding it impossible to come up with a non-sexual reading for this. In fact, i’m finding it impossible to come up with a reading for this in which her sexual activities are, um, non-professional. Well, i guess we now know the sort of women the soccer players are into these days.

And as for me you’ll see

Hey! Finally! We’re going to find out what the lead singer wants, what she really really wants.

It’s about time.

So what is it? Let’s listen carefully, as we find out that she wants the object of her affections to…

Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down and wind it all around

Um, yeah.

Well, at least we have a better idea of where this singer gets her inspiration.

(And then we get a reminder that if you want to be her lover, not only must you perform acts designed to create pain for yourself, but you also must get with her friends. I’ll skip it, which brings us, blessedly, to the end.)

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta
You gotta, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta

Maybe the problem is actually that she’s a stutterer?

Slam, slam, slam, slam
Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down zigaziga ah
If you wanna be my lover

Sorry, not interested, you’re asking for too much that isn’t really my kind of kink. Thanks for being up-front with your desires, though—it’s certainly saved us both a lot of time.

22 September 2010

My one big user-interface problem with Blogger

So i decided on a song for this Friday’s installment of Lyrics, Weakly, but it was such a tempting target that i wanted to make sure i hadn’t discussed it before and simply forgot about it. To make sure, i went over to the blog and…well, it didn’t look right. The most recent post was Boys Don’t Cry’s “I Wanna Be a Cowboy”, which was not what i expected to see there. So i poked around, and discovered that i had left last Friday’s post a draft, never actually publishing it to the blog.

(Really, now that they’ve fixed the Chinese porn spam problem, my biggest complaint with Blogger is that the buttons to publish and to save as a draft are right next to each other—i’ve been caught by that a couple times on another blog i write, so you would have thought i’d’ve learned by now to always check the blog right after something gets published. But no, apparently not…)

Anyway, rather than put last Friday’s post up this morning, i’m deferring it to this Friday so it’s at the top of the page for a full week—it deserves it, as i’m sure you’ll agree when you see what it is. Of course, that means that you’ll have to wait an extra week to see what horrors managed to hit #1 in 1983, but in exchange for getting a full week to revel in the horrors that hit #1 in 1996? Yeah, 1983 can wait.

10 September 2010

Boys Don’t Cry: I Wanna Be a Cowboy

And so this week, Lyrics, Weakly travels back in time to 1986.

You know, 80s music is big on the radio right now—there are lots of radio stations playing all 80s music, all the time. And if you listen to these stations, you could be forgiven for thinking that that was a really great decade for rock music—i mean, you’ve got everything from the new wave of the Cure and the Smiths and the Police to the synth-pop of Soft Cell and Tears for Fears to classic rap and hip-hop from Run-DMC and A Tribe Called Quest to really excellent straight-ahead pop from Michael Jackson and Duran Duran and Madonna when she made good music. (I mean, even the hair metal of bands like Poison and Twisted Sister is fun in a campy sort of way.)

But then you hear a song like Boys Don’t Cry’s “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” and you remember that this was a top-twenty hit back in the day, and you figure out the secret to why 80s radio stations sound so good—it’s because they can pick and choose from an entire decade to flesh out their playlists, and they can just pretend that horrors like that song never existed.

So how much of a horror is it? Well, first i’d suggest clicking through the link above and watching the video if you haven’t already, and basking in the amazement of the flat, tuneless delivery on the part of “singer” Nick Richards (co-writer of the song with bandmate Brian Chatton) along with the complete disregard for the intricacies of meter and rhyme. (And that’s not to mention the whole “What the [insert expletive of choice here]?”-ness of the video itself.)

And then, after that, we can get to the actual words of the song.

Riding on the range
I’ve got my hat…on
I’ve got my boots…dusty

So Mr. Richards is telling us about his day, going through all the normal stuff—you know, where he is, what he’s wearing.

I like the pauses, by the way—evidence that he’s checking to make sure that he’s telling the truth. I imagine that in concert he might singchant I’ve got my hat…off/​I’ve got my boots…actually, i’m wearing sneakers up here.

I’ve got my saddle
On my horse

As opposed, of course, to having his saddle on his cat.

He’s called…T‑t‑t‑t‑t‑t‑trigger
Of course

Yes, yes, of course. But i’m thinking that “Hi-yo, T‑t‑t‑t‑t‑t‑trigger, away!” might be kind of hard to consistently say, and that could be a problem. I mean, what if you’re in a hurry and you accidentally say “Hi-yo T‑t‑trigger, away!” and somebody else’s horse takes off, leaving you sitting in place and about to be caught by the posse? Yeah, sure, it sounded like a cool name when you came up with it, but it’s gonna get you stuck in jail one of these days, mark my words.

I wanna be a cowboy
and you can be my cowgirl
I wanna be a cowboy
and you can be my cowgirl
I wanna be a cowboy

Wait a minute—you only want to be a cowboy? So you bought the outfit (and horse), figuring that then you could make a better case for it? Well, most people would have just sent out a resumé, but whatever works for you, i guess.

And i have to admit that i’m really struggling here with the whole “cowgirl” motif—i hear that word, and all i can think of is the movie with perhaps the worst trailer in the history of cinematography, Mad Cowgirl. (If you wish, you can view the trailer here, but i’ll warn you that, aside from being vaguely unsafe for work, it’s…disturbing, and not in a good way. The rest of you can read the synopsis at its Wikipedia page.)

Alternately, maybe Mr. Richards is suggesting that the woman he’s singing to would be happier if affiliated with the Monster Raving Loony Party? Yeah, that makes more sense—this whole song is actually a political manifesto.

And now we get an interlude in which the speaker is female. I’ll mark these lines by underlinging them, so that you can tell them apart from the lines Mr. Richards singshaltingly speaks. (Background vocals are in parentheses, as you’d expect.)

Riding on the chuck wagon

A woman’s place being in the kitchen, even out on the range, eh?

Following my man
His name is Ted
Can you believe that?

Why yes, yes i can. Ted is most certainly a name, a fairly common name in fact, and it is also a man’s name. Therefore, yes, i can believe that your man’s name is Ted.

Also, this is even more believable when i consider that Mr. Richards’s first name is Nick, and by identifying your man’s name as Ted and not Nick, you are showing the sort of wise judgment i would expect of any woman.

(Ted, on Ted, fighting off danger)
Camping on the prairie
Plays havoc with my hair

Semi-random pop culture note: There are actually multiple places on the interwebs where you can find the traces of people seriously discussing the hairstyles from the series Little House on the Prairie. I don’t know what this says about our world, but it can’t be good.

Makes me feel quite dirty
Though we all do sometimes

You know, i realize that this is supposed to be a double entendre, especially since it’s delivered in a breathy and supposedly-seductive voice, but i can’t help but giggle a little inside every time i hear it—and while i’ll admit to liking a good laugh now and again, I’m really not the sort of person who gets all hot and bothered by it. (Warning: That last link is unsafe for work, and could raise some serious eyebrows if your significant other sees you there.)

(Ted gets so dirty)

Well, the unnamed woman already told us they all feel quite dirty sometimes, so this isn’t much of a surprise. But thanks for working to keep us informed, background singing Greek chorus!

I wanna be a cowboy
and you can be my cowgirl
I wanna be a cowboy
and you can be my cowgirl
I wanna be a cowboy

We already knew this, Mr. Richards. Repeating it over and over makes you just seem desperate for the position—and that’s not likely to be helpful.

Looking like a hero
Six-gun at my side
Chewing my tobacco

Really? Imagine this in your mind’s eye, folks. I don’t know what you get, but i get something like this, but holding a pistol. Not my particular image of a hero, but your mileage may vary, i suppose.

Out on the horizon
I see a puff of smoke

Apparently, while Mr. Richards is into the use of smokeless tobacco products, others around him are smoking cigarettes.

Indians on the warpath
(White man speaking with forked tongue isn’t it?)

So that last line wasn’t sung by the background singers, but rather it was spoken by someone who was supposedly speaking like an Indian—and all i can really say is “Wow”. I mean, dude, i’m not an American Indian, but even i feel insulted by that line.

Or not

No, no, after you’ve portrayed them that way, i’d argue that they have every right to head out on the warpath after you.

I wanna be a cowboy
and you can be my cowgirl
I wanna be a cowboy

More desperation from Mr. Richards.

My name is Ted

No, it’s not—we’re already aware that your name is Nick. Also, i don’t care how much of a ditz the woman who sang earlier is, she’s going to figure that out, too. Just give it up.

(Oh yippee yippee-yo-yo)

If you listen to the track, you can hear that this is the point where the background singing Greek chorus got into the helium.

And one day I’ll be dead yo yo

But sadly, not before producing this song.

But, to its credit, i think we can all agree that the yo yo appended to the end of this line makes it the worst-delivered line in all of 80s music.

Well, okay, so i guess that’s not much of a compliment—but after a song like this we take what we can get, right?

03 September 2010

Blink-182: All the Small Things

This is a momentous episode in the broadcast history of Lyrics, Weakly: This is the first song that’s being covered here by request of one of my children. Yes, I’ve dealt with some songs because my children have drawn my attention to them, but this one was an actual request from a child, since, as she said herself, the words to it make absolutely no sense.

It almost brings a tear of paternal pride to my eye, it does.

Anyway, the song that was requested was a song by Blink-182 (or, according to some sources, Blink 182—i’ve run across some intense arguments on the net about putting in or leaving out the hyphen, and you know, i don’t care enough to even link to them), the 2000 top-ten hit “All the Small Things”.

I’ll happily admit that it’s a fun song to listen to, but it’s not one i ever really got into—and i also never took the time to listen to the lyrics. Now that i have, i can say that this is one of the most non sequitur-laced songs out there. I mean, it certainly wouldn’t displace my nominee for the top spot in that category, but it may well be in the top five.

This is not an honor to covet.

But enough about that—you’re not here to hear me talk about non sequiturs, you’re here to hear me point them out as they come up. So sit back and listen to the words that Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge came up with, presumably while he was so shorted on sleep that he couldn’t think straight.

All the small things

Oh, cool—Mr. DeLonge is apparently writing a song about really small things, like the three-and-a-half-inch long Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur, or the 1.3 gram Etruscan Shrew, or the four-inch long Barbados Threadsnake, or maybe even the 139-micrometer long parasitic wasp Dicopomorpha echmepterygis. It’s always good to see a punk-pop artist taking an interest in the life sciences.

According to the always-reliable Wikipedia page for this song, though, Mr. DeLonge wrote this song for Jennifer Jenkins, the woman who later married him. I’m rather surprised she didn’t take being compared to a parasitic wasp rather personally, but then again i’m not a rock star’s girlfriend.

True care truth brings

What does this line even mean? I mean, i haven’t even ripped it out of its syntactic context—it really makes no sense.

Oh well, everybody has a bad line now and again. I’m sure it won’t happen again, right, Mr. DeLonge?

I’ll take one lift
Your ride best trip

I’m trying hard to make sense out of this, i really am.

But the best i can do with this is that Mr. DeLonge is promising Ms Jenkins that he’s going to bum rides off of her. I wouldn’t have thought that such behavior was an auspicious sign for a relationship, but what do i know?

Always I know
You’ll be at my show
Watching, waiting

Commiserating about the fact that she has to listen to songs like this, I’m thinking.

(Sometimes a lyricist just hands you a gift, you know?)

Say it ain’t so

Okay. It ain’t so.

I will not go
Turn the lights off
Carry me home

Okay, we’ve got issues again.

After all, if you get carried home, Mr. DeLonge, you’re presumably being carried from a place that is not home. Therefore, if someone fulfills your request for carrying, you will in fact be going from the not-home place you were at when you first made the claim that you will not be going.

In any event, you end up not telling the truth, and that as a result of your own ordering of others around. Hope that teaches you a lesson.

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

Wow. Now i see why Mr. DeLonge gets all the adoring fans, what with being able to write lyrics that get to the heart of human relationships so concisely as this very line.

Late night come home
Work sucks I know

Dude? You’re a big-name rock star. Even if you hate your job, none of the rest of us want to hear it, okay? (And we wouldn’t believe you anyway.)

She left me roses by the stairs
Surprises let me know she cares

Yes, of course—this is the way i know my wife cares for me, when she leaves roses some place other than, say, in a water-filled vase on the table. It really lets me know that romance has reached its greatest heights when roses are just left any old place to die.

Say it ain’t so
I will not go
Turn the lights off
Carry me home

Wait a minute—this is sounding familiar. In fact, if i recall correctly, it was the lead-in to the line that…Oh, please, not that again—not already!

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

Yes, already.

(And then we get another repeat of the chorus, skipped here, but thankfully without yet anotherna, na, na” drone.)

Keep your head still
I’ll be your thrill

Just for a moment, imagine someone saying this to you in real life: “Keep your head still, [insert your name here], I’ll be your thrill!”

I submit that this can only mean that something dangerous is about to happen, and it’s going to come at your expense. Basically, it’s time to run away.

But somehow, here it’s romantic. Right? Or something.

The night will go on
My little windmill

My little windmill?!?

This has got to be the worst pet name in the entire English language since Percy Bysshe Shelley used to call Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley “Pecksie”.

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

Oh, no—stealth “na, na, na”s!

And after that, we get repeats of previous choruses—but i think we’ve heard quite enough already, yes?

In closing, though, i must say that i’m very happy that Mr. DeLonge and Ms Jenkins ended up getting along so well. After all, judging by the romance level of the images in this song i’m sure i wouldn’t be happy in a relationship like this, but different strokes and all that, right?