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      Problematic Lyrics Within Ten Pop Songs

      November 13, 2012

      By Jeffrey Ellinger

      From the column 'Chunklet to Go Go '

      Alanis Morissette  "Not The Doctor"

      The obvious Alanis song for this list would be one of the most lyrically problematic songs of the last 20 years, the ironically titled, "Ironic," a song from which we could extract a mess of nonsense that Alanis and Glen Ballard were hopefully aware of when they wrote it. But, whether they knew having a bug in a glass of wine was ironic or not, their next song on Jagged Little Pill is a better example of lyric problems.

      It's on "Not the Doctor" that we have our protagonist expressing a desire to not have to be the one who fills the gaping maw that is her man's emotional well-being. No, in fact, she doesn't want to be a "glass of single malt whisky, hidden in the bottom drawer," an analogy that makes a person wonder, how naive was Alanis then? Because, if I'm hiding her, as whiskey, it means I want to keep her sacred. It means I love her.

      After that, she does not  need to be a "bandage if the wound is not mine. Lend me some fresh air." First of all, gross, the wound is bad enough that it needs air? Second of all, bandages need fresh air? Or, if she's not the bandage then that means she's the wound but that doesn't make any sense either because I thought she was afraid of being the healer?

      The first verse ends with not wanting to be "your mother. I didn't carry you in my womb for nine months. Show me the back door." And I understand that, not wanting be this man's mother. That would be a terrible role, he seems to be in need of serious emotional help, but what's particularly head-scratching is that Alanis wants to be shown the back door. Is she birthing this man out her butt? Because that's just not how childbirth works.

      Paul Simon  "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"

      Yes, we are given the hope that Stan and Roy will be empathic in some way, perhaps using honesty before they leave via "Making a new plan, not being coy." But, the other advice, the advice given for Lee and Jack, "dropping off the key, slipping out the back," is odious, at best. Am I saying that Paul Simon is a sociopath? No, I'm not. But I guess I'm not not saying it, either.

      Bright Eyes "Lover I Don't Have to Love"

      Let us not forget that the junior high boys from ten years ago, the ones who commented at Suicide Girls forums and had a kind of sour smell to them, they, too, had a hard time swallowing Bright Eyes lyrics.

      Incubus "Stellar"

      Evidenced by the success of Incubus' third album, Make Yourself, it would seem the late 90s were a simpler time. A time when experimenting with mushrooms and turntables could be commercially successful. A time when dreads on white people outnumbered dreads on black people. And a time when many of those dreaded white people enjoyed Incubus.  And I have to imagine it was the drugs those white people took which deadened their brains enough to believe that when Brandon Boyd sang about bringing them along to outerspace to, "watch the earth come up,"  they've would've easily imagined themselves there. And they wouldn't have found it unsettling that the reason Brandon Boyd had taken them there was because he wanted to illustrate something very specific. He wanted them all to know how it felt to, "be inside you."  Nostalgia for the 90s, for whatever time in history, really, it is almost always misplaced.

      Relient K "Mood Rings"

      If, like a normal person, you haven't heard the song "Mood Rings" from Christian pop-punk band RelientK, here are the cliff notes. Our lyricist, he's had it with women having unpredictable emotions and so he thinks up a warning system for when they're about to "blow up."  And you can be guaranteed they're going to blow up because, as we learn, "They are time bombs and they are ticking and the only question's when." 

      Yes, it only a question of when and, as we move along, we learn more about, "those girls that let their emotions get the best of them."  And isn't that just like a dame, letting emotions run her life. The fellas know what I'm talking about. Anyway, some of these girls, they're "so pretty" but they "don't always act that way." So, our songwriter comes up with a plan. Women will wear mood rings, all the time. Because, as he says, "It just kills me how they get away with murder. They'll anger you then bat their eyes. Those pretty eyes that watch you sympathize."

      Yikes, okay, so let's get these women some mood rings then. Now we can detect their emotions because when it's, "black it means watch your back because you're probably the last person in the world right now she wants to see." But, when, "it's blue it means that you should call her up immediately and ask her out because she'll most likely agree."

      To what? We don't exactly know, but she'll agree, that's for sure.  And finally, if, "it's green it simply means that she is really stressed and when it's clear it means she's completely emotionless and that's all right I must confess." 

      And you might wonder why Christians are messed up.

      Weezer "Across the Sea"

      And you might wonder if everyone who goes Harvard is a pedophile.

      Third Eye Blind "Don't Believe A Word"

      This song has a nice, kind of snare tapping backbone to the verses - if a bit '90s' sounding in 2009 - as well as an interesting enough vocal echo effect on the chorus. So, the song itself, it would be alright it wasn't for Stephen Jenkins singing at the end of the first verse, "Like an angry joke, getting dumped online. Give me back my photos will you?"

      And that, in itself, is fine. (Though it does beg the question, is Stephen Jenkins online dating? How far has he fallen since Charlize Theron, since Vanessa Carlton?) No, it's right after the stuff about online dating. It's then when he quite literally screams, "You fucking whore I’ll kill you."

      Stephen Jenkins, whoa, are you alright? (Seriously, though, did you murder someone?)

      Also, this song makes it for the bonus line of "Rap stars brag about shooting each other? Whatever happened to brother brother. We like thugs when they attack. And we like crime when it’s black on black."

      I liked it better when Stephen Jenkins sang about "little red panties" and I don't even like the word panties.

      Metallica "Sad But True"

      Technically, you can't fault a song's lyrics if they aren't actually the lyrics but it seems intrinsically wrong, especially for a band that took itself as seriously as Metallica did, that one of their song's hooks could be heard as "sad patrol." Though, when you think about it, a Metallica song about a patrol that's out cracking down on sadness would've made a much more interesting song.

      R. Kelly "I Like the Crotch on You"

      Yes, some of lyrics to this song, oh, such as, "Only if you're old enough, baby," are a bit ominous. But only because R. Kelly would later urinate on an underage girl. Going back in time and listening to it in 1993, it seems much more innocent.

      Pedro the Lion "Rejoice"

      "Wouldn't it be so wonderful if everything were meaningless. But everything is so meaningful. And most everything turns to shit. Rejoice"  Hey, if I wanted to read Ecclesiastes, David Bazan, I would read Ecclesiastes. Stop shoving your Christianity down my throat.

      PS. I know David Bazan isn't Christian. I read about it in Christianity Today. He gave an interview to the Christian magazine about not being Christian. Stop bugging the guy about being Christian. Sure, he plays a Christian music festival every once in a while and tours in support of albums he released on a Christian music label, but, come on, give the guy a break for once.

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