The six types of insane song lyrics

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If you love music, and music videos, you start seeing patterns.

Here’s what I’ve learned from dissecting lyrics and making fun of music videos: it’s easy to put them into categories, both amazingly awful and insanely great, and there are SIX KINDS, because I say so.

The six types are:

1) Boring Pop Songs

These are trite little pieces of drivel, sung by boy bands, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears, written at a fourth-grade level because they’re meant to be consumed by seventh-graders.

It’s the kind of thing that makes the average Madonna song look deep.

What’s the acid test for Boring Pop Songs? If you do a “find and replace” in word for “oh baby” and half the lyrics disappear.

2) Pretentious Pop

Vivid imagery that’s poetic, yet confusing. That’s your basic recipe for pretentious pop, which is equally bad whether it’s (a) some boy band trying to get deep or (b) Sting trying to show everybody he went to college, and yes, I adore the Stinger, so that’s said out of love, because he usually hits the mark. Related: Sting nails it with WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU?

Here’s some infamous nonsense from The Decemberists, who specialize in Pretentious Pop:

Fifteen lithesome maidens lay
Along in their bower
Fourteen occupations pay
To pass the idle hour

3) Cryptic Yet Meaningful Goodness

AMERICAN PIE is the best example of this. Are the lyrics deep and confusing? Absolutely. Yet if you dig deep into it, line-by-line, they make sense.

Continue reading “The six types of insane song lyrics”

DOWN ON MY LUCK by Vic Mensa is different and special

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Typically, I usually dive into the lyrics of a song, dissecting the true meaning of ELECTRIC AVENUE or parsing every line of Vanilla Ice’s unappreciated classic, ICE, ICE BABY, which was tarnished only by his lame followup song about ninja turtles and his habit of trashing sets and terrorizing TV journalists, though now Vanilla is all grown up and remodeling houses on television or whatever.

This music video by Vic the Mensa is the rare beast where the visuals are more worthy of dissecting. Check it out.

Vic does something unusual here, turning a music video into a short film where his character repeats the same scene in a nightclub again and again, with different choices and results.

If you’re a screenwriter, you’ll start throwing out RASHOMON references and point out how this is nothing like MEMENTO, since that movie reversed the order of all scenes. To get technical, this music video is more like GROUNDHOG DAY or THE EDGE OF TOMORROW, which the studios are renaming LIVE, DIE REPEAT instead of the original comic title, which is far more superior – ALL YOU NEED IS KILL.

Back to this video: This piece by Vic is far, far better than the typical music videos where (a) the lead singer looks mournful while he croons about lost love, (b) the lead singer tries to look sexy while backup dancers gyrate, or (c) random things happen in slow motion because the director thought it would be awesome to hire a bunch of art students do smash eggs on their heads and such, making the video somehow deep.

I appreciate how there are new twists every time, with the sequences lining up with Vic’s lyrics.

He avoided all the usual clichés and gave us something different. Well played.

The poetry of TEAM by Lorde

music video meme sound of music

We live in an age when “Boom! Crash!” passes as a good foundation for the lyrics of a hit song. So this young upstart from NZ, Lorde, is quite refreshing in how she treats lyrics as a chance for some poetry set to music.

Maybe she gets it from her mother, a famous poet. I don’t even care if her mom helps write the lyrics, since just about every band these days hires songwriters, choreographers and engineers at the mixboard. You can buy everything and simply show up, if you want.

Here’s the music video, which is interesting:

And below are the lyrics. I like how she flips things, saying a line once, then twisting it the next time. About the only thing to pick on are the “so there” lines, which felt out of place amidst all the imagery and goodness. But it’s a far, far cry from your typical pop song.

TEAM by Lorde

Wait ’til you’re announced
We’ve not yet lost all our graces
The hounds will stay in chains
Look upon Your Greatness and she’ll send the call out
(Send the call out) [15x]

Call all the ladies out
They’re in their finery
A hundred jewels on throats
A hundred jewels between teeth
Now bring my boys in
Their skin in craters like the moon
The moon we love like a brother, while he glows through the room

Dancing around the lies we tell
Dancing around big eyes as well
Even the comatose they don’t dance and tell

We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there
So all the cups got broke shards beneath our feet but it wasn’t my fault
And everyone’s competing for a love they won’t receive
‘Cause what this palace wants is release

We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air
So there
I’m kinda older than I was when I revelled without a care
So there

We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team
We’re on each other’s team
And you know, we’re on each other’s team
We’re on each other’s team
And you know, and you know, and you know

Deconstructing the classic ROUND HERE by Counting Crows

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Not because of the lead singer’s epic dreadlocks and facial hair, which I’d argue are less of an Epic Win and more of an Achy Breaky Big Mistakey.

There is no mistaking the genius of this song, though.

The music video may be nothing insanely special, but the actual song and lyrics are haunting and well-done.

Also, do not confuse Counting Crows with the Black Crows, a completely different band. The Black Crows singer dated or married that blonde actress from ALMOST FAMOUS, while the Counting Crows singer dated the blonde actress who was married to Brad Pitt.

Here’s the video in all of it’s ancient, low-res glory:

Now let’s dive into the words.


Step out the front door like a ghost
into the fog where no one notices
the contrast of white on white.
Oh, this is poetry, and light years beyond the juvenile lyrics of your typical pop song. What a great beginning.

And in between the moon and you
the angels get a better view
of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.
He’s not done! More poetry, with moral ambiguity and shades of gray that don’t involve bad TWILIGHT fanfic. Beautiful, and not a single “Oh baby oh baby” in sight.

I walk in the air between the rain
through myself and back again
Where? I don’t know
Translation: I am overcome with ennui and existential angst. Or I killed a bottle of Maker’s Mark and wandered outside at 2 a.m. during a thunderstorm. You pick.

Maria says she’s dying
through the door I hear her crying
Why? I don’t know
Translation: Women, they confuse me. There is no handbook, and I am not a medical doctor, though college professors who insist upon being addressed as “Doctor” are pretentious nancypants. You’re not a doctor unless you wear a stethoscope and wield a scalpel.

Round here we always stand up straight
Round here something radiates
Translation: This town has a special something, unlike other towns and all the faceless suburbs where if you dropped somebody in the middle of the strip malls and Applebee’s, they wouldn’t know whether it was the outskirts of Atlanta, Seattle or San Jose, with the same Home Depots and Staples and Taco Bells wherever you go. Our town is unique, in good and bad ways. There also could be radioactive waste coming from an old nuke plants. Not sure yet.

Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
she said she’d like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis.
Hey, Elvis is still hot.

She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land
just like she’s walking on a wire in the circus.
Back to poetry! A great line.

She parks her car outside of my house
takes her clothes off
says she’s close to understanding Jesus.
She knows she’s just a little misunderstood.
She has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous
Translation: Girl be crazy.

Round here we’re carving out our names.
Round here we all look the same.
Round here we talk just like lions
but we sacrifice like lambs.
Round here she’s slipping through my hands
Translation: This town is rather homogeneous, with big talkers who cave under pressure, and yes, that’s how you spell homogeneous. It has that many “e’s” for some stupid reason. Also, despite the low bar for normal behavior and courage around here, I’m losing the Crazy Hot Girl, emphasis on crazy.

Sleeping children better run like the wind
out of the lightning dream.
Mama’s little baby better get herself in
out of the lightning.
Translation: Maybe I should stop chugging this bottle of Maker’s Mark out in the rain.

She says, It’s only in my head.
She says, Shhh I know it’s only in my head.
But the girl in car in the parking lot
says, “Man you should try to take a shot
can’t you see my walls are crumbling?”
Then she looks up at the building
and says she’s thinking of jumping.
She says she’s tired of life.
She must be tired of something.
Translation: This town has worn the girl down so much, she may give me a shot at a relationship, even if it’s only physical. Or she might jump off a building. Flip a coin. Also, girl be CRAZY.

Round here she’s always on my mind.
Round here hey man got lots of time.
Round here we’re never sent to bed early
and nobody makes us wait.
Round here we stay up very, very, very, very late.
Translation: Though the Crazy Hot Girl is flawed and troubled, I’m haunted by her, so much so that I’m sleepless. Also, there’s no curfew. At all.

I can’t see nothin’, nothin’, round here.
Translation: Opportunities in this town are rare. 

No, you catch me when I’m falling.
You catch me if I’m falling.
You catch me if I’m falling down on you.
Translation: As the great philosopher Cher said, “I’ve got you, babe.”

Oh man I said, “I’m under the gun”
round here.
I have no idea what this means and whether this gun is literal or metaphorical. No clue.

Oh man I said, “I’m under the gun”
round here.
And I can’t see nothing, nothing,
round here.
Translation: I, too, see the merit in Crazy Hot Girl’s diagnosis of this town as being a hopeless place, and I may consider drowning myself in cases of Marker’s Mark or adopting her plan of swan-diving off a building. Or I’ll write sad songs about it, make bazillions and date hot actresses. Not sure yet.

SAY SOMETHING by A Great Big World and Christina the Aguilera

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Listen: I loved this song on the radio and played the video five straight times. However, it’s my job, my sacred duty and my Bobby Brown prerogative to (a) look for flaws, (b) make fun of things and (c) find serious ways to fix those silly flaws.

Great song and artsy vid, right?

Let’s break it down.

First, for about three seconds I thought Malcolm Gladwell put in his 10,000 hours of hard practice at the piano and formed a band. But no, this singer simply has the same epic hair, which I love. And he rocks that piano.

Second, I salute Christina the Aguilera, who always had more talent than her Mousketeer mate Britney Spears, closer to Tonya Harding than Tori Amos and an even bet to one day go bankrupt and wind up living in a trailer park in Texas, singing karaoke on weekends at the honky tonk. Christina has pipes, common sense and the brains to hook up with new indie bands like Great Big World. So: RECOGNIZE.

Third, the other guy is clearly the other member of the band, and he’s got nothing to do in this video. Zero. Zip. Nada. I suspect he is to the piano stud as Ryan Lewis is to Macklemore, so hey, he’s required to be in the music video, but he’s got nothing to do. And that’s the number one flaw to fix, right off. The solution is easy: Mr. Director, hand that man a violin, a tambourine or a bottle of bourbon so he can properly emote. Give him something to do beside lean on the piano or sit on the piano. The guy looks bored because he MUST be bored out of his skull, and that’s crazy boring for us to watch. The dude must have gobs of talent. Let him show off a little.

The next two problems to fix: a heavy dose of Overly Dramatic Squirrel and on-the-nose imagery, two great problems that don’t go great together.

When we first see Christina the Aguilera, she does a slow-mo version of a model fiercely crosslegging down the catwalk.

beyonce catwalking

The next ten times we see her, she’s dramatically touching her face and such. Listen, the lyrics are dramatic enough. You don’t have to sell it to the people in the back rows of the theater, because this isn’t a Broadway play. It’s a video. The camera is close enough to show off your clean pores, in 1080p or 4k or whatever video format Samsung invented yesterday.

The on-the-nose imagery is the visual twin of dialogue that Hollywood screenwriters, director and actors would say are on-the-nose.

Nobody says what they really mean, and no video should beat you over the head with a sledgehammer with its message. If you want to sing about being sad, sing it. If you want to show sadness while a guitar wails, show it. But don’t sing sadly while a piano tinkles sadly and the actor on screen does exactly what you’re singing about, like hiding her head under the covers. Because that’s on-the-nose overkill.

Subtext is stronger than text. John Waite understands this.

Also, in the climax of the song, the singer / piano master goes completely crazy leg on us, and yeah, we get that you’re really into it, and this is the big finish, but there’s a weird contrast going on between you, your slow-motion Genie in a Bottle, your completely comatose buddy. This part didn’t fly. Maybe they don’t have choreographers for piano guys, and maybe they should.

But these are minor flaws. Nitpicking, really. It’s a beautiful song and an impressive video.

Verdict: Love this song. The video, while flawed, is still 100 times more watchable than whatever nonsense Justin Bieber is putting out in between getting arrested in LA, Miami, Toronto or whatever city he’s being arrested in today.

Sting nails it with WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU?

music video meme sound of music

Sting is the opposite of a one-hit wonder. And this little song shows off that he can write, too.

Here’s the video, which is a nice little black-and-white piece that doesn’t feature a single shot of Sting wailing into a microphone while the band plucks at guitars. I appreciate that.

And here are the lyrics, which is why I’m posting about this song. My favorite bit: “Dark angels follow me / Over a godless sea.” It’s a damn sight better than Justin “Dragracing to Deportation” Beiber’s “Baby, baby, baby.”


Under the dog star sail
Over the reefs of moonshine
Under the skies of fall
North, north west, the Stones of Faroe

Under the Arctic fire
Over the seas of silence
Hauling on frozen ropes
For all my days remaining
But would north be true?

All colours bleed to red
Asleep on the ocean’s bed
Drifting on empty seas
For all my days remaining

But would north be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Dark angels follow me
Over a godless sea
Mountains of endless fog,
For all my days remaining,

What would be true?

Sometimes I see your face,
The stars seem to lose their place
Why must I think of you?
Why must I?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Why would you want me to?
And what would it mean to say,
That, “I loved you in my fashion”?

What would be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?

Insane music video + lyrics – EXCELLENT HORSE-LIKE LADY

OK, this is a first for me. I am pritnear speechless, despite the fact that I spelled “pritnear” PERFECTLY.

I found a music video from North Korea that is not a joke or an Onion parody. It’s a hit song from 2005, and yes, we now have the actual lyrics to this pop music masterpiece.

Why do we care?

Because the new dictator of North Korea used to be her boyfriend, years ago, but his daddy forbade him from seeing her. She is was married to a soldier and had a kid. HOWEVER: Now that junior runs the country, she’s by his side all the time. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. There are stories in respected papers of news and such. Here’s one:

Lil’ Kim and the married pop star: North Korean leader’s mystery girl

Update: And now it’s official. News reports say she is married to the young Dear Leader, though there’s no mention of what happened to the old husband and such.

As a special bonus, NPR figured out the lyrics to the song.

Our factory comrades say in jest
Why they tell me I am a virgin on a stallion
After a full day’s work i still have energy left
My skills are truly like lightening they say
They say I am a virgin on a stallion
Yet again today I was the first to leave for work
Apparently my name was in the paper
In a (?) time
An award given to youth who live in flight
They say I am a virgin on a stallion
The party era is teeming with creation
A new name they present to youth
Mounting a stallion the dear leader gave me
All my life I will live to uphold his name
They say I am a virgin on a stallion
Mounting a stallion my dear leader gave me
All my life I will live to uphold his name

Also: her other big hit, SHE IS A DISCHARGED SOLDIER.

Finally: the classic, NORTH KOREA PARTY ROCKING.