Ed Sheeran and Khalid absolutely nail it with BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

As a huge fan of Khalid, and a medium-sized fan of Ed Sheeran, I was happy to find out the song I’ve been rocking out to in the car is by these two.

The lyrics are what really made me pay attention–they’re quite different. Gloriously, the music video snags those lyrics like a wobbly pass from Tom Brady (P.S. I hate you, kthxbai) and runs them 98 yards back for a thunderous touchdown.

Here, take a look and a listen.

Different, right? I love it. 

There’s no shortage of pop and rap videos where the singer shows off, rolling around in piles of money or giving us long looks at their mansion, Lambo and swimming pool filled with supermodels.

Good on Ed Sheeran and Khalid for giving us a different take. 

Why BAD GUY by Billie Eilish is so damned good

BAD GUY by Billie Eilish pulls off some neat tricks, doesn’t it?

Here’s my take on why this works so well.

SUBVERSIVE PUNK-POP

Don’t know what category that folks with doctorates in music would put this in. I’m gonna call it punk-pop, because it’s not as dark and industrial as NIN, or as grungy as Nirvana, but it’s got a subversive edge in the images and lyrics.

Yet the melody and beat is radio-friendly pop. And I think that’s brilliant.

UNAFRAID

With most artists, image is everything. Pop divas work hard to look perfect at all times. Rock stars and rappers work hard to look tough. Billie isn’t trying to look tough here.

Billie’s unafraid of coming off as weird and goofy. No pop star would dance like this, or let her eyebrows go off in their own fashion directions. 

She’s not going full on theater-of-the-grotesque like Marilyn Manson, but she’s letting people see her as human, which makes her far more relatable than the stars who try to maintain a perfect, photoshopped image. It’s gritty and real.

LYRICS

The lyrics are clever, interesting and fun.

Most pop songs have terrible boring lyrics.

I mean, I’m not a giant fan of country or rap, but by God, country lyrics tell a story every time and rappers are absolute poets with lyrics you can do dissertations on.

For a popular song all over radio and YouTube, these lyrics are a win.

IMAGERY

It’s perfect. There’s a great intro, with Billie immediately showing she’s a real human by busting through the yellow paper wall, taking out her Invisalign and dancing in a way no boy band or diva would ever be caught dead doing.

Unlike 90 percent of music videos, the only repetition is there for a purpose. You get an echo of the beginning in the end, with reversed footage of her coming through the yellow paper wall. And in between the intro and the end, there’s a nice mix of images that fit the lyrics. It all works.

STINGER ENDING

Marvel movies became famous for putting stingers after the credits. This is the first stinger ending to a music video that I can remember, and it rocks.

You’re not sure how she’s levitating at first, then the words match the video in a nice revelation. Yes! 

VERDICT

Well done, Billie the Eilish, well done. Give us more like this!

The sweetness of WHEN I TASTE TEQUILA by Dan + Shay

Most music videos are meh, and I say that as a huge fan of music and music videos who grew up watching this thing we called MTV, back when it played music videos instead of insipid reality shows.

It’s hard to find videos that truly stand out, ones that I remember and want to watch again. Even if I love the song itself.

It’s doubly tough for a country music video to hit me, for I do not speak twang. 

So when I heard this song on the radio, it was a nice surprise. Then I saw the video, which is really a short film. Oh my.

Take a peek.

Haunting, isn’t it?

What stands out are the shots. Just beautiful cinematography, scenes I want to linger over. The acting is spot-on and the musicians make the smart choice of staying in the background.

What makes it truly work is telling an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. 

There are all kinds of music videos that look impressive, paired with good songs. 30 Seconds to Mars is the king of these videos, with Jared Leto having the massive advantage of being a star actor who knows how to stage and shoot film. But you don’t see complete stories very often. You see themes and ideas, but not stories where people are in conflict and make decisions.

This music videos is full of conflict and choices. It’s a sweet love story, and it fills in missing pieces you don’t see in the lyrics (below).

Great job, Dan + Shay–I’m happy to have stumbled onto this.

WHEN I TASTE TEQUILA

I can still shut down a party
I can hang with anybody
I can drink whiskey and red wine
Champagne all night
Little Scotch on the rocks and I’m fine, I’m fine
 
But when I taste tequila, baby I still see ya
Cutting up the floor in a sorority t-shirt
The same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
 
I can kiss somebody brand new 
And not even think about you
I can show up to the same bar
Hear the same songs in my car
Baby, your memory, it only hits me this hard
 
When I taste Tequila, baby I still see ya
Cutting up the floor in a sorority t-shirt
The same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
 
I ain’t even drunk, I ain’t even drunk
And I’m thinking
How I need your love, how I need your love
Yeah, it sinks in
 
When I taste Tequila, baby I still see ya
Sorority t-shirt, the same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila

The Red Pen of Doom analyzes I WANT YOU TO WANT ME by Cheap Trick

As part of my ongoing mission to explore all music, and go where MTV no longer goes anymore, here’s another video: I WANT YOU TO WANT ME by Cheap Trick.

Why show this old thing from 1879 or whatever, when they had to plug their guitars into steam engines?

Three reasons why:

IT.

IS.

AWESOME.

This is a case where simple and repetitive works, because there’s a nice little pattern here with the words: “I want you to want me. I need you to need me.” And so forth. Nothing fancy. Nothing complicated. But it is inspired, and it’s the kind of song a moderately talented punk band could learn to play, you know, the kind of band that knows four chords and forgets two of them in the middle of the show after they finish off two bottles of cheap vodka.

So in that way, this thing is genius. You don’t need a degree in music to play it. You don’t need a great voice to sing it. It’s the perfect cover song, which is why so many other bands have covered it.

Also, it’s one of the few songs that sounds good live versus all auto-tuned and cleaned up in the studio. A gritty garage band can play it and fudge notes without ruining the thing.

You — yes, you — could probably do a decent job singing this thing at a karaoke bar, even if you are TOO DRUNK TO SPELL KARAOKE.

Bottom line: a simple, study, lovable song. A punk-rock deal with interesting twists in the lyrics.

I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.

;

Special bonus: my favorite cover of I WANT YOU TO WANT ME by Letters to Cleo. (This cover doesn’t have a music video. Somebody made one with scenes from the show CHUCK, and they did alright. Here you go.)

 

The lyrics are way, way below, just for fun. Straight-forward stuff – no need to dissect or improve these. They’re perfect. 

I WANT YOU TO WANT ME

Written by Rick Nielsen
Performed by Cheap Trick

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.
I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.

I’ll shine up my old brown shoes.
I’ll put on a brand new shirt
I’ll get home early from work
if you say that you love me.

Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’).
Oh, Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.
I’ll shine up my old brown shoes.
I’ll put on a brand new shirt
I’ll get home early from work
if you say that you love me.

Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’).
Oh, Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.

The Red Pen of Doom shoots up Train’s DRIVE BY

Here is an interesting song, and I mean “interesting” in a tragic, train-wreck sort of way.

Because it’s a decent melody by a good band with some of the WORST LYRICS EVER.

And the music video itself isn’t horrible at all. It’s fine. The words, though, they hurt me.

And I say this as a fan of Train, a man who has some of their songs and believes MEET VIRGINIA has creative lyrics for a pop song.

First up: the video, which I hope the evil known as VEVO lets you watch.

See? The song isn’t bad. The video is fine.

It’s the stupid lyrics.

Let the red ink flow.

DRIVE BY by Train

On the other side of a street I knew
Stood a girl that looked like you
I guess thats deja vu
But I thought this can’t be true
Cause you moved to west L.A or New York or Santa Fe
Or where or ever to get away from me

(OK, so far, this is alright. Nothing great, nothing horrible. The horribleness is hiding and saving its strength for an ambush.)

Oh but that one night
Was more than just right
I didn’t leave you cause I was all through
Oh I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell
Because I really fell for you

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by

(I believe the singer — or whoever wrote these lyrics — is trying to say, “This isn’t infatuation, or a one-night stand, but something longer lasting and meaningful, possibly leading up to a white dress, a white picket fence and three years of white Pampers.” This phrase means, “A gang murders that utilizes one driver and one or more shooters, who send a wall of lethal lead at the homicide victim while making a rolling getaway from the crime.” So the message is kinda-sorta mixed. People hear this and don’t think of happy love. They think of Glocks and funerals.)

Just a shy guy looking for a two ply
Hefty bag to hold my love

(Because the only thing more romantic than a drive-by shooting is the leading national brand of garbage bags.)

When you move me everything is groovy
They don’t like it sue me
mmm the way you do me

(The bad pop trifecta: a word from the ’60s that needs to be retired, a reference to litigation and a crude reference to sex.)

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by
On the upside of a downward spiral

(If he were definitely referring to NINE INCH NAILS, he’d get bonus points, but he’s not, so he doesn’t.)

My love for you went viral

(A tiny bonus point for not completing the cliche by name-dropping Facebook or Twitter.)

And I loved you every mile you drove away
But now here you are again
So let’s skip the “how you been”And 
get down to the “more than friends” at last

(“You didn’t really like me before, and you drove far, far, away, but now that you’re back, please pay attention to me as a boyfriend instead of some man you don’t really care about.” I believe that sums it up.)

Oh but that one night
Is still the highlight
I didn’t need you until I came to
and I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell
Because I really fell for you

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by
Just a shy guy looking for a two ply
Hefty bag to hold my love
When you move me everything is groovy
They don’t like it sue me
mmm the way you do me
Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by

(The songwriter got ALL the bad cliches and phrases of this song into one tidy package right there. Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam! Kind of like a emptying the clip during a drive by shooting. No. Just no.)

Please believe that when I leave
There’s nothing up my sleeve but love for you
And a little time to get my head together too

(To woo somebody, it’s not overly bright to hint that you’re not quite right in the head.) 

On the other side of a street I knew
Stood a girl that looked like you
I guess thats deja vu
But I thought this can’t be true
Cause

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by
Just a shy guy looking for a two ply
Hefty bag to hold my love
When you move me everything is groovy
They don’t like it sue me
mmm the way you do me
Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by

(A repeat and recap of all the bad lines from before, in case we hadn’t heard them the first, second or third time.)

Bottom line

A successful band like Train probably hires songwriters for some — or a lot — of their stuff. Which is fine. You need to focus on touring, performing and shooting music videos. None of those are bad things.

The words, though, actually matter. They matter as much as the bass line, the lighting on the set and the type of leather jacket worn by the lead singer.

Spend a little more time and money on the words, because I used to hear “Train” and think of two good songs. Now, the first two things that pop into my head will be “drive-by shootings” and “Hefty bags.” Which is too bad.

The Red Pen of Doom digs up the existential dread hidden beneath the BABY SHARK song

baby shark song, baby shark lyrics

Songs for kids like BABY SHARK can be relentlessly repetitive and deceptively deep, if you dig deep enough–or stay up all night writing a term paper about Nietzsche, who is harder to spell than understand.

BABY SHARK is a perfect example of this, a peppy, wholesome song viewed billions of times, and this is perhaps the first time I mean “billions” literally, since I usually say something like “2.84 bazillions” as a joke on the internets. No. People have watched and listened to versions of BABY SHARK more than a billion times.

Have a listen to the original, and if you’re feeling masochistic, or have a tiny one in your secret fortress, go ahead and watch the dance version, too.

Then we’ll dissect every line of lyrics through the eyes of a grown-up who understands the joke behind the Nihilist Arby’s twitter account. (What makes me an expert? I dissect music videos, movies and books on this silly blog. I also watched 5,823 hours of The Wiggles, Thomas the Trains and the Teletubbies when our pookie was small. Come at me, bro.)

Baby Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Small Shark, you are small now, like the small humans singing this song, doom doom, doom doom doom doom) 

Baby Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(But little shark, you will eat and grow big, just as the tiny humans will grow, doom doom, doom doom doom doom) 

Baby Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Big enough to become the feared apex predator of the ocean, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Baby Shark

(So all hail the baby shark, future king of the seas, and the tiny humans, future lords of the land)

Mummy Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Mother Sharks are loving and wise, except when they tear into a school of tuna with their razor teeth, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Mummy Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Mother Sharks are strong and powerful, and can take away our iPhones when we are bad, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Mummy Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(We thank you for not eating us, which you could easily do, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Mummy Shark

(All hail the Mother Sharks)

Daddy Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Father Sharks are the largest and scariest of them all, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Daddy Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Father Sharks can seem unreadable and mysterious, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Daddy Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Baby Sharks recognize the size and power of the Fathers, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Daddy Shark

(We also hope to grow as big, strong and silent as Father Shark, like Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti western, though this will not happen if you eat us when there are no tuna around)

Grandma Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Grandma Sharks are still big but not scary at all, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Grandma Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Their age and infirmity is a sign that death comes for us all, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Grandma Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(So their time with us is limited and precious, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Grandma Shark

(We love you, Grandma Shark)

Grandpa Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Grandpa Shark is no longer a threatening predator, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Grandpa Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Like Grandma Shark, he is loving and kind, and spends his limited time on us, doom doom, doom doom doom doom))

Grandpa Shark doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Possibly because there is no Shark Golf Channel, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Grandpa Shark

(You’re a lovable goofball, Grandpa Shark)

Let’s go hunt doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Though we are small, we know that we must learn to be predators, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Let’s go hunt doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(As it is in the ocean, it is on land, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Let’s go hunt doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(The little fish gets eaten by the bigger fish, who gets munched by the biggest shark, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Let’s go hunt

(This is the real food pyramid, with predators on top, and thankfully we are predators)

Run away doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(But for right now, we are still small, and prey for anything larger, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Run away doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(We can’t stand and fight, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Run away doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Running is our only option, which is why young animals of all sorts chase each other, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Run away

(Running isn’t just a game, it’s essential practice for survival, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Safe at last doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Running and hiding can protect you, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Safe at last doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(But not forever, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Safe at last doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(Eventually, you need to grow big enough to chase and eat not just prey, but your competition, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

Safe at last

(Safety is temporary and elusive)

It’s the end doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(There are beginnings, middles and ends, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

It’s the end doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(We are all Baby Sharks, then Daddy Shark and Grandpa Shark–or Mommy Shark and Grandma Shark, you get the idea, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

It’s the end doo doo, doo doo doo doo

(And our existences will end, as everything must, doom doom, doom doom doom doom)

It’s the end

(Eat Arbies)

Writing insights revealed by country twang

country music

Usually, I take a music video and dissect the lyrics to look for writing insights, which is interesting and fun.

Click with your mousity mouse to see what I did to the music video and lyrics for ELECTRIC AVENUE, because it is not only fun, but educational.

Then go see what I did with Vanilla Ice and ICE, ICE BABY.

OK. Now we get all serious. Because I am using the lyrics to a country song, and I’m not making fun of it, despite my severe twang allergy.

Good music — and good writing — have the same patterns. Songs start slow, build up, bridge to  the chorus, return to the melody and build to a crescendo. They bring the audience on a journey.

The greatest guitarist in the world would bore you into a coma if he repeated the same riffs.

Variety is good.

Repetition can be powerfully boring, or powerfully good, depending on how you use it. If you do use repetition, it must have a purpose.

Country songs like this are great study for writers. Why? Not because they’re all sad songs where your pickup truck died, your wife left you for your best friend and your dog hates you. They’re useful because country songs tell a story in about 200 words, a story you can understand and dissect. I can point out the setups and payoffs. You can see the heroes and villains, the reversals and the climax.

By contrast, most pop songs feature lyrics that don’t have any real structure or story. 

Also, you can hear and understand country lyrics without a cheat sheet.

Three other good examples of country songs with great lyrics and minimal twang, if you are also allergic like me: LOVE STORY by Taylor Swift, Traveling Soldier by the Dixie Chicks and damn near anything by Lady Antebellum, who are flipping brilliant.

No matter what you write–novels or newspaper stories, screenplays or speeches–it’s worth remembering that writing needs to be like music. You need an interesting intro, a melody, a chorus and a crescendo. You need variety AND repetition.

So: watch this cheesy home-made music video. Listen to the lyrics, and read them on your magical screen that shows you words and moving pictures from anywhere on the planet.

See how Bucky the Covington has clear setups and payoff, and how he cleverly, and beautifully, uses repetition with a purpose.

The words in the chorus change slightly each time, yet the meaning is quite different. And while the writing itself is a tad clunky, my God, the structure, it is glorious. My only wish is that I owned a cowboy hat so I could take it off and salute you, Bucky.

I’LL WALK by Bucky Covington

We were 18, it was prom night.

We had our first big fight.

She said, Pull this car over.

I did and then I told her, I don’t know what you are crying for.

I grabbed her hand, as she reached for the door.

She said …

I’ll walk.

Let go of my hand.

Right now I’m hurt, and you don’t understand.

So just be quiet.

And later we will talk.

Just leave, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

It was a dark night, a black dress.

Driver never saw her, around the bend.

I never will forget the call,

or driving to the hospital,

when they told me her legs still wouldn’t move.

I cried, when I walked into her room.

She said …

I’ll walk.

Please come and hold my hand.

Right now I’m hurt, and I don’t understand.

Lets just be quiet, and later we can talk.

Please stay, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

I held her hand through everything.

The weeks and months of therapy.

And I held her hand and asked her to be my bride.

She’s dreamed from a little girl,

to have her daddy bring her down the isle.

So from her wheelchair, she looks up to him and smiles.

And says …

I’ll walk.

Please hold my hand.

I know that this will hurt, I know you understand.

Please daddy don’t cry.

This is already hard.

Let’s go, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

SOBER UP by AJR is a true beauty, except for this itty bitty fatal flaw

So, what did you notice?

I loved this song, and the video–especially the strings. A nice touch, and so well done.

Then it goes completely sideways at the one minute, 54-second mark, when we get the clunkiest lyrics since Train sang, “Just a shy guy looking for a two ply / Hefty bag to hold my love.”

Here’s the damage: “My favorite color is you / You’re vibrating out my frequency.”

And that’s when I run screaming from the room.

Because that line put the A in Awkward.

It killed the song for me, especially when that same terrible line came up again and again.

This answers the question: Can one bad lyrical choice kill an otherwise beautiful song?

And now we know: Yes, yes it can.

One bad line can be a nasty shotgun blast to the heart of a sweet, sweet song.

VERDICT: Man in a furry hat and friends with stringed instruments, please consider recutting this song after changing that terrible line in the chorus. I would send you monies.

Don’t try to understand PSYCHO by Post Malone—just enjoy the trip

Listen: Everyone should check out PSYCHO by Post Malone, which if you come at tabula rosa seems like a warning that we’ll need tanks and flamethrowers to survive the dystopian hell after the reign the last president of the United States, former NBA all-star Karl Malone.

Have a listen and a look:

There’s a weird thing about music videos of all genres, whether it’s country, rap, pop, rock or Pop Rocks, and that one weird thing is this: Just be different.

If you spend 2.1 bazillion dollars and hire a Hollywood director to make a high-production video that’s JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHERS, then congratulations, you’ve wasted 2.1 bazillion dollars.

Because nobody aside from your hardcore fans will love it, or even see the thing. Risk nothing, gain nothing.

You can see this mistake happen again and again by big-name stars who forget how they got there by being scrappy, edgy and different, with songs that actually tell stories and/or try to say something. They start making songs, music videos and entire albums about the most interesting subject in the world: themselves. (See West, Kanye and Swift, Taylor.)

Which brings us to Post Malone and PSYCHO, which isn’t perfect—but at least it’s different.

Though I’m a huge fan of Mad Max movies, zombie movies and dystopian fun in general, there’s no real connection between the lyrics of the song and this imagery. And those lyrics are fine. They’re not hard to decipher, or worth interpreting and dissecting like the only good song Vanilla Ice ever did (ICE, ICE, BABY) or the first music video I can remember, back when MTV actually played music videos (ELECTRIC AVENUE by Eddie Grant). This is simply a good song.

ICE, ICE BABY as interpreted by the Red Pen of Doom

ELECTRIC AVENUE by Eddie Grant

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse: Chapter 1—You’re Doing It Wrong

As for the video, I have no idea who the little girl is, why Post Malone is looking for her or why the animatronic wolves are just hanging around instead of munching on every human they see. Maybe they spent the budget renting tanks and didn’t have enough left to get the mutant wolves to move around.

Saying this video looks good but doesn’t make a lot of sense, sound on or off, is a valid critique.

HOWEVER: None of that matters.

Not one bit.

First, because the song is so freaking good. Seriously. Post Malone is always a good listen, on this track and his other work. Just solid.

Second, the fact that the imagery doesn’t fit the lyrics doesn’t affect your enjoyment. Sure, this thing isn’t It’s not meaningful, deep or transcendent. This video won’t become a cult classic. And you don’t care, because PSYCHO is interesting and well-shot. It’s the music video equivalent of a summer B movie: not gonna win any awards, but you’ve got a bag of $11 popcorn, the bass is loud and you’re gonna have a good time.

VERDICT: Post Malone is clearly talented, and he used a good director and film crew to make this. I’d love to see what he could do if he put all the pieces together and told a real story that matched his words.

The six types of insane song lyrics

music video meme sound of music

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

music video meme sound of music

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

[Chorus:]
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

[Chorus:]
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

[Chorus:]
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

music video meme sound of music

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.

ROUND HERE

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.

[Chorus:]
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.

[Chorus:]
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.

[Chorus:]
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

music video meme sound of music

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.”

WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU by Sting

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.