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.

A Tour De Force of ’80s Videos

If you were breathing during the ’80s, you will remember these songs and videos. If you weren’t alive, use this chance to learn about the songs coming to Classic Rock stations after they get done with their rotation of ’60s folk and ’70s disco-funk.

You may recognize some tunes from this thing they used to call the radio, which plays random songs and ads you don’t control, no matter how many buttons you push, though you could use these things called telephones to call the DJ to request a song, win prizes or try to get on live air to say something horrible, clever or horribly clever.

This era is actually important, in a musical sense, because ’80s rock and pop stars were the first to deal with music videos and MTV, so they broke a lot of ground in terms of visuals. It’s hard to go from “here’s some live footage of a concert” to “which Hollywood director should we hire for our $3 million shebang that *might* hold a candle to Thriller?”

Check it out:

The clip from Top Gun still cracks me up. How did we ever think that movie was cool?

Violins and cellos gone wild

Classical music can be a wonderful sleep aid, which is unfortunate because NPR switches from news (interesting!) to classical music right at 9 a.m., when I want to stay awake all day. Not helpful, NPR, not helpful at all.

However: These musicians prove you don’t need a guitar loud enough to shatter boulders to make good music. No. All you need is a violin–or a cello, which I’m told is a violin on steroids, but they could be lying to me–plus a whole bunch of talent.

First up is an Alaskan wunderkind, Bryson Andres, who has some kind of magical electric violin.

Second: Lindsey Stirling in an ice castle wearing an outfit that remind you of Peter Pan or an elfin extra from LORD OF THE RINGS, but maybe in a good way.

And finally, our clean-up hitter: Four British women with three electric violins and one super-powered cello, covering Led Zepellin.

Weirdest Lyrics of All Time goes to THE REFLEX by Duran Duran

Oh, you can find plenty of obscure bands who can confuse you with lyrics that make no sense, and pop singers talking about how their heart is breaking because baby, baby, baby, I love you, thought you’d always be mine.

Think I’m kidding? Hold my coffee.

The trick is finding a popular hit song by a famous band where the lyrics are completely insane.

This is where Duran Duran comes through, and not just with epic amounts of hair spray.

Check out the complete lyrics below.

I challenge and of you you to explain to me what “the reflex is” and exactly what how the reflex is “a lonely child waiting by the park” and “a door to finding treasure in the dark.”

THE REFLEX

You’ve gone too far this time
And I’m dancing on the valentine
I tell you somebody’s fooling around
With my chances on the danger line
I’ll cross that bridge when I find it
Another day
To make my stand, oh oh
High time is no time for deciding
If I should find a helping hand, oh oh
 
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
 
The reflex is a lonely child
Who’s waiting by the park
The reflex is a door to finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark
 
I’m on a ride and I want to get off
But they won’t slow down the round-about
I sold the radio and TV set
Don’t want to be around when this gets out
 
So why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
 
The reflex is a lonely child
Who’s waiting in the park
The reflex is a door to finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark
 
So why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
 
The reflex is a lonely child
Who’s waiting by the park
The reflex is a door to finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark
 
Oh the reflex what a game 
He’s hiding all the cards
The reflex is in charge of finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does

Toad the Wet Sprocket is back! Listen now, then go see them live

The best jokes contain painful truths. When it comes to music, I joke that the life cycle of bands is (a) starving unknowns, (b) big breakout hit, (c) rehab, (d) lead singer goes solo and band breaks up, then (e) reunion tour 20 years later when they’re all broke, sober, married and need to pay the mortgage.

So it gives me unbridled joy (note: don’t ever try to put a bridle on my joy; I will punch you into next week) to learn one of my favorite bands OF ALL TIME is back together and cranking out new albums.

Toad the Wet Sprocket is the weirdest possible name for a great band.

I say that with love.

Honestly, you can throw together a sweet band name in two seconds using this simple formula: “the” + active adjective + non-threatening animal.

Check it out:

  • The Flaming Squirrels
  • The Angry Hedgehogs
  • The Psychotic Hamsters

However: While the name doesn’t really work on every level, at least you remember because it’s so flipping weird.

Though I take great joy in dissecting terrible music videos, or divining why brilliant ones work, it’s nice to simply share a great bad with people who might not know they exist.

Also: To the punk who broke into my car when I was a starving reporter and stole all my tapes (yes, music once lived on these things called “tapes”), you took every Toad album I owned, and if I ever see you, and figure out you’ve got a closet full of cassette tapes from your criminal past, I think that’s punishment enough, because tapes are a terrible idea. They always get snagged in your car stereo, with the tape spilling out like intestines full of music, and maybe, maybe, you could take a pencil and wind everything back into place after you did some scotch-tape surgery. Tapes sucked.

Back to Toad the Wet Sprocket: Whatever you think of the band name, the music is beautiful.

Toad can play rock or folk, fast songs or slow, electric or acoustic. 

I bet they could even do a medium-paced song that’s neither happy nor sad, if you asked nicely.

Here’s one of their more famous songs:

And here’s a slow burner that still slays me:

Welcome back, Toad the Wet Sprocket–so happy you’re making new music and hitting the road again.

If you want to check them out, here’s a link to the band and their tour schedule. See them live. DO IT NOW.

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)

Music video dance-off: Janet Jackson vs. Dua Lipa

Dance and music videos go together like peanut butter and chocolate, salt and pepper, bacon and eggs, coffee and newspapers.

Janet Jackson has made dance music videos forever, and my fake news version of “forever” includes before Dua Lipa was born. (She’s 23, so yes, no lie.)

Today, we’re looking at the latest from Janet, MADE FOR NOW, versus an interesting twist on the dance video from Dua, IDGAF, and yes, if you’re offended by bad words, Dua has a bad one right up there in the title. Sorry. Didn’t write the song.

First up: Janet, then Dua, before we dissect both videos.

I bet you the title to my car that Janet’s video cost far, far more than Dua’s–it certainly looks slick and expensive.

In this case, money and production values don’t win.

Dua has a better song and a far, far more entertaining video.

The acid test to me is whether (a) you’d have to pay me to rewatch it or (b) I’d happily watch and listen to something again. I’ve happily put IDGAF on loop while you’d have to pay me to hit replay on MADE FOR NOW, a repetitive song and boring video.

And that’s too bad. Janet’s got talent to burn. She’s made iconic music videos for years.

RHYTHM NATION was groundbreaking and still works today.

So I’m disappointed because Janet’s playing it safe with this. So safe that it fails.

Here’s the thing: once you’ve already had crazy success and so much cash you can’t spend it without buying private islands in the South Pacific, playing it safe is a losing strategy. You’re coasting instead of pushing yourself, and the audience feels it.

Though I’m no fan of Madonna’s music, she did a tremendous job of recognizing this and picking a hot new producer for every album to reinvent herself. That was bold and risky. It made her a star for decades instead of a one-hit wonder.

The best music–rock, pop, rap, whatever–attacks the status quo.

Aggressively. Relentlessly. Without mercy.

The worst music defends the status quo.

Limply. Lamely. Apologetically.

If you’re a famous singer or band, please take your piles of money and try to make something insanely different, new and interesting.

Rebel again.

Because that’s the real point of art, to shock us into seeing the world in a different way.

Video

Okay, fine–let’s admit the brilliance of DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART by the Backstreet Boys

I come not to bury the Backstreet Boys, but to praise them.

And yes, this is praise from the most unlikely of sources. I don’t personally hate this band, or anybody in it–they’re just not my cup of tea. Now, it’s different with others who are inherently annoying. Justin Bieber could show up at my front door with a suitcase stuffed with $3.75 million dollars while singing original compositions about my virtues and it would STILL rub me wrong.

So you’d expect me to take a scalpel to any one of the Backstreet Boys songs, old or new, or any random song from New Kids on the Block or Nsync, and no, I couldn’t tell these three bands apart except for the fact that one of them included a young Justin Timberlake before he hired Jason Statham to make a daring escape in a black BMW. (Note: Timberlake is one of the dudes wearing a ski mask.)

So why would I go against every instinct in my body and praise a video by the Backstreet Boys?

Here’s why:

(1) Radio is the great equalizer

Since I drive about two hours a day, 99 percent of music comes to me in a blind taste test, like Pepsi versus Coke except there’s no carbonated sugar water involved.

This song hit my radio and honestly, I had no idea it was Backstreet Boys–could’ve been any boy band, whether you’re talking current UK newbies or a Nostalgic Throwback Tour Because Yo, We Got Kids and Need to Pay the Mortgage.

Honestly, for a pop song, this is good. The lyrics are nothing to spend time dissecting, and the song won’t go on my running playlist or anything. But the song isn’t actively annoying, which is better than most of the stuff I hear on the radio. Not once did I rush to change radio stations, skip forward on Pandora or cover my ears in pain. That’s the acid test right there, empirical proof that despite my anti boy-band bias, the song holds up.

(2) Their fans will love it

What’s the purpose of a song like this? It’s not to get people like me to buy their stuff on iTunes or shell out serious money for a concert ticket.

They don’t need to generate name ID or start from scratch. This music video is for their fans, which is people who loved them back when they were on top of the world.

That’s a massive, built-in audience. When you start with an old fan base of millions and millions around the world, you only need to excite a fraction of that audience to pay the bills.

And I bet you all those old fans adored this new song.

(3) The video gets the job done

Music videos these days are expensive, with budgets in the millions not unusual.

Clearly, they spared no expense on this one.

So why do it, aside from letting singers scratch the acting itch?

A good music video adds to the song by (a) telling a story, (b) showing off the dancing skills of the singer/band or (c) giving you a taste of what a live concert might feel and sound like.

The Backstreet Boys are on tour, and these days the music business doesn’t really make money from selling music. The real cash comes from concerts.

If you grew up listening to these guys, and now you’re an adult with some scratch instead of a teenager raiding the change jar, this video probably makes you want to see the band live. Because hey, they clearly put on a good show.

VERDICT: I have to admire the brilliance of this comeback song and video. Fans of the Backstreet Boys will adore this song and video, so congrats on a well-performed comeback.

Hey there

Here’s the deal: I’ve been crazy busy with Other Things, and did not post to this silly blog much lately. And I missed it.

Missed dissecting the first pages of novels, the full three minutes of insane music videos and the reasons why the Series of Tubes will always, always be awash in videos of cats.

Missed talking smack with writers, editors and creative types scattered on every continent.

Missed the whole damn thing.

It’s good to be back here. Am writing a post every day for the month of August (so far, so good) and it’s made writing other things, for work and fun, much easier and faster. A happy snowball.

So: thanks for reading, thanks for commenting or tweeting at me–and thanks to many of you for teaching me a lot.

P.S. Just shout if you have suggestions for posts, such as which novels, music videos or movies (a) desperately deserve to get bled on with a red pen, (b) need to be taken apart to see why they work so well or (c) are so godawfully bad they circle back to good. I may open this thing up for guest posts, even. YOU NEVER KNOW.