Being both creative and articulate seems like a given for a songwriter, but as you’ll see, it’s not always the case. Bad lyrics come in all shapes and sizes, and certainly aren’t specific to the new millennium, but here are a collection of lines from contemporary pop songs that are confusing, inaccurate, or just plain shallow!
“And darling I will be loving you ’til we’re 70”
Ed Sheeran from the song “Thinking Out Loud”
Does this mean that Ed Sheeran is going to dump his lover on her 70th birthday? “See ya granny, the last 50 years were mediocre at best.” In a pop song love can be endless, and go on forever, so it’s odd that Mr. Sheeran would give his love an end date. I guess to him the idea of being 70 is such a distant thing that it might as well be forever. Maybe by the time he’s 70, he’ll have written some decent lyrics.
“Hey brother, do you still believe in one another”
Avicii from the song “Hey Brother”
Hey brother, are you a chimera? A host? Is there another organism whose cells dwell within your body? Because if not, I’m not sure who the other or others in this “one another” are supposed to include. One can believe in concepts like love, freedom, capitalism etc. One another is just not a thing you can believe in if you’re one person. If there are two of you, then it works, but the line should be “do we still believe in one another”. This song is so full of crap lyrics that it warrants its own post.
“I’m only one call away, I’ll be there to save the day, Superman got nothing on me”
Charlie Puth from the song “One Call Away”
Can you fly? Can you see through walls? Do bullets bounce off of you? Can you bend railroad ties? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then Superman indeed has something on you. He has something on all of us. He’s Superman. If given the choice between Charlie Puth and Superman in any situation that requires someone to “save the day” I think I know who most (all) people would choose.
“She wants to dance like Uma Thurman, bury me till I confess”
Fallout Boy from the song “Uma Thurman”
How would you bury someone until they confess? Would you put them in a hole, throw dirt on them, wait ten minutes, dig them up and then say, “Spill it or you’re going back in”? As someone who’s done more than his share of hole digging, I can tell you that this is a very labor-intensive form of torture. Perhaps they will bury said person in a coffin with an intercom system? This line is a reference to a scene in Kill Bill Vol. 2 in which Uma Thurman is buried alive, but the confession part is where they lose me, especially when you consider that the confession they’re referring to is “ And I can’t get you out of my head.” The whole song is a collection of biblical references and overblown drama about having an intense crush on a woman. A woman in a movie. I guess you shouldn’t expect more from a song in which the strongest and most prominent feature is a sample from the Munsters theme.
“Come along if you feel like a room without a roof”
Pharrell Williams from the song “Happy”
Incomplete? Broken? Unable to perform my primary function? These are the things that come to mind when I hear about a room without a roof. Admittedly, after some thought, Pharrell’s intended meaning is somewhat clear. But still, I find it distracting. Come along if you feel like a car without a wheel.
“‘Cause if you like the way you look that much, Oh, baby, you should go and love yourself”
Justin Bieber from the song “Love Yourself”
Article after article and book after book have been encouraging people to value themselves and focus on their strengths via the phrase “Love Yourself” for years. Therefore, I was confused by the angry “screw you” vibe that I got from this song, which is meant to be punitive, sending Bieber’s lover (Selena supposedly) to a romantic timeout, where she can pout and be deprived of his love. It’s a confusing paradox, and not surprisingly was co-written by Ed “I know you love Shrek” Sheeran.
“I can make your tears fall down like the showers that are British”
One Direction from the song “Over Again”
This line was concocted in order to fit a rhyme scheme, and even in that context, it doesn’t work that well (“British” is supposed to rhyme with “spirit”). To be fair, I guess if we can call rain that falls in April an “April shower” then calling rain that falls in England “showers that are British” isn’t completely out of the question, but it’s clunky and completely foreign to the way we talk. Even if you’re referring to people, would you say, “I have an accent like the people that are British”? Nope. You wouldn’t. I also don’t understand why the rain that falls over England is more comparable to tears than the rain that falls over, say, West Virginia, but who knows.
“I would be the smartest man, If I was invisible”
Clay Aiken from the song “Invisible”
If you were invisible, you could cheat very easily, so maybe it would help you get better grades. Other than that, it’s hard to really understand how being undetectable to the eye would have any impact on your intelligence. It would really help you if you were a stalker, which Aiken also addresses via an earlier line: “If I was invisible, I could just watch you in your room”. It’s a creepy line for sure, but at least it makes sense.
“Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad“
Carly Rae Jepsen from the song “Call Me Maybe”
Add time travel to Carly Rae Jepsen’s list of talents, and then put a big x through “writes comprehensible lyrics.” The ridiculous nature of this line is the most obvious of any on the list, so much so that I don’t even want to explain it. If you don’t see the problem with it, then you’ve got very big problems yourself. But here’s the thing, despite its lyrical flaws (of which there are many), Call Me Maybe is classic bubblegum, and the absolute best song of its kind thus far in the 21st century. It features a walloping hook that is uplifting and unforgettable (don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about), plus a memorable and easy to sing chorus. I cringe to think that it was originally written as a folk song, but after a makeover by producer Josh Ramsay, it became a puppy love anthem. Where many pop songs aim for a teenage audience, Call Me Maybe had mass appeal amongst younger kids, which makes sense because it kind of sounds like a third grader wrote the lyrics. And I should know, I’ve written lots of songs with third graders.
All of the lyrics on this page attempt to express something and do it poorly. They offer shoddy wordplay along with a “C’mon you know what I mean” attitude and presumption. It is true that you can understand what these lines are attempting to say if you allow a little give and take, but it’s also lazy writing. These lyrics are created by professional songwriters and pop stars who have vast resources and are rewarded handsomely for their work. I understand that their underlying goal is to make money, but I think it’s reasonable to expect professionals to produce work that is clear and to some degree intelligent, instead of relying on listeners compromising their intelligence.
As someone currently living in the UK, I can say that ‘showers that are British’ could mean any of 12,000 varieties of rain. Britain is very varied in its climates, with many types of rain. So…many types of crying? This was hilarious!
hahah “Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad“ – that’s time travel level stupid!
In defense of Carly Rae Jepsen’s lyrics, it is possible to be missing something/someone in your life and not even know it until the right person comes along! You could have an idea of the kind of person you would want to be with but just have never met them yet. I think it does make sense, and nobody has ever said it quite like that, which makes it even more effective. It makes you think, which isn’t a bad thing. I’m a songwriter myself and I stand by it.
Great to hear from a fellow songwriter. I’d love to hear some of your stuff. Is it available anywhere online?
At the end of the day, I like CMM, and if you derive meaning and pleasure from those lyrics then I’m not going to stand in the way of that. I can agree that they are thought provoking lyrics, I mean, I did write a blog post about them.
What do you think of some of the other songs on the list?