Sunday, January 17, 2010

Words Matter

Bruce and I were riding in my car recently, and the radio was tuned to the top 40 channel I listen to when the boys are with me. Bruce almost always keeps his radio tuned to classic rock. While I like classic rock, I'm mildly offended by the idea that music from my high school and college years is now "classic." On the other hand, Bruce can't stand hip hop which comprises about half of a top 40 station's playlist.

We were talking, and the radio was just background noise, so for a while, it really didn't matter what was on. We hit a lull in the conversation just as Fireflies by Owl City began to play. I like this song. The melody gets stuck in your head, but it's a happy, nonsensical song that lifts my mood. I began to sing, and after a minute Bruce started laughing.

"What the hell is this song? It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

You can listen by clicking here, but consider the opening lyrics:

You would not believe your eyes
If ten million fireflies
Lit up the world as I fell asleep

'Cause they'd fill the open air
And leave teardrops everywhere
You'd think me rude
But I would just stand and stare

The song is about dreams, but you have to listen a couple times before it makes sense. Bruce began to sing along as well, but he made up his own lyrics about how a kindergartner could have written the song. (I wish I had a clickable link for that.) He didn't like the song at all because he thought the lyrics were dumb.

All I have is anecdotal evidence, but I believe this is a common phenomenon. I was driving to Lexington with my eldest son yesterday and heard a song called Carry Out. I recognized Justin Timberlake's voice, and I kinda liked the music, so I tuned in to the words. Like a lot of hip hop songs, it was blatantly sexual. Okay, whatever. Cleverly done sexual lyrics don't particularly offend me. Too often, though, rap singers think they're being clever when they aren't. See my infamous Salt Shaker post for more on this.

Carry Out is an extended metaphor comparing the object of the singer's desire to fast food.

You look good, baby must taste heavenly
I’m pretty sure that you got your own recipe
So pick it up, pick it up, yeah I like you
I just can’t get enough I got to drive through

Take my order cause your body like a
Carry out

The singer goes on about having it your way, supersizing, and so on. To hear the song, click here.

These lyrics don't come off as clever to me. Seriously, what woman wants to be wooed by having her body compared to fast food? And the idea of a "drive through" encounter isn't remotely sexy. The kicker is that the music is sexy, but now that I've listened to the lyrics, the song doesn't appeal to me anymore.

Bruce thought the fireflies were stupid. I was put off by fast food sex. The lyrics to a song are like the story to a movie. Without compelling words, it's all just spectacle.

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