During my recent guest blogging stint for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ excellent Atlantic Monthly blog, one of the things I wrote about was listening to the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” and making the mistake of looking up the lyrics. To me, it just made me appreciate the song less knowing how frickin’ awkward the actual lyrics are and how McDonald croons/crams them into an otherwise very hook-y melody.

I had that same feeling listening to that awesome DJ Jazzy Jeff Do-Over mix the other day when he slipped on this song:

Carl Thomas: I Wish
From Emotional (Bad Boy, 2000)

I always liked this song back in the day – super-duper catchy piano riff – and Thomas has got decent pipes. But in listening to it again, I can’t help but be slightly mystified as to why the songwriting isn’t better? The real offending verse is the second one where he rhymes “she wants to be with me” with “she cannot be with me” with “be a family” with “what about me?” Sorry but that just strikes me as really…lazy. Considering the number of things that rhyme with just “me” you’d think he could have switched it up a bit. (I also have beef with him singing, “for the children” which is a hard line to pull off since “children” is a tough word to sing at the end of a line (it’s just not a phonetically “pretty” word). Anyways, I’m sure I seem hella petty but I just can’t help but be bugged by this every time I hear the song now.

Any songs you otherwise really like that get marred by poorly executed lyrics? (There’s no shortage of these, I’m sure).



10 thoughts on “LYRICISMS PT. 2”

  1. Awkward lyrics in good songs:

    Toto – “Africa”, 2d verse

    “The wild dogs cry out in the night
    As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
    I know that I must do what’s right
    As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serenget”

    Yeah, I guess “company” is about the only word that rhymes with “Serengeti”, but the way it’s sung is so uncomfortable that I cringe every time I hear it.
    Maybe not poorly executed, but something that makes me laugh everytime I hear it is this background vocal in “Man In The Mirror”…now, I hadn’t really noticed it until a couple years ago (but had obviously been a fan of this perfect song since it came out).  Right before the second chorus, when Michael sings, “A willow deeply scarred/somebody’s broken heart/and a washed-out dream” the background singers repeat “washed out dream” with a little upper register harmony that makes it compeletely inappropriate for the tone of the song.  Hilarious. 
    Great post, as usual!

  2. @ Carl: I hear ya! Listening to Toto sing the line “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti” makes we want to punch myself in the face repeatedly. How the hell does that lyric pass quality control?

  3. michael macdonald/doobie brothers, toto…i see a yacht-rock pattern emerging in the ‘awkward lyrics’ stakes.

    i don’t know about awkward, but I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry when Isaac Hayes utters the line: ‘You’re my personal possession’ in ‘I Want To Make Love To You So Bad’.

    …actually just took a minute to review the lyrics…plenty of awkwardness stuffed into them. but i love this song.

  4. Everybody’s rapping like it’s a commercial
    Actin’ like life is a big commercial.

    Beastie Boys – Pass the Mic

  5. I might get crucified for saying this, but for all his genius, I think Stevie Wonder can be an exceptionally clumsy lyricist. He tends to force his lyrics into a pattern which closely mimics the rhythm of the instrumentation, and sometimes the speech cadences are really unnatural. About half the tunes on “Songs in the Key of Life” have this problem.

  6. Eric B & Rakim “What’s On Your Mind”

    Hello, good looking, is this seat tooken.

    (sigh) seriously Rakim? Tooken?

  7. I can’t say I really liked the song, but Devoe’s (?) ad-lib croon during BBD’s “Do Me!” is particularly painful… “I wanna lay your beautiful body down by the fireplace, baby and make love to you all, all night.” Panty-drying, I say…

  8. have to agree, for example the lyrics to ‘Too High’ always struck me as really clunky. 

    ‘The bread is green,
    She’s a tangerine.’

  9. I disagree; its the emotional component that trumps the lyrics. The delivery – the feeling.
    Lennon would say he always went for the feel – not ostensibly the technical or lyrical component – feeling – I like the desperation in the delivery of -‘….. famillleeee’
    Sure R.Kelly abuses this sometimes…’Gotham City’ For instance..’a city of justice, a city of looove….’, makes me cringe;
    Yet the song sounds really good.

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