Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lyric Critic Clinic

I should be working right now.

Instead, I woke up thinking about the best bad rhymes in songs: lyrics that scan so poorly they're almost admirable in their audacity. These are a few I came up with. Feel free to add your own.

4. "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Gordon Lightfoot.

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well-seasoned.

All that "Wisconsin" and "well-seasoned" have in common is they both begin with "W" and have two "S" sounds in the middle. To be fair, Lightfoot was retelling a true story, and so was stuck with the unpoetic "Wisconsin." However, I think a little dramatic license could've fixed him right up:

...and the brave captain knew that he hadda
Get that ship and crew outta Nevada.

3. "Take the Money and Run," Steve Miller

Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas
You know he knows just exactly what the facts is

Ignoring the egregious "Texas" and "facts is" for a moment, that second line is more padded than a fifth grader's essay when he's 40 words shy of 100.

Remember, I should be working right now.

2. "Hey Jude," John Lennon and Paul McCartney (but really just Paul)

Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better.

"Better" does rhyme with "better," I'll give Paul that. But I probably wouldn't have thought of this song if not for this:

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin
You're waiting for someone to perform with.
And don't you know that it's just you, hey Jude, you'll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder.

"Shoulder?" It works better than you'd expect because it mirrors a "shoulder" and "colder" pair earlier in the song. But what I love about it in this verse, where it doesn't rhyme at all, is the story that goes with it. As I heard it, Paul was writing the song and threw in that last line as a placeholder. "I'll tidy that up later," he thought in his adorable Liverpool accent. But John heard it and said "That's perfect!" Paul shrugged and left it. What makes this bad rhyme one of the best is that The Beatles were so huge and confident that they just didn't have to give a flyin' fig anymore.

1. "Ode to Joy," Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; music by Ludwig van Beethoven, lyrics by Friedrich Schiller.

Freude Schöner Götterfunken 
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.

"Elysium" and "Heiligtum" both have three syllables and end with an "um." That's it. Might as well have gone with "radium."

If "Ode to Joy" had been done by Herman's Hermits, I'd let it pass (though note that "Henry the Eighth" rhymes excellently throughout, as long as "Hen-er-y" has three syllables). But Ludwig, Fred . . . guys . . . you're supposed to be better than that.

Now what else can I do besides work?


Marion said...

Mine is in Run to You: "She says her love for me could never die./ That would change if she ever found out about you and I."

Because it's "you and me," gosh darn it! You and me!

How about, "She thinks a love like ours was meant to be?"

Hal Bryan said...

I don't know you, Marion, but you're my new hero!