We’re as much for artistic license as the next music lover, but for every lyrical genius that pairs two words into a beautiful flowing, meaningful couplet, there’s another ten songs that simply smash words together because they rhyme, or worse – don’t. These are some of those examples. Many prove that even some of the biggest bands in the world have gotten pretty lazy when it comes to putting pen to paper.
Oasis – ‘Champagne Supernova’
“Slowly walking down the hall, Faster than a cannonball/Where were you when we were getting high?”
Noel Gallagher may have been getting high himself when he wrote this, the closing track from landmark 1995 album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, but nothing can excuse a terrible couplet. This doesn’t make an ounce of sense – not even in a ‘this-doesn’t-make-sense-but-is-kind-of-thought-provoking’ kind of way, just in a ‘this-doesn’t-make-sense-because-you-can’t-walk-slow-and-be-faster-than-a-steel-projectile’ kind of way.
Aerosmith – ‘Love In An Elevator’
“I kinda hope we get stuck / Nobody gets out alive / She said ‘I’ll show you how to fax / In the mailroom, honey / And have you home by five’”
This ’70s rock hit really pushes our buttons. It’s wrong on so many levels (as are elevator puns). They might’ve been able to get away with this sexual innuendo at the time, but now the fax is probably the least sexy piece of technology known to man, so now we can all point and laugh at Steven Tyler’s (*drum roll*) fax pas.
Metallica – ‘Frantic’
“My lifestyle / determines my deathstyle”
Complete and utter cringe. Can you imagine how many thousands of dedicated fans have this tattooed across their backs? Or their foreheads? Complete with 2D flame graphics on either side? This couplet is nothing more than a bad, regrettable couplet that’s more silly than it is meaningful; as They Might Be Giants pointed out in their fan tribute song ‘Scott Bower’, with the line: “My lifeboat / Determines my deathboat”
Vampire Weekend – ‘Horchata’
“In December drinking horchata / I’d look psychotic in a balaclava / Winter’s cold is too much to handle / Pincher crabs that pinch at your sandals.”
Fact: 87% of Vampire Weekend lyrics don’t make a lot of sense. Case in point: why would someone be wearing sandals in winter? But then that’s what you get for naming a song after a Mexican rice drink, as the New York group did for the opening track of their 2010 album, Contra.
Bob Dylan – ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’
“Now you see this one-eyed midget shouting the word ‘now’/ And you say, for what reason? /And he says, ‘how?’ / And you say, what does this mean?”
…and he screams back, “’you’re a cow’. Give me some milk or else go home.” Here, Dylan – regularly hailed as one of the great poets of his or any generation – proves that he’s simultaneously one of the best and worst lyricists of all time. The sobering punchline to this couplet is especially glorious, what does it all mean? Sing it again, Bob!
Culture Club – ‘The War Song’
“War is stupid / And people are stupid”
A noble message delivered with brilliant eloquence. If North and South Korea heard the in-depth argument being posited here by Culture Club, their ongoing feuding would surely be coming to an end. “The War Song”, the first track from Culture Club’s 1984 Waking Up With The House On Fire, peaked at #2 in both the UK and Australia but never reached the glorified top spot. Why? Because people are stupid. Pay attention.
Des’ree – ‘Life’
“I don’t wanna see a ghost / It’s the sight I fear most / I’d rather eat a peace of toast / And watch the evening news”
Here’s some context: this display of genius writing comes immediately after the couplet: “I’m afraid of the dark / ‘specially when I’m in a park”. The third grade simplicity of the British RnB singer’s song is enough to render native English speakers speechless, leaving them contemplating their own ‘Life, Oh Life’.
ABC – ‘That Was Then But This Is Now’
“Can’t complain, mustn’t grumble / Help yourself to another apple crumble.”
This one is sickening on four accounts: 1. The fact they even wanted to use “grumble” in a song to begin with, 2. The fact they would’ve brainstormed something that rhymed with “grumble” 3. The fact they all agreed on “apple crumble”, 4. The fact that no-one in the stopped to think the whole thing was a bad idea. The ’80s – truly the decade of decadence.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Snow’
“Hey oh / listen what I say oh / I got your hey oh / now listen what I say oh”
If rhyming unnecessary “ohs” was illegal, then Anthony Kiedis would have been hung by the State long ago. There should be a clause in the constitution banning such crimes, but alas, bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers are allowed to get away with blatantly slack lyrics that don’t sound so blatantly slack until they’re written out in front of us. See also: the random gibberish that makes up the final chorus of ‘Around The World’, and we quote, “ding dang dong dong deng dng dong dong ding dang.”
Pitbull – ‘Give Me Everything’
“Me not working hard? / Yeah, right, picture that with a Kodak / Or better yet, go to Times Square / Take a picture of me with a Kodak.”
Warning: Latino pop-rapper Pitbull thinks it’s acceptable to rhyme Kodak with Kodak, but is seemingly offended when someone asks him if he’s working hard? There’s plenty of synonyms for taking photographs than simply naming a popular ’80s brand of polaroid, but maybe Pitbull was a little rushed for time. This couplet is a Kodak moment but for all the wrong reasons.
Black Sabbath – ‘War Pigs’
“Generals gathered in their masses / Just like witches at black masses”
We never thought we’d be comparing Black Sabbath to Pitbull, but nonetheless: “masses” is to Black Sabbath as “Kodak” is to Pitbull. Two of the same word doesn’t necessarily make a rhyme, just like how two wrongs don’t make a right. Still it’s hard to ignore the conviction with which Ozzy wails this couplet as it opens Sabbath’s classic Paranoid LP.
Wavves – ‘Gimme A Knife’
“I loved you Jesus / You raped the world / I feel defeated / Guess I’ll go surf.”
Wavves’ Nathan Williams is simultaneously the most angst-ridden and carefree guy in California, captured perfectly in these ridiculous lyrics, where within the space of 15 words and a few seconds, the ‘King of the Beach’ flips from religious and sexual imagery to carefree tubin’. It might be terrible, but it’s a special kind of heartwarmingly bad.
Interpol – ‘Obstacle 1’
“Her stories are boring and stuff / she’s always calling my bluff.”
We’re with the anonymous woman on this one: Interpol, we’re calling your bluff. You’re great, but some of your lyrics are boring and stuff. This rhyme is so forced it’s laughable, which is a shame because it lets down the otherwise brilliant storytelling on their poignant debut release, 2002’s Turn On The Bright Lights.
Nine Inch Nails – ‘That’s What I Get’
“How could you turn me into this? / After you just taught me how to kiss you / I told you I’d never say goodbye / Now I’m slipping on the tears you made me cry.”
Caution: Floor Slippery When Trent Reznor Has Been Crying. Taken from the 1989 debut album Pretty Hate Machine, this song outlines the frontman’s first dosage of heartache. You can just envision a young, heart-broken Reznor pouring his heart onto the page of his journal, and, between tears, writing down one of the worst lyrics of the ‘80s. Tough guys have emotions too it seems.
Alpine – ‘Heartlove’
“Prowl like a cat through the night, I’ll be happy /Vinegar salsa on my chips, I’m happy.”
Melbourne’s sugar pop sweethearts have also made the list. Innovative with ethereal soul – Alpine have more positives which cancel out the negatives, yet is this couplet from the fast-paced, hooky “Heartlove” at all forgivable? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Is there an obvious link between exotically flavoured chips and felines that we’re missing?
Nirvana – ‘Breed’
I don’t mind, I don’t mind, I don’t mind. I don’t mind / Mind. I don’t have a mind.
Yep we’re going there. Kurt Cobain may be revered aesthetically and culturally for a raw minimalism that rebelled against the excesses of the ’80s, but simplicity doesn’t have to translate to a dumbing down of the basics of the English language. Rhyming ‘mind’ with ‘mind’ not the most inventive pairing for sure.
Pete Murray – ‘So Beautiful’
“Now you tell me why is it so / You’re bigger than Mighty Joe / At least you think so”
Predictably morose even when aspiring to the brightest of acoustic chords, this number from his debut album Feeler has been Pete Murray’s long-standing signifier in the music world to the detriment of all parties involved. Including Mighty Joe (whoever that is).
The Beatles – ‘Don’t Pass Me By’
“I’m sorry that I doubted you, I was so unfair / You were in a car crash and you lost all your hair.”
Marking Ringo Starr’s ‘revelatory’ entrance into the realms of the songwriting, this little number hints at the Fab Four’s true descent into the wacky, bizarre and plain hallucinogenic headspace of the ’60s. It could be a vague reference to the ‘Paul is Dead’ conspiracy theory, justifying the song somewhat, but the causal link between unfairly doubting someone and them losing their hair in a car crash is a little bit of stretch – even for a trippy dabble into surrealism.
America – ‘A Horse With No Name’
“On the first part of the journey /I was looking at all the life /There were plants and birds and rocks and things / There was sand and hills and rings.”
You’d think with that song title that these soft rock Brits would have some deep philosophy to impart, but from the opening lines, it soon becomes clear that maybe that horse is nameless because of a sheer lack of creativity. As if the criminal “and things” clincher wasn’t enough, using “and rings” as weak visual description of a desert probably should have tipped them off to change its rhyming counterpart. First draft writing at its worst.
The Police – ‘Walking On The Moon’
“Giant steps are what you take / Walking on the moon / I hope my legs don’t break / Walking on the moon.”
Alright Sting, we get it, you’re using a spacewalk as a metaphor for love. We’re happy for you and all, but that really doesn’t excuse one of the laziest rhymes of all time. By the way, if you’re going to write a song about just how much you love someone, and how their love makes you feel, maybe don’t ruin the romance by introducing the imagery of broken legs into the mix. Just a suggestion.