Lyrical Excreta: An Annotation

Edgar Walters writes…

Look, I’ll be the first the admit to the absurdity inherent in generations of pop song lyrics. From Page/Plant/Jones injecting seemingly random Tolkien references into otherwise conventional rock songs to Kurt Cobain singing from the point of view of a parrot, the stretching of a logical point to make an artistic statement, sneak in a fannish guilty pleasure or just plain find a way to make the goddamn words rhyme is de rigeur in the world of lyrical composition.

But in certain musical circles, pop lyricists seem to have become déclassé. There’s knowingly warping the narrative sense of whatever thin story you’re struggling to concoct about the heartache that comes with love (or sex, or bank fraud, or whatever your song is about), and then there’s flagrantly – and simultaneously – defying your supporters’ claims of your literacy and feminism.

Again, I stack this too heavily. Sexist lyrics are nothing especially new either, and when tempered by a nod and a wink are almost forgivable. (Using them ironically is a big help too.) But there comes a time when one is surely expected to be able to string together words that function on more than just the level of rhyme. I mean, “Bet your bottom dollar / I am gonna holler / Only if you follow / Me”, to hideously misremember the chorus of some long-forgotten Spice Girls ditty, might work in the context of the greater narrative of the song as a whole. But sling it on its own, or put it in the company of a few more randomly generated lines that end in “oller”, and you’ve got problems.

Which is something that Taio Cruz, an R&B act whose performance on The Graham Norton Show left me in hysterics for all the wrong reasons, doesn’t seem to have a problem with. The tale he weaves, a simple account of the myriad ways in which he is ideally matched for the object of his affection, focusses on the male sex drive about as much as you’d expect of a song like this. But the composition is so plainly inept as to be worthy of detailed analysis.

Trouble Maker [Lyrics reproduced in the name of satire]
(Writers: Taio Cruz, Steve Angello, Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk) [Four writers. Dear god…]

I saw when you arrived looking like a supermodel [A sweet if superficial simile, but watch as it leads to a world of trouble, the lyricists now forced to rhyme the rest of the verse with “model”…]
Your ass from the side looks just like a coke bottle [Has this guy seen a Coke bottle lately? Perhaps he likes disturbing-looking posteriors]
I love the way you ride put that thing on full throttle [Ah, the sexism fundamental to the song; glad that didn’t take long to arrive]
So get, get get get, get up on the saddle [Mixed metaphor: he’s gone from cars to horses (or possibly bicycles)]

I wanna see you move like they’re moving in Jamaica [Forgive me for being someone whose experience of Jamaica extends predominantly to their depiction in James Bond films, but I’d appreciate some specifics – to help sell the image, you understand, and allow me to better empathise with the protagonist]
Pretend that I’m a dinner she can be my saltshaker [Aside from the subject’s shift from second to third person, itself further evidence that this may well have been written by someone whose age is still in single digits, any sexual connotation I might extract from the notion of woman as salt shaker in relation to man as plate of dinner can only be an uncomfortable one. Either the lyricists are just making up whatever fits, or this is the most unusual scatological metaphor I’ve ever seen]
You ain’t tryin’ to hide it [What, the salt?], girl you’re a troublemaker [Based on what evidence? Her looks, her driving ability (or whatever it’s supposed to decode as), and his fantasies…]
And I’m a troublemaker [In ways you can’t possibly imagine, I feel sure]

I throw my hands up if you believe in me now [Yes, but how will he know?]
I keep my hands up and do it all for the now [Do what all? And what’s “the now”? Mind you, he’s more than entitled to keep his hands up for as long as he likes – might make things easier when the authorities arrive to cart him away to a room with soft walls]
Sing out [Probably an instruction to the song’s listeners, this. Way to break the fourth wall!]

Sexy little mama [With the Coke bottle behind, yes…], you screaming nice to meet you [This is the trouble with taking lyrics from web sites: I have no idea if any of that clause is meant to represent direct speech. Is the subject suggesting that the “sexy mama” in question is screaming, “Nice to meet you”? Is he telling her – while she’s in mid-scream – that it’s nice to meet her? (Either way, I’d like to know why she feels impelled to scream.) Or, as is more likely still, are the lyricists just trying to attain the requisite number of syllables while establishing an “eat-ya” rhyme? Hmm… Does anyone else feel “I’m gonna eat ya” wouldn’t be utterly out of place in this song? I mean, after all that dinner and salt shaker guff, it’s a sure fit!]
Can I be in your classroom and be your private teacher [Technically, that would make it his classroom. Speaking as a confidant to professional educators, I do also worry that there might be some legal repercussions given such a scenario]
If I bring out my camera will you be in my feature [Assuming this is linked to all the “private teacher” malarkey in the preceding line, I hope he doesn’t mind being branded a child sex offender, because we seem to be entering sexting territory in an uncomfortable way… Still, at least the lyricists are being topical, I’ll give them that]
‘Cause we’re gonna do some things [I don’t think that was ever in doubt], hope your daddy ain’t no preacher [Because making a video recording of a sex act with a minor in your legal care isn’t enough to send you to Hell, but if her dad’s a priest, well then that’s different?]

I wanna see you move like they’re moving in Jamaica [Here again, are we? There seems to be more chorus repetition than verse material in this song. Another damning piece of evidence that this is a haphazardly composed first draft, probably conceived and completed down the local]
Pretend that I’m a dinner she can be my saltshaker
You ain’t tryin’ to hide it, girl you’re a troublemaker
And I’m a troublemaker

I throw my hands up if you believe in me now
I keep my hands up and do it all for the now
Sing out [See what I mean: a bloody long chorus! Incidentally, are we allowed to sing whatever we like?]

I love the way you dance, oh it makes me crazy [Of course we believe you weren’t crazy beforehand…]
I wanna see you move [If he loves the way she dances, he must already have seen her move. As indeed he must have when he earlier saw her “ride”. (You know, all that “full throttle” material.) And when he saw her arrive “looking like a supermodel”. I know it mightn’t exactly be the kind of movement he’s talking about, but beggars can’t be choosers – as he must surely have decided for himself if he’s happy enough to go with Coke bottle girl]

so just let it go baby [Dare I ask what he wants her to let go of? Maybe it’s that I expect cogency, but if this is anything more than a stop-gap lyric I’d be most surprised]
I feel like we can do this if you wanna go with it [Do what? Let’s tally the things he’s described that the two of them could do: the dinner/salt shaker business, the private teaching, the video production, and my favourite… “some things”. Sometimes it pays to be specific if you want to get a partner on board for a collaboration; lets them know just what in buggery you expect them to do]

Let’s take it to the top, pu-pu-push it to the limit
Take it to the top, pu-pu-push it to the limit [A random lyrical flashback to Inner Circle?]

I throw my hands up if you believe in me now
I keep my hands up and do it all for the now
Sing out [This verse makes no greater sense the second time]

Makes “She Loves You” sound the height of lyrical sophistication by comparison.

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