PRESENTING POP MUSIC’S LAMEST LYRICS EVER
by Todd Hartley
Last week, as you may recall, we were discussing the worst song of all time, which I claimed is “You’re Sixteen,” as done by Ringo Starr. The column seemed to get a good response, with many of you tossing out other worthy contenders such as “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks, “Mr. Roboto” by Styx, “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and anything Donna Godchaux did with the Grateful Dead.
Buoyed by your response, I’m going to the musical well one more time. This week we’ll be tackling the subject of the most inane song lyrics ever. It’s important to note first, though, that this category has little to do with last week’s. Many a wretched song has perfectly suitable lyrics, and many a great song has absolutely dreadful lyrics. It all depends on the music and, especially in the case of “You’re Sixteen” and Godchaux, the context.
I also want to clarify that when I say “inane,” I don’t mean stupid; I mean insipid. I mean lyrics that are so lame and uninspired that you hate them the first time you hear them and you dislike the artist a little bit just for having written them.
Inane lyrics are words that could have been written by any chimpanzee or love-struck teenager who jotted down the first rhyme that came to his moronic head — the kind of pop drivel found in about 85 percent of love songs, basically, only worse.
I used to think that the song with the lamest lyrics ever was “Elenore,” by the Turtles (sample lyrics: “I really think you’re groovy / Let’s go out to a movie”), but then I learned that the song was intended as a parody of a pop song to stick it to the band’s record label, which didn’t want the Turtles to innovate musically.
Remarkably, the stupid song made it all the way to No. 6 in the U.S. and No. 1 in New Zealand. Now I think “Elenore, gee, I think you’re swell” may be among the most brilliant things ever written.
Anyway, because of that, unlike last week, I don’t have a clear-cut favorite when it comes to bad lyrics. I have a few that I think are in the running, but I’m sure there are plenty I’m forgetting, and I hope you’ll share your favorites with me.
My current front-runner is “Hooked on a Feeling,” most notably done by B.J. Thomas and Blue Swede. Here’s a taste of some of the insipidity: “All the good love when we’re all alone / Keep it up, girl, yeah you turn me on”; “Lips as sweet as candy / Its taste is on my mind / Girl, you got me thirsty / For another cup of wine.”
Really, though, when it comes down to it, I’d have to give the nod to Blue Swede because its version of the song (and a 1971 version by England’s Jonathan King) added “Ooga-chaka-ooga-ooga” to the lyrical lineup and changed “I’ll just stay addicted and hope I can endure” to “I just stay a victim if I can for sure.”
I know they’re both awful, but Blue Swede’s seems worse. Seriously, how anyone could hear that song a second time and not despise it is beyond me. And yet, somehow, back in 1974, when music was near its peak, Blue Swede, a short-lived Swedish cover band, had a No. 1 hit in the U.S. with that horrible, horrible song. That, to me, is one of history’s most amazing mysteries. How the hell could that have happened?
Another really bad one from 1974 is “Feelings,” by Brazilian singer Morris Albert, which reached No. 6 in the U.S. Here’s a taste: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings / Trying to forget my feelings of love / Teardrops rolling down my face / Trying to forget my feelings of love.” I think we can give Albert a pass, however, as his English might have been so bad that he thought he’d written something entirely different.
Sadly, the real winner — or loser — of the not-so-coveted crown of song with the most inane lyrics ever should be one I wrote back in junior high school called “Sweet Sweet Sally.” I’d almost forgotten about it until a friend reminded me of it recently, and now I feel embarrassed by it all over again.
Thankfully, I can’t remember the lyrics, because if I wrote them down, you’d feel dumber just for having read them. Just know that if it ever actually became a song it would have won hands-down.
Todd Hartley owes the world an apology for writing that song. It was honestly that lame.