Sunday, May 29, 2011

Perverts, Yellow Ribbons, and Massacre of the English Language: Truly Abominable Songs That I HATE

Dave Barry once wrote a book about songs he strongly disliked called Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs, or something very similar. He solicited the opinions of readers, which he used along with his own personal takes on various works of music. He employed certain criteria, most of which I don't remember. One criterion I do recall is that the song had to have attained at least a modicum of popularity or radio play time for consideration. Another was that the song could not have been presumably written as a joke. For example, at some point in the late sixties or early seventies, a song entitled "Muh Nuh Muh Nuh" actually received airtime and possibly even achieved top forties status, yet was not considered among Barry's "bad songs" because it must have been intended as a joke of some sort, albeit not a very funny one, except to the composer and recording artists, who laughed their way to the bank.

Barry had e few memorable takes on the songs he discussed. I remember Dan Hill's recording of "Sometimes When We Touch" described as sounding as though it was sung by someone as he was receiving a prostate exam from Captain Hook. barry also took shots at songs I actually like, such as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitgerald." I can't remember exactly what offended him about that particular song; it may have been the line "As big freighters go, it was bigger than most, with a crew and a captain well-seasoned." I'll concede that the line wasn't one of Lightfoot's most profound. The man has a catalogue of thousands of works, with some truly poetic language ["Triangle, triangle, oh see my ship dangle" happens to be one of my personal favorites, but there are great lines from scads of Lightfoot's songs from which to choose.] In any event, I feel that Barry found one mediocre line out of a very long ballad and declared a better-than-average song bad based solely on that one line. In any event, it's OK. Dave Barry certainly doesn't need to seek my permission before criticizing a song. Besides, I don't think I was even born when he wrote his book.

I have neither the knowledge nor the stature among literari or in life in general to compose such a book of my own. Nothing, however, stops me from writing a blog on the topic of songs I hate with every bit as much intensity as I hate child pornography.

Song Number five on my list would never have made it on Barry's list because Dave Barry only used pop songs. This one's a hymn, and an obscure one at that. It's called "Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses." It's uniquely Mormon in origin and use, and is so bad that many Mormons don't even know it exists. My grandfather, however, LOVES the song, and sings it to the family at every family gathering. You'll probably never hear this song, and so you'll have to take my word for it that even if you love hymns, this is one you would NOT love, and if you hate hymns, hearing this one could cause you to want to drive nails through your own eardrums.

Song number four on my list is sort of the "song to hate" du jour. "Friday," by Rebecca Black, is particularly unpopular among people my age, as well as those older and younger. The lyrics sound like a poetry assignment scratched out in a hallway thirty seconds before the tardy bell by a seventh-grader who was a C-student at best. The melody sounds like a Music Composition I assignment attempted by a student randomly plucked from the home economics department.

Song number three is not exactly a hymn; it's a church song for Mormon children. It's not actually in any church songbook as far as I know, but it was written by an LDS composer. The title alone is insulting to the intelligence of the profoundly retarded. It's occasionally sung by Mormon children for special performances, and refusing to sing it once caused me to be taken out of a church building and beaten by an evil aunt. The song is called, "I Did and I Does and I Do." Need I say more?

Song number two, sung by Roberta Flack and written by I have no idea who, is "Killing Me Softly With His Song." If he's really killing her with his song, why doesn't she just die and get it over with? Leave the rest of us out of the process, please. It's like a person who commits suicide but isn't content merely to kill himself or herself, but must take an entire busload of people along with him or her. My mother knows how much I hate this song. She insists that she will sing it at my wedding. I've told her it's in no way appropriate to be sung at anyone's wedding. Some songs, such as "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," are not wedding songs. "Killing Me Softly With His Song" falls into that category, in addition to being a really grating song. I've told my mom that the moment she stands up and sings one note or word of that song at my wedding, I will grab my groom by the collar and drag him down the aisle, and we'll complete our nuptials at an undisclosed location. I hope she knows I MEAN it.

Song number One is from the seventies. "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" is the title, and I'd hate to have lived through its prime. Just hearing it on oldies stations when my parents force them on me in the car is enough to cause me to beg for anti-nausea medication. The melody alone is vexing beyond belief. Once when my Bluebirds group went to visit a Senior Citizens' Center, some old geezer was playing it on an organ there, and it was all I could do even at the age of six to keep from running out of the building to avoid hearing more of that awful melody, and that was without the words. Add the words, and it would have caused Ghandi to advocate nuclear war. The song is about a guy who was in prison. He didn't know whether the woman he loved before he did his time in the pokey wanted him back after his release. The signal she was to leave as to whether she still desired his services was a yellow ribbon, which was to be tied around "the old oak tree." Wherever the hell that was, it must have been somewhere right along the bus route, because the ex-con asked the bus driver to look for the yellow ribbon because he (the ex-con) could not bear to look for himself. Of course the yellow ribbon was there; in fact, not just one ribbon, but a hundred yellow ribbons were tied around the freaking tree. You know how it went, I'm sure, with whole damn bus cheering and all. We'll leave the analysis of the melody to some musicologist, who, I'm fairly certain would rip it to shreds, while we merely analyze the plot. Obviously some form of mail existed, because the ex-con wrote his woman to tell her how to indicate her desire. Why couldn't the woman just write him back and tell him "Yes, I can't wait to be in your arms again," or "I don't ever want to see your perverted face again, you sucking wad of stachbotrys mold!"? (The song never revealed why the guy was incarcerated, but I've always assumed it must have been a sex crime of some sort.) Any average freshman English student could tell you in analysis of the plot that there should have been clues somewhere along the way. Did the woman ever visit the guy in prison? Did she scrawl "Return to Sender" on every piece of mail he sent to her and have them delivered back to him, or did she respond with her own letters of endearment? If an eight-grader submitted this plot in story form, depending upon the mechanics of the writing, either a "D" or and "F" would be boldly written in red at the top of the paper. It's almost as trite as the classic, "And I woke up and it was all just a dream" ending, which hardly any teacher past first grade accepts.

If I thought about it for longer, I'm sure I'd come up with more truly abhorrent songs, but I've probably already caused nightmares just with what I've writen. Feel free to share your own list of truly abominable songs in the "comments" section.


  1. The song that I hate with an infinite passion is "OMG" by Usher, I think. It's annoying and sticks in my head.

    Completely agree with "Killing Me Softly" and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon...". I love the classics, but these two songs are definitely not on my play list.

  2. I like both of those songs. It's my age.

    Killing me softly is about a woman who is sat listening to a singer whose song is obviously aimed directly at her life, it is ripping her life and her memories to shreds. But it turns out he isn't, and so she was mistaken. Oh. Now I see what you mean! ;o))

    As for Tie a Yellow Ribbon? I had a major crush on the two girls who made up Dawn, the backing singers. :o))

  3. You've already found my other blog, so there's no need to list 'em here.