Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate’s biggest pet peeve around the house is that it drives her absolutely bonkers if, while idly sing-songing about the house, I botch the lyrics to the tune I’m belting out. It’s an annoyance that she’s passed on to my five year old, whose forehead veins pop whenever I mangle a lyric. He insists that I sing it again until I identify the correct lyrics, and it’s only then that the vein will subside.
It’s a very serious problem in our home, and I suspect it’s a problem in other houses around America: Song-lyric fascists are ruining our fun.
Because here’s the thing: Song lyrics are constructs. They are guidelines. Song lyrics, like the Constitution, are living, breathing words. We bend them to our will. They are not meant to be taken literally. In fact, song lyrics are often indecipherable junk written to accompany the melody and rarely to stand on their own. They are not poems. We do not derive meaning from their words; we experience the music. The mood. The feeling. The joy or the sadness. The lyrics glue the music together, but they are not fixed.
Do you think that Def Leppard really cares if you botch the lyrics to “Pour Some Sugar on Me”?
Listen! red light, yellow light, green-a-light go! Crazy little woman in a one man show Mirror queen, mannequin, rhythm of love Sweet dream, saccharine, loosen up
You gotta squeeze a little, squeeze a little
Tease a little more
Easy operator come a knockin’ on my door
Sometime, anytime, sugar me sweet
Little miss innocent sugar me, yeah, yeah
Give a little more
Or that Elton John would flinch if you mangled the lyrics to “Levon.”
Levon sells cartoon balloons in town His family business thrives Jesus blows up balloons all day Sits on the porch swing watching them fly
And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus
Leaving Levon far behind
Take a balloon and go sailing
While Levon, Levon slowly dies
Those lyrics are gobbledygook. Incoherent messes. Do you think Lemmy from “Motorhead” cares what you sing? Can anyone even understand him? I know for a fact that Kurt Cobain didn’t give a sh*t. He admitted himself that he made them up as he went along. Shouldn’t we have that same right?
We, as Americans, should be able to sing whatever lyrics we want without reproach, so long as we capture the spirit of the song. We should not be imprisoned by song lyrics. We should be free to make our own. To make them better. To take the song where we want it to go, and not where “the man” wants it to go. When we hear a swatch of music, it’s not the lyrics that take us back to beach in the Summer of 2002 where we met our significant other. It’s the music.
Let us resolve, today, to band together as one to stamp out song-lyric fascism once and for all. If someone tells you while you’re bobbing your head to the sweet sounds in your mind, that the idle words coming out of your mouth don’t sync to the liner notes some music studio intern compiled, you tell them to go the hell. You belt out whatever the hell lyrics you’d like because this is America, where life, liberty and the pursuit of whatever the hell song lyrics we want to song rules all.
SO SAY WE ALL.