Songs In The Key of L

The other day, and for a reason I can’t remember, my dad and I were discussing the song Got To Get You Into My Life. (Actually, it’s not that unusual that we were discussing it, because if I’ve inherited anything from him – aside from my fabulous high cheekbones – it’s his love of oldies music. I’ve been hooked on it since I was a child: sitting in the backseat of his yacht-sized, baby blue Pontiac, as I soaked in the hits of yesteryear that played on his radio.) Anyway, when I mentioned the song, I thought I knew everything because when he mentioned the song was originally recorded by The Beatles, I was all, nuh-uh! Earth, WInd and Fire were the originators!

But a quick Google search knocked my ass offa my high horse, because guess what? That’ll learn me to try and school my elders.

While reading the source (which was totally not Wikipedia) that proved my father right, I also learned that the song was not about a woman, but weed. I know, right? Criz-azy thought, that: the Beatles singing about drugs! But, yup, the song, apparently, CHRONICled (please don’t kill me) McCartney’s first experience with the ganja, as recorded on the Fab Four’s 1966 album, Revolver. Like so:

I took a ride, I didn’t know what I would find there/Another road where maybe I could see some other kind of mind there

What can I do? What can I be? When I’m with you, I wanna stay there/If I am true/I will never leave, and if I do, I will know the way there

(I wonder if these kids realized what they were singing about. My money’s on WGWG.)

If you didn’t know better, though, you’d think it was about a woman, wouldn’t you? While it seems that the Beatles were the first to use the weed-as-lover metaphor – maybe they were maybe they weren’t – they certainly wouldn’t be the last. (Please note: I’m specifically referring to the metaphor, not songs generally about weed, because there are, of course, about thirty killion of those!)

Brown Sugar

The title track off of D’Angelo’s 1994 album seems to be referring to a brown-skinned woman, but as I said earlier in this post, nuh-uh! Although these lyrics are a little more transparent that the Beatles’, and at the same time, offer more ambiguity.

Brown sugar babe/I gets high off your love/Don’t know how to behave

Always down for a menage-a-trois/But I think I’ma hit it solo/Hope my niggaz don’t mind

Mary Jane

Given the title of this track from Rick James’ 1978 album, Come Get It, this is a “well, duh.” But some of the lyrics offer the same ambiguity that D’Angelo’s do.

I’m in love with Mary Jane/I’m not the only one/If Mary wanna play around/I let her have her fun/She’s not the kind of girl/That you can just tie down

Mary Jane’s Last Dance

Hope you were sufficiently creeped out! You’re welcome.

This offering from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ 1993 album, Wildflowers, may seem like a “well, duh” as well, except it’s not actually clear if this song’s content is as obvious as we may believe. Just take a look at the quote below, courtesy of one of the Heartbreakers, which I totally did NOT screen cap from WIkipedia.

Given that the song title was changed after it was written, it could be Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Read below and you be the judge!

Last dance with Mary Jane/One more time to kill the pain

And now I’ll leave you with the best song about weed eva! Sung by twelve year olds! Who replaced “kutchie” with “dutchie”! And are fooling no one! Because there’s no way in hell that “a ring of dreads” would be passing around a dutch pot. Puh-lease.


I Won A Gift Card ‘Cause I Obsess So Hard.

Don’t you dare laugh at my title. I write FICTION, not poetry.

Anywho, like most neurotic people, I have a shitload of obsessions. One of them is cleaning. I’m a neat freak to the max. So I spent this weekend making my already tidy room tidier. One of the tasks involved the rearranging of my collection comprised of another obsession: Wonder Woman.

(Don’t you dare call me a nerd. Like Milhouse van Houten said: “I’m not a nerd! Nerds are smart!”)

Anyway, I uploaded the pic to my Twitter account. One of the accounts I follow, Specter Magazine, a literary publication, must’ve had some kind of tweet contest,’cause next thing I know, I’m one of two people getting awarded with a $25 gift card. In their words:It’s nice to be rewarded for being me…which is kind of an obsessive freak. No, really. That’s hardly the extent of my collection. I have like seven t-shirts, a hoodie, a fanny pack, a notebook, a reusable shopping bag (which of course I don’t use), a swimsuit from when I was three years old and the full outfit. Yes, I said the full outfit. Didn’t you see the first sentence of this paragraph?

At any rate, I’m thankful to Specter Magazine. To show my appreciation, I’m adding their website to my growing number of links, which are located on the right side of the home page. And I’m going to use the gift card they gave me to buy a copy of Elements of Style by Strunk and White.

Don’t you dare laugh at my choice…ok, ok, I am a nerd.

“It’s my job to be repetitive. My job. My job. Repetitiveness is my job!” *Updated!*

While this may be a tad off-topic, it’s still kinda Prose-y ’cause it involves a type of writing: songwriting, that is.

It’s just that recently, four five of the latest hit pop songs have been stuck in my head, and I think I’ve figured out why. And I post this at the risk of embarrassing myself, because the reason is probably pretty obvious, and the technique’s probably been used for decades now. In fact, I’m pretty sure it has. But still:

1. I’m Into You – Jennifer Lopez

2. Man Down – Rihanna

3. Who Says – Selena Gomez and The Scene

4. Super Bass – Nicki Minaj

Now what do all of these songs have in common? They are, at least in my opinion, absolute earworms. Which is unremarkable, considering that most hit songs are ’cause radio stations tend to play the crap outta them. But these four five seem to stick more than usual, and I think I know why.

Now I’m not sure what part of the song to call this…I think it’s called the bridge, which I believe is the prelude to the chorus. Even if it isn’t, let’s call it the bridge for argument’s sake. Well, each of the songs I mentioned has a bridge that consists of words that aren’t exactly words, but are repeated by the singer before the chorus throughout the entire song.

In J.Lo’s song, it’s “na na na na na na na na na hey”

Rihanna’s has “rum pum pum pum rum pum pum pum rum pum pum pum”

Selena sings “na na na na na na na na na na na na na”

And Nicki’s is “Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom”

ETA: I’ve had this song stuck in my head for like a week now – Britney Spears’ “I Wanna Go.” The repetitive part in this one is pretty obvious, ’cause it involves the title of the song, duh.

Of course this is done on purpose to get ’em stuck in your head so ideally, you’ll buy it and not run away screaming from the TV/radio every time they come on (though it’s worked on me: I like all four five songs). According to Molly-Ann Leikin of Songwriting Consultants, Ltd., this is the key to creating a hit song:

I think of choruses as nursery rhymes for adults – short, repetitive, irresistibly singalongable, easy to remember. This may sound silly or disparaging to those of you with Julliard degrees, or who’ve been in bands all your lives. But if you aren’t getting where you thought you should have gotten by now in your careers, you could change all that for the better in ten minutes.

When my clients are having melody problems, I assign them the nursery rhyme game. That is simply choosing five different nursery rhymes – doesn’t matter which ones – “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, “Humpty Dumpty”, “Jack and Jill”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Ring around a Rosie” – any five. All nursery rhymes have just one musical section, which I call the verse. This exercise will show you how to write a simple, repetitive chorus to each of those verses, and that is basic melody construction…although it’s “just a nursery rhyme”, you’ll have very deliberately constructed a note-by-note melody with a strong hook. When you’re 100% happy with it, THEN add the chords and the track.

So it’s not a bridge, it’s a hook? I’m confused. Yeah, I totes don’t know what the fuck I’m talkin’ ’bout,  Willis.

Again, forgive me if I’m being Captain Obvious. I mean it would be nice to be a Captain, just not that kind of Captain. Unless it’s Captain Morgan. Yeah. Just call me Captain Morgan from now on.

ETA: Hey! “Singalongable” is not a word, Molly-Ann! It’s not even close to being cromulent!

Two And A Half Grams – Mea Culpa

Okay. So last week I wrote this horrible acrostic poem about Charlie Sheen, which, much like the media and general public, poked fun at his very public breakdown. Then, a couple of days ago, while watching an entertainment news magazine, I saw excerpts of one of his Sheen’s Korner webcasts – the one where he smokes a cigarette through his nostril – and no longer found it humourous.

I’m not ignoring the fact that he’s done terrible things, including the repeated (and alleged) domestic abuse against several women, advocating or excusing his behaviour. It’s just that it seems his problems go beyond being an asshole and a drug addict. Because in the video, he seems extremely manic. I’m no doctor, but he appears to be bipolar, which a lot of people in the media have speculated.  And some bipolar patients are known to treat their symptoms with illegal drugs.

Even if he’s not bipolar, he has a drug problem. Having substance abuse issues does not make him a bad person, but people seem to think so which allows them to justify making a joke out of him. And people generally treat celebrities harshly because they make obscene amounts of money for what they do which seems of really low importance to the goodwill of humanity, unlike being a doctor or firefighter or cop or teacher. But they are still people, and they are still human, and they still struggle with the same issues the “ordinary” human does. Hey, I’ve laughed at celebrities before because I get caught up in the same entitlement as everyone else does: they’re rich, they’re famous, so they’re game. Still doesn’t make it right, though.

Also – if Charlie Sheen is suffering from some form of mental illness, it’s even worse to laugh at him. Because mental illness is already stigmatized and ridiculed in society as a whole in general; to this day it’s not taken seriously enough and people just call mental illness patients “crazy.” Look at when Mariah Carey and Britney Spears had their breakdowns. Everyone pretty much laughed at them. Stuff like this is why “regular” people are scared to come forward to their loved ones and ask for help. This is why that when people do ask for help, they’re not taken seriously, or shunned by their family. Look how many “crazy” people are on the street. They are there because they have no support. They are there because of this ignorance.

Mental illness is no joke. Unless it’s treated properly, it’s very hard to manage your everyday life. Even cooking a meal and getting yourself dressed in the morning can be a challenge. And in cases like manic depression, it can result in destructive behaviour = Charlie Sheen.

Again, I have no business diagnosing this man. But it’s patently obvious that his problem goes beyond drug abuse. While his breakdown seems humorous, it’s actually just sad. Sadder still is the fact that the ridicule he’s receiving is a microcosm of the attitude society upholds towards mental illness, and how far we have to go before it’s taken as seriously as cancer and diabetes.

So please think before you laugh at him and people like him. If your family member or friend was going through the same thing, would you laugh at them too?