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
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!)
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
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.
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!