Category Archives: Registry of Lyrical Offenders

Registry of Lyrical Offenders: Frightened Rabbit – “My Backwards Walk”

Previously we spotlighted some dance-floor romance by the sour Scotsmen from Frightened Rabbit. The Midnight Organ Fight is still playing on repeat, but it has since come to our attention that singer Scott Hutchison has a strike on his rap sheet.

“My Backwards Walk” begins with a modest scene-setting of regret:

I’m working on my backwards walk
Walking with no shoes or socks
And the time rewinds to the end of May
I wish we’d never met then met today

So far, so good. Hutchison pens some admirable post-breakup verses, lamenting memories that won’t fade and warbling plaintively through “drinking to forget” lines. He just wants closure, or, to quote Charlie Nicholson (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in High Fidelity, he’s going through “one of those what-does-it-all-mean stages.”

I’m working hard on walking out
Shoes keep sticking to the ground
My clothes won’t let me close the door
These trousers seem to love your floor

Clothes/close is an underused rhyme, but the magnetic attraction between pants and floor is truly a new spin on the breakup-sex trope. Unlike the more typical variety (“you’re no good for me but I’ll stay”), Hutchison clearly gets only misery from his prolonged exit. Rather than describe the passion and mixed emotions keeping him around, all he can think about is his pants, crumpled in a heap. You get the feeling they’re still around his ankles, while he just stares down at them, choked in shame.

We’re almost in the clear — get in, get out; sad song, nice wordplay — when Hutchison tries to kick it up to another level of epicness.

You’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it

Oops. Imagining an ex-lover as a pile of feces (at least two feet high, by our calculations) is awkward enough, but Hutchison slips up seriously with “you’re the shit.” It’s unclear whether he meant this, but in grade school, being “the shit” was like being “the bomb” or “all that.” Occasionally, with a bag of chips. That saying may not exist in Scotland — this is the part of the world where fries are “chips” and chips are “crisps,” and soccer is “football” and Bruce Springsteen is “U2.” But next time, dude, run your lyrics by an American buddy or something. Or just stop watching Saved by the Bell reruns.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “My Backwards Walk”

Registry of Lyrical Offenders: Nas’ “Hero,” Still Better Than Billy Joel

The lead single of Nas’ new Untitled is “Hero,” in which His Illness proclaims himself hero for championing provocative hip-hop — specifically the (stymied) attempt to title the new record Nigger. Here’s his rundown of the saga, with linkage by us:

I’m hog-tied, the corporate side
Blocking y’all from going to stores and buying it
First L.A. and Doug Morris was riding wit it
But Newsweek article startled big wigs
They said, Nas, why is he trying it?
My lawyers only see the Billboard charts as winning

“L.A.” is L.A. Reid, chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group, and Doug Morris is CEO of Universal Music Group. The album’s US release has Doug Morris’ name edited out — likely at Universal’s behest, judging by Morris’ low news profile.

But here’s the stumble that landed Nas in our registry. Inducting himself into the musical revolutionaries’ hall of fame, he lists these contemporaries:

Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce, or Billy Joel
They can’t sing what’s in their soul

Dylan-yes, Bruce-mmhmm, ok, and — WHAT? BILLY JOEL?? LIKE, “UPTOWN GIRL” BILLY JOEL? AND “SHE’S GOT A WAY” AND “JUST THE WAY YOU ARE”???

Ahem. After my ears stopped bleeding I remembered that Joel was involved in a flash-in-the-pan embrolio in 2007, when he wrote “Christmas in Fallujah” — which he released with unknown Cass Dillon singing because Joel was too old. (I know what you’re thinking, and no, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” doesn’t count. That was actually the beginnings of Billy Joel’s aborted historical fiction novel, written between 3 and 5 AM one night over a pitcher of vodka-Fresca.)

Nas, we recommend you either pick up Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits or go see Movin’ Out. Probably go with the first one.

MP3: Nas – “Hero”

MP3: Cass Dillon – “Christmas in Fallujah”

Registry of Lyrical Offenders: Justin Timberlake – “My Love”

It’s fun to imagine T.I.’s life these days, milling around his house (don’t call it house arrest), mixing new tracks while wearing his ankle monitor and a terrycloth bathrobe. His single “No Matter What” has got kind of a “Stay gold, Ponyboy” feel to it. “I ain’t dead, I ain’t done, I ain’t scared,” he tells us in the chorus. And occasionally he drops a quotable like this one:

You let the blog sites and the magazines tell it
I’m sho’ to be in jail till 2027

Not that we’d ever wish that, Tip. But we’re still smarting from this clunker from his 2006 collabo with Justin Timberlake, “My Love”:

They call me candle guy
Simply because I am on fire

Wish were it true that T.I. really moonlighted as a waxsmith, or that he grew up working summers in Atlanta’s sweltering paraffin factories. Hell, if the Rubberband Man teamed up with Yankee Candle Co., they’d probably come up with some wicked hemp-related flavors. (Also: Can you call it “flavor” if you don’t eat it?) Seriously, if Top Back Scenteds ever make it out of the factory, mark us down for three cases. But if this whole line is about “Hey, what other stuff’s on fire?” then we cannot abide. T.I., you are in the Registry.

MP3: Justin Timberlake feat. T.I. – “My Love”

Registry of Lyrical Offenders: Lil Wayne – “Mrs. Officer”

On first listen Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was drop-dead stunning — even worth sitting through “Lollipop” to hear gems like “3 Peat” and “Phone Home.” I mean: “I’m rare, like Mr. Clean with hair”? Ace.

But too often this unabashed pop crossover opts for gooey R&B hooks with the likes of T-Pain and Babyface. There’s a time and a place for all that — like when the Wordsworth staff drops the top on the LeBaron and kicks some summer jams on the way to Myrtle Beach — but these rap/R&B hybrids can result in the most grotesque of lyrical abominations. Rap and R&B are like cousins: They act similar and get along really well, but they should NOT make babies with each other.

Slate‘s Jody Rosen nailed this dichotomy in her column about ringtone bestseller Akon:

It’s pointless to complain about hip-hop sexism at this late date—but it is dreary to find it seeping into R&B, once an oasis from rap’s brutish sexual politics. The larger problem with Akon’s “love songs” isn’t moral but aesthetic: the brain-numbing banality of another ode to a big-booty stripper whose “pussy get wet” when a playa flashes his cheddar. The poetic imagination at work here is summed up by the title of Akon’s biggest hit to date (in its unbowdlerized album version): “I Wanna Fuck You.”

And from thence comes “Mrs. Officer,” one of Lil Wayne’s more syrupy entrants into the library of sexual congress. The hook:

When I get up all in ya
We can hear the angels calling us
We can see the sunrise before us
And when I’m in that thang, I’ll make that body sang
I make it say wee ooh wee ooh wee…

That last bit’s kinda nice actually, a breezy police-siren melody just annoying enough to ring in your head all day. But there’s nothing romantic about the sticky way Bobby Valentino promises to “get up all in ya.” It’s like replacing a dozen roses with a six of Smirnoff Raw Tea and a box of Magnums. Maybe some E, if it’s Valentine’s Day.

It’s unclear who wrote those lyrics: Wayne, Bobby Valentino, or producer Deezle (who also did “Lollipop”). So in the name of justice, we’re putting them all in the Registry.

Throw in Akon, too. I wouldn’t trust him around my sister.

MP3: Lil Wayne – “Mrs. Officer”