Five Examples of Terrible Lyrics
When people listen to music, they hear a lot of different sounds, but mostly people hear and respond to the lyrics. While fellow musicians may understand the intricacies of guitar solos or drum beats, most of us understand only what is being communicated through words. Sometimes an awful song is saved by amazing lyrics. But more often a great song is ruined by terrible lyrics. Here are five examples (by no means a complete list).
1. Led Zeppelin: “Black Dog”
I suppose if I’d been smoking dope and rebelling against my parents back in the ’70s, maybe I would have gotten into Led Zeppelin. But I was born in 1980, and I don’t give a shit about this band. Even if they were “pivotal in the development of hard rock and heavy metal.” Just give me Black Sabbath, please.
“Black Dog,” like most Zeppelin songs, is about begging for sex. Musically, the song is OK, with some cool time changes. But halfway through the song Robert Plant belts out, “I don’t know, but I’ve been told/A big-legged woman ain’t got no soul.” Every time I hear this song, I try my damnedest to interpret these words as meaning anything other than, “Fat chicks don’t rock.” But I can’t. Because this is what the lyrics mean.
I think what annoys me the most is how naïve this line of the song is. I mean, if he’d sung, “One time someone told me/Big-legged women like ice cream,” then I would at least understand what he was saying. I could simply accept that Robert Plant is a sexist, controlling, chauvinist pig. I could say, “Fuck that fatphobic douchebag.” But, no! Robert Plant says, “I don’t know, but I’ve been told/A big-legged woman ain’t got no soul!”
Well, Robert, you DON’T know. Because a single big-legged women has got more soul than all your albums combined. Whether in the bedroom or on the dance floor, let me go on record as saying “Fat Chicks Rock.” And if you don’t know that, then don’t write a fucking song about it.
2. The Descendents: “I’m Not a Loser”
The first time I heard a Descendents song, it blew my mind. Fast, fun, silly. Made me want to dance. And to this day, I would proudly wear a Descendents shirt around town. But no band is perfect.
My qualm with The Descendents has to do with the third track off the ground-breaking album, Milo Goes to College. I spent my teen years trying to convince my peers that, “I’m Not a Loser,” so this song was an instant anthem for me. He mocks the spoiled rich kids, while showing pride in his working class background, all while dissing people whose “only goal in life is to smoke a joint.” I am down with all that. But then Milo has to call the rich kid a “fucking homo,” and then insults him again by saying, “You’re fucking gay!”
I guess the college Milo went to didn’t teach any courses on the struggles of the LGBT community. You think the working class has it rough? Please. Maybe homophobic slurs were widely accepted in the ’80s So-Cal punk scene, but I don’t know of any true punks anywhere that could get away with saying shit like this today. Maybe you’re not a loser, but you are sort of an idiot. Thanks for ruining what could have otherwise been one of my all-time favorite songs.
3. One Direction: “What Makes You Beautiful”
For the last year or so I’ve been hearing this awful and annoying song, ya know, when I’m at work, or getting a ride from an idiot. Wikipedia informs me that this song blends “teen pop, power pop, and pop rock,” which makes the song diverse enough that morons of all demographics will enjoy it. But talking about a terrible pop song is sort of like describing a bad Nick Cage movie. It’s Nick Cage, what were you expecting?
Bad pop songs are par for the course, so I’ll just focus on a single line that really irritates me. The whole song, as the title implies, is about a beautiful person, presumably a girl, but not necessarily. A number of attractive traits are mentioned, such as insecurity, but apparently what makes this person so beautiful is the ignorance of her own beauty. “You don’t know you’re beautiful/That’s what makes you beautiful.”
So, let’s break this down. The fact that she doesn’t know she’s beautiful, is, in fact, what makes her beautiful. So this moron goes and writes a song to convince her that she’s beautiful. Her new-found awareness of her own beauty undoes the very thing which contributed most to her beauty. After learning she is beautiful, we must now theorize that the level of her beauty has substantially dropped. And since she can’t know she’s beautiful if she actually isn’t, does that mean she loops back to being as beautiful as she was before the song started? Or after losing her beauty, is it gone forever?
We could argue this point forever, which is the approximate time of the song itself. I wish this song were a cleverly created temporal paradox, written by some sci-fi nerds. But it’s just some shitty song by some shitty band (from some reality show, no less!) so let’s move on.
4. Deep Blue Something: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the movie? Great. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the song? Terrible. The song is about a girl who wants to break up with a guy. She says it’s because “they have nothing in common,” which seems like a perfectly fine reason for two people to go their separate ways. But the guy, who “hates when things are over,” comes up with an amazingly convincing argument for why they should stay together.
“And I said what about breakfast at Tiffany’s?
She said I think I remember the film
And as I recall I think, we both kind of liked it
And I said well that’s, the one thing we’ve got”
Yes, the guy names a movie that they both “kind of” liked. Um, ok. So what? Seriously, SO FUCKING WHAT?! He could have at least thought of a movie they both liked. Clearly this guy is a loser, which means the girl must be way out of his league, so I can understand his last ditch attempt to save the relationship. “Uh, but, uh, you…Oh! Remember that mediocre movie we watched one time? Ah, yeah,” he says with a sly grin. He was grasping at straws, stalling, and putting off the inevitable. And it worked, she engaged him in conversation. But the next move is to name more movies, or bands, or trips they took together, to remind her of all the good times. Unless there were none, in which case you just repeat the chorus four or five times and call it a day. I wonder how many unwanted children came from that failed marriage. Oh, who am I kidding? She probably fled the scene when he continued to repeatedly ask her about the same fucking movie.
5. Train: “Drive By”
OK, I saved the best for last. And by best, I mean worst. Oh god, the worst. You might think you’ve never heard this song, but five seconds in and you’ll recognize it. It is possibly the worst fucking lyrics any band has written in the past 30 years.
Now, maybe you’re the type of person who enjoys simple, popular songs. Fine, good for you. Just don’t read these lyrics and I’m sure you will continue enjoying what is an admittedly catchy tune. Dipshit singer, Pat Monahan, starts off singing about a girl who left him, then promises he will never leave her. He even swears. So right from the get-go this song is fucking stupid. But then the chorus…
The chorus assures the girl this “is not a drive-by,” the namesake of the song. Now, when I think of drive-by, I think of gang-bangers shooting up a house. Or maybe they’re shooting a car, or just pedestrians. But guns are always involved. Is there any other meaning? Pat lets us know that he won’t be doing any of that. OK, Pat is not down with drive-bys. So, just what is the deal with Pat? Listen carefully, and he’ll tell you.
“Just a shy guy looking for a two ply
Hefty bag to hold my love”
What!? Are you kidding me? He’s looking for a garbage bag to hold his love? These are the actual lyrics to one of the most popular songs on the air today. I checked every website I could find listing lyrics for shitty bands. Let’s count how many things are wrong with just these two lines:
1. Love is not a tangible item, therefore it cannot be put into any sort of container.
2. Finding a garbage bag is not in any way difficult, even when shopping for a specific name brand.
3. Mentioning a specific name brand in a song is as lame as it gets. Are they getting paid for this? Is this some weird endorsement? I don’t doubt that the only company willing to give money to this band is a company who specializes in trash.
4. Shy guy? He’s the singer for a rock band.
5. OK, OK, even if somehow you could figure out a way to manifest love as a physical object, why would you put it in a garbage bag? That’s how poor people move from one slum to another. Come on, Pat! At least get a sturdy cardboard box!
The next part of the chorus says, “When you move me everything is groovy,” which is fine, but then the next rhyming line says, “They don’t like it sue me.” Pat, you paranoid dumbfuck, who is going to sue you? Who is so against you feeling groovy that they would actually sue you? (*Mental note; figure out how to sue the band Train.)
The second verse informs his absentee girlfriend that his love for her “went viral,” which is not an analogy I would ever use when describing love, for obvious reasons. Then he tells the girl who left him, the one whom he previously said he would never leave, that when he does leave “there’s nothing up his sleeve.” But love. And a myriad of mixed messages.
Ya know, I shouldn’t blame Pat. Write enough lyrics, and someone will have a problem with them. I should know. I suppose I should be upset at the millions of people who like this song, who like this band, who actually make it possible for a shitty group to become popular. Thanks, America, now I want to kill myself.
Bonus Track: Insane Clown Posse: “Miracles”
It’s hard to know exactly when a song crosses over from bad, to “so bad it’s good.” For me, ICP’s “Miracles” nails it. The message of the song is basically that everything in life is amazing, which I can sort of get with. Giraffes are awesome. The stars, the ocean, these things are amazing. But to hear this message from a pair of rappers who are known for lyrics about torturing and killing people is a bit odd. Especially when they just casually mention the miracle of “UFOs” and “a river flows.” Um … ok? A few lines later he tells a story about a pelican trying to eat his cell phone. Alright, I guess if you are a super-positive person, then you could somehow consider a pelican eating your cell phone to be a miracle.
The real fun, for me, is when they bring up magnets. “Fucking magnets, how do they work?” Before I can respond, the rap continues with, “And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist, Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed!” Can’t you just imagine a scientist trying to explain magnets to ICP? “Electrons?! I ain’t never seen no electron, man! The fuck!?” How can anyone take this song seriously? I mean, other than the band themselves. But man, what a good video.
Hi, ..umm well we’ve all got our prejudices I suppose. I can’t comment on any other than the Led Zep tune…well, I’m from the 60’s/70’s and for me, well, I lost interest in most music in the 80’s…but we all love the music that we grew up with I guess. The big leg woman bit…this isn’t a “bad lyric”…it’s a reference too, and deference to the blues…that old music from way back when…in the 70’s this is what bore the great bands of the day…roots in the blues…Life on earth hmm..I don’t think it began in the 80’s..from an old guy songwriter LOL!
You’re just a snowflake that lists some lyrics that you don’t agree with as bad just because some laws or your personal views didn’t exist at that time. Cry a river about it.
Actually…hate to go all rhetorical on the line taken out of context, but the line says, “I don’t know, but I’ve been told/a big legged woman ain’t got no soul,” which could actually mean…he doesn’t know and perhaps does or does not agree with what he’s been told. Plant’s not saying it…but he’s been told that its true…yet I’d agree that he’s a misogynist pig…but it was the ’70s and how we define misogyny now seems a pretty unfair standard to hold them to. Hell…the West Wing is pretty sexist by today’s estimation. We’ve grown and no longer think misogyny, homophobia, owning slaves, etc. is okay…so we should hold our artists to our future standards?
Have to agree with Don – objecting to sexist or homophobic lyrics from 30+ years ago doesn’t make a lot of sense. Music is a reflection of the culture from which it sprang. If you want to really shock your PC sensibilities, listed to blues and jazz songs from < 1940. They're chock full of blatant racism and violent misogyny.
"I guess the college Milo went to didn't teach any courses on the struggles of the LGBT community." No – he did not. Such courses did not exist then. This album came out in 1982. The term "LGBT" would not exist for 10 years, and then was only used among LGB(T) activists – a very small community at the time. Groups like The Lesbian Avengers gained traction in the early 90's. Their reach included only the most progressive college towns, where they were shocking to even to their open-minded peers at the time.
"Maybe homophobic slurs were acceptable in the 80's So-Cal punk scene" – they were common. For anyone Milo's age (he's now 50), the word "fag" would have rolled off his tongue on a daily basis from age on.
Also, while it originated from homophobia, the word "fag" lost much of that meaning for progressive kids of that era. Before such kids quit using it, punks would apply "fag" to someone perceived as a jock or bully – not to anyone who was actually GLBT.
I hear what everyone is saying. Out of context, and outdated lyrics, we live by different standards today, etc. But is anyone actually saying these lyrics are GOOD? Do you rock out and say “Yeah, Robert! You tell us that thing someone told you that may or may not be true, yeah!” As for “I’m not a loser,” I love that whole song until the end, then I roll my eyes. I can’t listen to the song because I know it will end with an eye-rolling!
I refuse to believe any list of “worst lyrics” is remotely credible without any homage to Nickleback. “Look at this photograph/Every time I do it makes me laugh.” Sure, let me see said photograph…oh, wait, IT’S A F@%KING SONG!!! I can’t see anything through the radio. I don’t think any lyrics produced by those Canadian hacks could be considered thought-provoking, genuine, or (at times) intelligible. End rant.
The big legged woman thing is referenced from old blues songs, douche bag. Why write about music when you’re a shallow know nothing? Music is sophisticated and is for deep thinkers to write about, not a simpleton like you.; just saying’.
Dude, in this case your interpretation of “big-legged woman ain’t got no soul” is totally wrong. In blues, a “big-legged woman” is a COMPLIMENT — blues singers liked ’em big, just like hip-hop singers do today (“baby got back” etc.). The term “big-legged woman” goes way back, check out the Straight Dope. “Ain’t got no soul” means she’s a siren who might lead you astray.
Man, I had so many snide and snarky remarks to these last two comments, but I decided to look up what y’all were saying. And now I must admit that I had no idea of the history of the phrase “big-legged woman.” So thank you, honestly. Although, in response to Joe’s comment that “music is sophisticated,” let me again refer you to the ICP video. Not all music is sophisticated, just sayin’.
I always thought that line was a play on words…..soul/sole : )
You’re a fucking retard. Is this article satire?
Whoa! Adult film star, Jizz Johnson, took time to read my article?!? Wait til I tell my friends…
I’m sure Robery’s intentions weren’t to make fun of ‘fat girls’. He’s stealing the saying from muddy waters. And anyways, it’s just a phrase. Lol.
Well, I’m glad to know about the history of the “big-legged woman” idea, because it hurt my feelings.
And I’m sorry that some people have to be such jerks while correcting the author. Sad.
Well this is a piss-poor article. Seems like it’s written by a 14-yo with the musical sophistication of a fart. I’m sure there are many things other than lyrics that you do not understand, Billy. I’d keep them to yourself in future rather than letting the internet know you’re an uncouth, modernist, pleb. Get a proper job, preferably one that doesn’t involve the misfortune of others having to witness your drivel. Thanks.
Wow, dem’s some big words there! The internet applauds you. I’ve already bowed my humble head to those who learned me up on “big-legged woman.” Other than that example, PLEASE please please defend the other lyrics! Explain to me the deep meaning and importance of One Direction or ICP, please, oh, I want to hear this…. No, no, skip to Train, only talk about Train, tell me the greatness of Train, it’s all I want to hear right now!
You’re a fucking faggot you stupid ass tonedeaf cunt. Putting Led Zeppelin on the same list as One Direction? Yeah, you just lost all credibility as a writer. No one’s gonna take you seriously. Fag. Fuck you. Have a nice day!
Okay, maybe I was a little harsh. I’d like to apologize for calling you a faggot. That was rude and insensitive of me.
You’re still a bitch though.
Hmm. Another great point made by another die-hard Zep-head. Just for the record, I’ve only lost credibility when writing about music. When replying to creative criticism on the internet, I still score tons of readers. And you say no one’s gonna take me seriously? Well, you took it serious enough to comment not once, but twice… But have a nice day!
While I don’t agree with the Zeppelin lyrics being bad, yes I’m another die hard Zep Head LOL, I wish you had included such gems as Phil Collins “sussudio” and the one by that band “Everybody Wang Chung” GROAN. Now THOSE are some real pissy lyrics IMHO.
writing about music is like dancing about architecture
It’s unfortunate you chose a Plant line that, because it is aped from blues lyricists of old, escapes the trademark vacuity and puerility of the man’s original lyrical output. I suppose the historical grab is enough to give Plant an air of sophistication for that one brief line. You had an embarrassment of evidence before you. That said, I enjoyed the effort despite the flaw pointed out by some readers. I take it your intention was partly tongue-in-cheek. If people are not amused, need they wax irate? I have no problem with people dancing about architecture if it gives them joy in that way, but stomping angrily and insulting someone for dancing about architecture in good jest is a photograph that would make me laugh every time I saw it.
Love this. I’ve just been riffing on that “Black Dog” lyric these last couple of weeks on my blog. I wrote it myself in reference to some street harassment that greeted me and my big legs one afternoon, and then a few days later another cat-caller referenced it. Funny, I’ve never interpreted the lyric the way you do. I’ve always thought he meant we were soul-less, cruel, unfeeling. To me, that lyric sounds like a guy who’s intimidated by big-legged women. It amuses me. The fact that the line comes from an old blues, makes me think my interpretation is right. Blues men knew full well that big-legged women had soul, but maybe the original writer of that line just couldn’t get any! :)
If this article has taught me anything it’s that the internet sure loves the Zep.
Oh, and I’ll be sure to include Phil Collins when I do a second edition of this article! ha…
I’m not gonna dare judge any woman based on their weight (especially because I’m a feminist and I’ve got a history of weight over and under fluctuation) but you’re kind of under thinking the lyric “I don’t know, but I’ve been told/A big-legged woman ain’t got no soul”. Think about it “I DON’T KNOW, BUT I’VE BEEN TOLD” doesn’t that kind of seem to suggest that he may not actually mean that fat women are bad. I think back to my father always making fun of my weight when it started to fluctuate upwards. I think the fact that he says “I DON’T KNOW, BUT I’VE BEEN TOLD” suggests that maybe he didn’t want to think that fat women were bad. But someone was force feeding him the bull shit you think was the message of the full lyric.
Okay so you at one point appear to be defending a song to be anti spoiled rich kid which seems to suggest you are for the poor. Adding to the good things done in that particular part of the article you slam the homophobic insult the song just randomly uses for no apparent reason. BUT LATER in the article you talk about the Train song “Drive By” (personally I think there might be like one good song they did but still) and you use an insult against the song that seems to suggest that you are QUITE the fucking hypocrite. You ask in #5 of the 5 things wrong with a particular couple of lines why-if a person could actually figure out a way to physically manifest love-would they put it in a garbage bag. Then you in a WHOLLY unnecessary way insult the fictional person saying that’s how poor people move from one slum to another. YOU CLAIM TO SUPPORT EQUAL RIGHTS ALL OVER THE FUCKING PAGE AND YET YOU SAY THAT SHIT?! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!
Oh and I found that song by Train, and I was right it is the only good one and it’s called “Drops of Jupiter”.
I always thought Plant was singin’ “Big Legged Women ain’t got no hole…
Well, Billy, I only read as far as the Zeppelin diatribe. All I can say is that you are just a bit of a retard. Strikes me that you might be just a tad limp wristed.
The problem with “Black Dog” is not the misogyny. Typical of early Zepp, the lyric is just plain stupid. It has no meaningful connection to blues roots at all. To wit, let’s consider the classic blues tune “Big Legs, Tight Skirt” by John Lee Hooker. “Big legs, tight skirt, ’bout to drive me out of my mind, whoa!” Clearly, Plant was not listening . Real blues vs whiney guy with freak of nature lungs. No brainer. (However, the composition and playing on Black Dog, aside from ridiculous lyrics, is brilliant. That’s the paradox of Led Zeppelin.)
Big legged woman is an old blues reference speaking of sexy, long, muscular legs on a fit woman not a fat woman. The reference to her having no soul is a call out to his belief that this woman can get whatever she wants and, therefore, can be devoid of a conscience.
He loves big-legged women. You should delete your analysis, because it is fubar. He just said that she took all his money and is about to go chase stardom. There is no hint of “fat girls don’t rock”. Because as we all know, they make the rockin’ world go round.
Lyrics are subjective. Music is art. Every individual word and sound has a history and is used to paint a picture of something that can be either true or false. Good music will grip an emotion and rip it out to the surface.
I think some of these lyrics have been taken out of context. In the case of black dog its a highly sexual song infused with blues style lyrics. Led Zep emulated the blues. The moral of the story to me is that lust can inflict negative behaviour on both sides. Seeing the err of his ways, he realizes that it’s real love from a woman he now desires. Then pretty much goes on to start “making love” to this new woman he loves because that would he needs to do. fulfill a woman’s needs and his own in every way.
I could go on and on which is why this song, to me, is truly great. Accompanied by some amazing musical work to drive the point home (if you know what I mean). Basically sex, sex, and more sex. Sometimes, it’s ok to be human once in a while.
I always thought that the black dog lyrics were “I don’t know but i been told, A been laid woman ain’t got no soul.” which is equally poor, gross and misogynistic. I looked it up on genius lyrics and of course, you are correct, however sometimes, what is said on the written lyrics and what is actually sung differ.
big legged women is a reference to chicks with fat asses not full on fat chicks. saying girls with sex appeal have no soul because they don’t care who they hurt they can move on to the next one. think that was pretty bold to make zepp number 1. let alone including any of their songs on this list.