What's Wrong With Your Favorite Song
Here is where you let me know what your favorite song is and I tell you what's wrong with it. You may also submit your most hated song, in case you'd like to see an analysis of why you probably hate it so much. Email me with your suggestions and perhaps yours will appear soon.
Coming soon: Bad Brains: "I Against I" (Jason), Pink Floyd: "Learning to Fly" (Melanie) C-Lo: "Fuck You" (JP)
Billy Joel: The Longest
What's wrong with it? -- By the time Billy Joel got to 1983's Innocent Man album, whatever slight-of-hand tricks he'd employed to fool people into thinking he wrote good songs weren't going to work anymore, so he resorted to blatant rip-offs. The title track ripped off Ben E. King, "Tell Her About It" ripped off the Motown style, "Uptown Girl" ripped off Frankie Valli, etc. And this song, "The Longest Time," ripped off doo-wop in general.
Unfortunately, while doo-woop was an innocent, joyful, and bittersweet celebration of teen emotion, this song is nothing but a desperate perversion of that genre, sung by a man in his mid-thirties. If you've never appreciated genuine doo-wop before, first listen to Joel's weak, thin voice (and his almost insulting multi-track backing vocals, which he insisted he do himself rather than hire real singers) and then listen to any song from the golden age for comparison. Hell, listen to Sha Na Na. And if you don't need to listen to the older recordings for appreciation, you'll at least need to dig them out to wash down the taste of Billy.
And now, the partial cliché list (which doesn't even bother to use doo-wop clichés): "Put your arms around me," "greatest miracle of all," "how I need you," "you needed me too," "you feel so right," "I could be wrong," "more than I hoped for," "be sorry when you're gone," "I'll take my chances," "I had second thoughts," "hold on to your heart," "I want you so bad," "I think you ought to know."
Do I actually like it? -- Yes.
Haven't Met You Yet
What's wrong with it? -- What a treasure trove of problems. The first thing we hear is the annoying bouncy piano (which seldom pauses), reminiscent of the Gimme a Break theme intro (oh, if it were only as good as the Gimme a Break theme). Then we hear Michael Bublé's voice. This was my first time to hear one of his songs, and I was shocked to hear that this is the voice charming the world. He sounds like he's being auto-tuned when he isn't; it's all affectation, all on purpose. He says "bebe" instead of "baby." In one line, he's meant to be saying "the other half's luck," but it comes out as "the other half sluck" (with a hint of saliva at the end). He says "pomise" instead of "promise." "It's a good day" becomes "Suck it, hey." I assumed that he was a non-English speaker, so I looked him up. He's Canadian. Surely come kind of accent, maybe speaks French? No, I found a video of him, and he speaks like any American dude. So these are all things that (a) he's choosing to do and (b) that his producers, engineers, etc. are letting him get away with.
I realize eventually that, musically, this song is trying to be a descendant of The Beatles' "Penny Lane." The bouncy piano, of course (study "Penny Lane" to hear how to do happy piano the right way), but then the trumpets in the instrumental bridge really give it away (except that the trumpets are blended oddly with some overdone music that sounds like it's from the Laurence Welk show). Tributes are fine when done well (see the New Kids on the Block's "Tonight" for a superior homage), but this song makes you wish the Beatles never existed just so this song wouldn't.
Some of the lyrics attempt to be clever, such as "I talk myself in. I talk myself out. I get all worked up, then I let myself down." This is as good as he gets, folks--sloppy antonyms. The rhymes are completely forced. One: "But I won't need to fight it. We'll get it right and we'll be united." Another: "And being in your life is gonna change me. And now I can see every single possibility." Note also the forced rhythms, if "rhythm" isn't too kind a word.
Often the lyrics are just nonsensical, such as "I've broken my heart so many times I stopped keeping track." I've had my heart broken, too, but I don't ever remember doing it myself. Usually someone else is required. Ah, but that's where the premise of the song (I guess?) comes in. He hasn't even met the person he's singing to yet. We have a song title!
Fans of romantic comedies will fall for this premise and lines like these: "Wherever you are, whenever it's right, you'll come out of nowhere and into my life." But, like most romantic comedies, this is actually the opposite of romance. True romance is falling in love with a unique individual. When Snow White sings "Someday, my prince will come," the song only works because what she eventually gets is a generic Prince Charming. In non fairy tales, however, real humans hope for a relationship with a person who defies genre. So this song can only hope to be about a generic idea of love. Or the opposite, that he has a conception of an imaginary woman in his mind already and he's waiting to meet her--in which case, he's a psychopath.
But I believe the generic answer is the true one because of the generic lyrics. Here's a conservative sample: "not everything lasts," "I've broken my heart so many times I stopped keeping track" (three in one line), "I tried so very hard not to lose it" (two in one, but bonus for the "so very"), "work it out," "I'll never give up," "wherever you are," "you'll come out of nowhere and into my life" (two in one), "every single." The best he can really come up with is the horrible line "We can be so amazing." Not only is his would-be romance generic; it also comes across as desperate and childish. At least Snow White was a very young girl. Michael Bublé is in his thirties.
And the song goes on way too long. It's pretty much done all the damage it needs to do by the 2:45 mark, but it keeps going for another minute fifteen: milking the chorus, adding additional Bublé affectations and pronunciations ("I just-a haven't met you yet"), an odd "love love love love" being sung with an odd stereo effect in your ears (recalling another Beatles song, but in Bizarro World), and cheesily bouncing its way to the extended fade-out. This song is proof that "catchiness" is not always a positive quality.
Do I actually like it? -- No.
Journey: Don't Stop
What's wrong with it? -- Let's skip the common chord progression and the faux devil-may-care swagger of leaving off the final G in words and go straight to the clichés. Essentially the entire song is a string of clichés or "word packages" (words that you often hear together out of laziness, often in songs). A list of these will almost give you all of the lyrics: "small town girl," "lonely world," "smoky room," "wine and cheap perfume," "get my fill," "wants a thrill," "roll the dice," "just one more time," "some will win, some will lose," "sing the blues," "the movie never ends," "somewhere in the night." This is a conservative list. Most of the rhymes feel like the first ones that popped in Steve Perry's head.
Even the potentially good lyrics -- like "streetlights, people" (or is it "streetlight people," a mutant race?) -- do nothing more than dot the song with impressions. But unlike a Monet painting, this song doesn't add up to a whole picture when you back away from it. There's no real narrative. Something about drifters? Bar hoppers? Prostitutes? Roadies? Restless teenagers? Who knows, but it sure is insistent about it. It feels like an anthem or a message of hope, but of what? What are we to not stop believing in? Thankfully, the repetition of the title doesn't actually happen until the very end of the song since the title doesn't appear in the first two chorus appearances. Of course, that's another problem.
Do I actually like it? -- Yes.
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