Lyrics that make you go “hmm?”


First off, in the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, I must admit that I was raised on Tom Waits songs.  Yes, the singer/songwriter who has given us such great lines as:

  • Paws his inside P-coat pocket for a welcome twenty-five cents,
    And the last bent butt from a package of Kents,
    As he dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes
    And marmalade thighs with scrambled yellow hair.
  • the classified section offered no direction
    it’s a cold caffeine in a nicotine cloud
    now the touch of your fingers
    lingers burning in my memory
    I’ve been 86ed from your scheme
    I’m in a melodramatic nocturnal scene
    I’m a refugee from a disconcerted affair
    as the lead pipe morning falls
    and the waitress calls
  • Well he came home from the war
    with a party in his head
    and modified Brougham DeVille
    and a pair of legs that opened up
    like butterfly wings
    and a mad dog that wouldn’t
    sit still
    he went and took up with a Salvation Army
    Band girl
    who played dirty water
    on a swordfishtrombone
    he went to sleep at the bottom of
    Tenkiller lake
    and he said “gee, but it’s
    great to be home.”
  • He has no friends
    But he gets a lot of mail
    I’ll bet he spent a little
    Time in jail…
    I heard he was up on the
    Roof last night
    Signaling with a flashlight
    And what’s that tune he’s
    Always whistling…
    What’s he building in there?
    What’s he building in there?

So it takes a lot to make me go “hmm?” when I’m listening to music these days (okay, so I will also admit to it taking me at least two playings of each Waits album before I totally get all his lyrics 😉 )

What is music these days? Catchy “beats” created on electronic boxes awash with switches and dials where the lyrics leap at you? Real instruments played with heart where the lyrics are just along for the ride? MOR combinations of riffs and lyrics that are so formalistic you can swear they must have come out of a MIT-created hit song generator?

Yes, the current musical scene does appear rather bleak from my lyrical seat in the stands. Is there hope for us after all?  For your consideration, I present the following:

  • “I’m a happy idiot waving at cars”
  • “When I say nothing I say everything”
  • “We all sing along but the notes are all wrong”
  • “Why do you only call me when you’re high?”
  • “Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you
    And Stephen Hawking can’t explain you
    Rosetta Stone could not translate you
    I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words
    I couldn’t put it in a novel
    I wrote a page, but it was awful”
  • “I’m on a train, going nowhere
    I ran away, to make you care
    This ain’t my house, this ain’t your home
    Not when I’m feeling, this alone”

(TOTR, Jack White, Matt&Kim, Arctic Monkeys, Weezer, Royal Blood)

What do you think? Me? I’m going back to listen to my Waits albums and maybe dip into some old school hip-hop (Naz and Rakim, anyone?)

Keep challenging your musical perspectives!


One comment on “Lyrics that make you go “hmm?”

  1. L May says:

    A lyrics person myself. Despite its pop catchiness, don’t discount the lyrics to Royals by Lorde. If you didn’t know the song, you’d give them a second look:

    But every song’s like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom.
    Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
    We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
    But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
    Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
    We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair

    It’s the “tigers on a gold leash” phrase that does it for me.


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