My Lyric Melody Contradiction Five

Have you ever stopped to consider the lyrics to a song, perhaps a song you've listened to or even sang along with for years, only to realize the stark contradiction between the upbeat nature of the tune, and the words that are actually being sung? Artists juxtapose such contrasting elements all the time, for probably as long as music itself existed. Here are My Five favorite songs whose lyrics convey a different feeling than their accompanying melodies:

1) Cat's in the Cradle, Harry Chapin:
I can't tell you how many years of my life I listened to this chipper song, with its nursery rhyme references and crescendos, only to eventually realize how utterly sad it is. A father puts off spending time with his son because work and other things keep getting in the way. When he eventually does find the time, the kid is in college and taking off with his car, and finally settling down with a family and work responsibilities of his own. Too late, the singer realizes, “my boy was just like me.”

2) Used to Love Her, Guns N' Roses:
Back when Axl Rose was, you know, good, he sang this clever farewell to his dog. It sounds very happy if you don't listen to the lyrics, and very psychotic when you latch on to the chorus of “I used to love her; but I had to kill her.” Of course, the singer didn't murder his ex-girlfriend and bury her in his backyard, but there are very few clues that he's actually referring to a canine. Even bits like “She bitched so much; she drove me nuts” can be considered brilliantly ambiguous.

3) She Hates Me, Puddle of Mud:
This song ROCKS, and is probably the brightest rock song you'll hear about a dude lamenting being utterly despised by a lady. For some reason this one has always spoken to me on many levels.

4) Alive, Pearl Jam:
“I'M STILL ALIVE!!” belts Eddie Vedder at the top of his lungs, which seems like a good thing. But upon closer inspection, one finds a semi-autobiographical account of Vedder learning from his mother that the man who raised him was his stepfather, and his real father had died when he was 13 years old. Still, does the chorus mean that he overcomes this revelation, and even a fictional instance of incest in the lyrics, that he's embracing life? “'Is something wrong?' she said. ‘Well of course there is; you're still alive,' she said.” The vocalist considers then whether he deserves to be alive, and suddenly the chorus doesn't seem so rosy.

5) Ring Around the Rosie, Traditional English Nursery Rhyme:
If you believe the assertion that this children's ditty has its origins in the bubonic plague, then lyrics like “ashes, ashes, we all fall down” take on a much darker meaning.



Blogger Spockgirl said...

Interesting choices. Ring around the Rosy always intrigued me, as I knew it was an old nursery rhyme,but thought perhaps the words had been altered to reflect the German bomb raids on London in WWII, or as an eerie portent to the effects of the nuclear bomb.

6/04/2010 3:13 PM  

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