I was driving into work this morning and the radio was playing “Miracle Drug” by U2. I have always loved that song, but I sat there and really listened to the lyrics for the first time. I was stuck yet again by how Bono is so damn good at making you feel every little thing he is thinking. I mean, come on! “Freedom has a scent, like the top of a new born baby’s head” – That is not your standard pop phrasing, but I knew exactly what he meant.
I have always hated overly simplified pop lyrics, which I like to call Wilson Phillips Disease (“Hold on, hold on, hold on for one more day”)… although I will admit to bopping along with silly pop songs sometimes. But I don’t respect myself for it. And I never liked Wilson Phillips.
Crowded House is by far my favorite band (hell, I named my cat after Neil Finn)… and I think it has a lot to do with the way they turn a phrase. They are surprising and evocative and rarely insipid. “Whispers and Moans” is my favorite Crowded House song, mainly because it takes me to a very specific place in my life, where those lyrics had me hanging on a doomed relationship for dear life. That relationship crashed and burned, but my love for Crowded House and Neil’s lyrics remains.
I felt that way about John Mayer too before he got all too good for the common people. “My Stupid Mouth” is a bit of a tongue-twisting piece of pop gold – and again – takes you right there with him. Too bad he has turned his back on his core audience for Blues highroad.
My latest lyrical fave is Jason Mraz. Unabashedly a pop singer, he still manages to make it interesting. And dirty. Apparently “in the pink” is a metaphor for “getting some.” (My husband had to explain that one to me). And… any pop star that can get sexual innuendo right under middle America’s nose is A-OK in my book.