Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shut Up and Spell

There were a couple of reasons I chose the so-low-you-could-get-over-it-without-lifting-your-feet bar of 100 words when I gave myself this writing every day challenge for August. One was because I saw a blog a while back where the writer wrote exactly 100 words every day and I toyed with the idea of making that the challenge for myself. Well, I toyed with it the way a cat might briefly toy with a rubber mouse before batting it away. I barely even reach coherence before the hundredth word, so that didn't seem like it would be fun for anyone – not for me to write and certainly not for you to read.

But I knew I needed to keep the bar low, because I've never in my life had a period of time when I wrote every day. And even 500 words seemed like it might present a problem around day 12 or 13. Even on my most exhausting day, I'm fairly sure I can eke out 100 words (because by the end of this sentence I'll have written more than 175 already).

The main reason however is that I have had a few dozen idea crumbs lying around my brain for literally years now. Ideas that I've tried and tried to turn into something useful, but have never been able to quite make work. And by only requiring 100 words of myself, I can finally start getting rid of them. So what you're reading this month is essentially a scribal yard sale.

Being that I've already surpassed 250 words here, I'm tempted to call it a day. But that's not what I'm going to do because I actually have something stupid I want to write about today. Something I've been thinking about since sometime in 2008.

To say I have idiosyncrasies with regard to what makes me like or be annoyed by certain music is an understatement of around the same magnitude as “Madonna has found some success marketing her music to the gay community.”

When asked to articulate why Merry Christmas Darling is my favorite holiday song ever, I of course will mention the beauty of Karen Carpenter's voice and the sad but sweet sentiment behind the lyrics. But when it comes right down to it, it's the use of the subjunctive mood in the chorus (I wish I were with you) that puts it into a class by itself.

It's not all subjunctives and roses though. As much as I love P!nk and the song Just Like a Pill, I twitch uncontrollably every time she sings the lyric, “I can't stay on your life support, there's a shortage in the switch.” There's a SHORT in the switch, P!nk! A SHORT! Not a shortage. Are there not enough switches?

Conversely, she sends waves of ecstasy through my body when, in Who Knew, she sings, “If someone said three years from now, you'd be long gone I'd stand up and punch them out...” I love angry lyrics in pop songs, especially if there's a hint of violence to them. And we'll get to more about that in a moment, but while we're still talking about P!nk (and you have to know the fact that she now spells her name with an exclamation point is a HUGE check in the plus column) …

I named Raise Your Glass my favorite song on 2010, based on many things. If I'm being perfectly honest however, it's her parenthetical singing – first verse “where's the rock n roll (nrrrr nrrr nrrr nrr nrrr),” second verse “it's so on right now (it's so f'ing on right now) – in the verses that completely pulled me in.

Pretty much if you say Shut up or a variation on that, you've won me over. I've mentioned often that my favorite pop song of all time is Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson and it's no coincidence that she screams, “Shut your mouth, I just can't take it!” Hardly anyone does angry better than Kelly. On her first album she did a duet with Tamyra Gray that would probably be my favorite pop song of all time if not for Since U Been Gone. And guess what, right there about a minute before the end of the song we get, “Shut your mouth. I'm not tryin' to hear your lies, no not again!”

Of course, even Kelly can't always stay on my good side because bad grammar is worse than being poor (apologies to Suzanne Sugarbaker for appropriating and bastardizing one of her classic quotes). Full disclosure on this one though – she may actually have meant to say what she says in Long Shot, but I just don't like it. The lyric is “my heartbeat beats me senselessly” and based on the context I really think it should be “my heartbeat beats me senseless” but senselessly rhymes with “intense with me” (sort of) and, like I said, maybe she meant it the way she sang it.

Jason Mraz also steps afoul (although not far enough to make me dislike the song) on I'm Yours when he sings “it's our God-forsaken right to be loved, loved, loved.” Really, Jason? God-forsaken? Do you think maybe you mean God-given?

One way to get on my good side, as Madonna, Donna Summer, Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson have all found, is to randomly start spelling in the middle of a song. I'm not talking about the obvious R-E-S-P-E-C-T or R.O.C.K in the USA spelling that is the point of the song. I like the more subtle, take you a bit by surprise tactic. Not many people would count Rescue Me as one of their favorite Madonna Louise “Esther” Ciccone Penn Ritchie songs, but I always get a big grin when she gets to the R-E-S-C-U-E me. Same goes for Donna Summer's lesser known Stamp Your Feet – “S-T-A-M-P stamp it on the ground!” And of course, I just reposted an entire homage to Fantasia's B-A-B-Y in Baby Mama.

J-Hud (who was always very sweet to me when she appeared as one of the voices in my head) goes all out on If This Isn't Love, not only spelling “L-O-V-E what is it to me” but utilizing yet another tactic to steal my heart, encouraging me if I have real love, “let me see you put your hands up”!

BeyoncĂ© used that technique twice, once with Destiny's Child when she called for “all the women who independent throw your hands up at me” and as a solo artist when she entreated all the single ladies to “put your hands up!”

I almost forgot Katy Perry, who not only uses “shut up and put your money where your mouth is” in Waking Up in Vegas, but created a whole new category with her use of glitter in two different songs. In the aforementioned, she sings, “Get up and shake the glitter off your clothes now” and in her latest hit, Last Friday Night, goes back to it for “glitter all over the bed, there are pink flamingos in the pool.” I do also love that she arbitrarily decided that rhyming 57% of that song was more than enough, but I'm not sure I'd like that if it happened too often.

Before I end, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least give an honorable mention to Mariah Carey for Obsessed. There are so many great lyrics in that song I barely know where to begin. “Finally found a girl you couldn't impress; last man on the earth you still couldn't get this. You're delusional, you're delusional, boy you're losin' your mind.”

So, it turns out I had a lot more to say on this topic than I thought. But still, if I hadn't given myself permission to start writing my half-baked ideas, this one would still be rattling around in my head.


  1. You know, if you wanted to write 100 words each day for a month, you could have decided to focus on topics. The first day would introduce the topic and the next six would flesh out the topic. You could have written 100 words for each of these songs and, if you planned ahead, you would have a nice way to wrap it all up in the end.

    I know this idea probably crossed your mind, but I figured I'd spell it out anyway, since you issued yourself a challenge and backed out of it. Well, I know you could have met that challenge, as long as you did it in a way that suits your writing style, which would have worked very well.

    I have an exercise that you might want to try. Ask some of you best friends to come up with the craziest topics they can think of, read up on the best idea and then write about it. I love reading about your interests in music and about stories involving your recovery, but learning something new and sharing it might be good for you, at least as a project.


  2. Add another one for Katy Perry: West Coast represent/ now put your hands up!

  3. does the line in paul mccartney's "live and let die" make your head explode?

    "and in this ever changing world in which we live in..."

    drives me crazy!!

  4. Again, I learn something: I always thought the term was 'beck and call' thanks to Kelly and Tamyra, I know its 'beckon call'!
    And I never actually saw the KP video for Friday night-LOVE it!
    I like TJs idea about how to pick topics, but frankly, as long as you keep writing about whatever's in your head, I'm happy!