Saturday, October 4, 2008

More Lines with Thorny Rhymes

Last summer, I posted some musings about popular songs that contained what I call "thorny rhymes"-- also known as slant rhymes or misrhymes or even just bad rhymes.

I christened them "thorny rhymes" in honor of the song which contains possibly the best (worst?) example of such ridiculous rhyming: Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." You do remember the chorus, don't you?

Every rose has its thorn
Just like every night has its dawn
Just like every cowboy sings its sad, sad song
Every rose has its thorn

Now, maybe back in the 80s, people thought the words "thorn," "dawn," and "song" rhymed. Of course, back then, people also considered Lionel Richie a sex symbol. Now we know better.

(Incidentally, in the category of the Thorniest Rhymes of All-Time, Steve Miller Band's "Take The Money and Run" can actually give Poison a run for that aforementioned money, thanks to following lyrical wizardry:

Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas
You know he knows just exactly what the facts is
He's not gonna let those two escape justice
He makes his living off other people's taxes

Maybe not as egregious as the "thorn"/"dawn"/"song" combo... but pretty close.)

And now, to the clamor of exactly no one, I present... a whole new batch of thorny rhymes!

Miley Cryus, "See You Again"

I've got a way of knowin' when something is right
I feel like I must have known you in another life
'Cause I felt this deep connection when you looked in my eyes
Now I can't wait to see you again

Now, I like this song. I do. I fully admit it. I like the "Sunglasses at Night"-esque tune. I like the shout-out to her best friend Lesley. I even like the st-st-stutter line (which cost her millions, I'm sure, in potential endorsements from the National Stuttering Association).

But trying to pass of "right," "life" and "eyes" as rhymes? What kind of shoddy lyric-writing is that? Come on, Miley-- what are you, sixteen or something? (Oh, wait...)

Huey Lewis and the News, "I Know What I Like"

I like things that don't change
Because the more something changes, the more it stays the same
I might be simple, take it easy sometimes
But I can be stubborn when I've made up my mind

Here, Zen-Master Huey was probably hoping he had bent your brain so profoundly that you wouldn't notice the lyrics didn't actually rhyme.

Now, stay with me: first, he says he likes things that don't change. Then he qualifies that statement with the oft-quoted truism that the more things change, the more it stays the same.

So, if we return to the first statement with that qualifier in mind, he's actually saying he likes things that don't stay the same. Ergo, he likes change.

So when he says that he likes things that don't change, he's actually saying he likes change.

How's your mind, unsuspecting blog-reader-- blown?

Alanis Morrisette, "Ironic"

It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
And who would've thought, it figures

While everyone was so busy gleefully pointing out how this song contains no actual examples of irony, Alanis snuck under the rhyming radar with "day," "paid," and "take." (And, no, that's not ironic, either... just sneaky.)

While we're on the subject... something has always bothered me about the Alanis song "Hand in My Pocket," which contains the following:

What it all comes down to
is that everything's gonna be quite all right
I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is flicking a cigarette

What it all comes down to
Is that I haven't got it all figured out just yet
I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a peace sign

Now, these lines don't rhyme... which is fine, since nothing in the entire song rhymes. Hey, no crime there, if that's what she's going for. But why not simply switch the "cigarette" line with the "peace sign" line, to rhyme "cigarette" with "yet"? It seems such an easy and logical rhyme to make.

(Maybe this was an overlong set-up for a small point, but this has bugged me for the last thirteen years. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I feel better.)

Don McLean, "American Pie"

Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step

Ah, one of my favorite Rhyme-Crimes: Rhyming a Word with Itself and Hoping No One Will Notice.

You can find other great examples of this in Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" ("It's plain to see we're over/ And I hate when things are over"), in Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" ("You don't have to read my mind/ To know what I have in mind"), and even in the great Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" ("I could have another you in a minute/ Matter fact, he'll be here in a minute").

And yet, maybe we can give Don McLean a pass on this one, because (a) the song is nearly-eight minutes and about six billion lines long, so one off-rhyme is no so bad; (b) it's one of those great Deeper Meaning songs, even if no one exactly knows what that Deeper Meaning is; and (c) let's face it: "American Pie" and "Vincent" are really all the guy's got. I say, let's not ruin Don's one shot at immortality by quibbling over a thorny rhyme.

Neil Diamond's "I Am... I Said"

"I am"... I said
To no one there
And no one heard at all
Not even the chair

"Now, hold on," the astute reader may say, "these lyrics do rhyme. So what are they doing on this here list?"

Of course, you're right: these lyrics do, in fact, rhyme. But I wanted to include them because they're just patently absurd.

Hey, I like Neil Diamond, and I like the song. But... "not even the chair"?? Not even the chair??? Inexcusable. What does that even mean? What chair? Why are you talking to it? And why do you think this chair would be able to hear you?

Consider this a Thorny Rhyme subset: when an artist achieves a rhyme, but does it in such a completely goofy and non-sensical way, he would have been better off not rhyming.

Still, the "not even the chair" rhyme looks Longfellow-ian when compared to Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me," which-- in addition to rhyming "backs" with "fence" and "poles" with "road"-- contains possible the worst simile in the history of music:

And it stoned me to my soul
Stoned me just like jelly roll
And it stoned me

"Stoned me just like jelly roll," huh? Hey, unless Irish folks put something in their jelly rolls that I don't know about, that's just some pretty awful lyric-writing right there.

OK, that's all I have for now... but there are more thorny rhymes out there. Many, many more. If anyone out there in hears more examples of thorny rhymes, please send 'em in. Together, we'll help expose this lyrical corruption!

(For more example of misrhymes, see the folks at Am I Right.)


Paul said...

Okay, Mark. I think you are imposing an awful high standard on pop music lyrics if you expect them to rhyme AND make sense. Sheesh!

The industry can't spit this stuff out for mass consumption like Twinkies and meet all these stringent requirements... and why should it? Nobody except you thinks about the words anyway.

Paul said...

Oh, almost forgot. You can check out my blogging handiwork at

Paul said...

Oops: it's

Hopaholic said...

While I don't have any thorny rhymes to contribute, I do have to question your analysis on Zen-Master Huey. I tyhink the idea is that he likes things that don't change, but of course, everything does, so basically, he's screwed. But if the old adage is true, then he's kinda okay because things do stay the same, essentially. My head hurts.

The Deeper Meaning in American Pie is not that deep at all. The song is all about the music industry and the people in it. It's probably a blog post in and of itself, but I don't have the inclination for it now.

Christine Noble said...

The Beyonce lyrics have always bothered me! One reason being she's trying to rhyme the same word. The second reason is the fact that she couldn't come up with some other word to express the same meaning? It's called a thesaurus...or word choice. Expanding one's vocabulary is always welcome.

Benjamin said...

this is a bit late...but i thought of a REALLY thorny rhyme today. and when i say rhyme, i mean the whole song.

M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes"
Lyrics here:

this is the epitome of pop music lyrics, and they are, well, less than literary.