On The Record: What’s In A Name (Besides A Bunch of Extraneous Bullsh–)?
Not to get all William Safire on you, but aside from taking me exactly one hour and 32 minutes to type out, the full list of nominees for the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards (see “MTV VMA Race Is On: Justin Timberlake, Beyonce Lead Nominations” ) is remarkable primarily because it shatters all previous records for bizarre syntax, unnecessary punctuation and, well, general assaults on our nation’s grammatical well-being.
Seriously, this thing makes less sense than Christopher Walken reading e.e. cummings.
It’s a motley collection of song titles that either a) show a rather annoying predilection for the parenthetical (for no particular reason), like “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal),” “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” and “Big Things Poppin’ (Do It)”; or b) make absolutely no sense whatsoever, like “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs,” “The Way I Are” or “Cupid’s Chokehold/ Breakfast in America,” and it’s enough to make me say that the art of naming a tune is totally, completely dead (seriously).
It used to be that only seriously crazy dudes gave their songs certifiably bonkers names, like Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” or Frank Zappa’s “The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny.” Wayne Coyne did his best to carry that mantle for close to a decade, with gems like “Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon (F— Led Zeppelin)” and “Pilot Can at the Queer of God.” Then there were guys like Beck and Guided by Voices, who tried in vain to keep the crazy vibe alive with stuff like “Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997″ and “Tractor Rape Chain,” respectively.
But alas, it’s all come to an end in recent years, buried beneath an avalanche of unnecessary grammar and/or abuse of all things parenthetical. Nowadays, anyone can come up with a batsh– crazy name for a song, and they don’t even have to be batsh– crazy to do it.
And who’s to blame for all this? Well, probably Fall Out Boy, who have taken the art of the nonsensical title to the heretofore unattainable heights and — perhaps unwittingly — subjected us all to a steady stream of awful puns, parentheses and general WTF?-ness as a result. At first, ain’t-we-clever titles like “Grand Theft Autumn/ Where Is Your Boy” were amusing, only the joke didn’t stop, and soon we were staring down the barrel of punnery like “Seven Minutes in Heaven (Atavan Halen),” the VMA-nominated “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” — which parts with both vowels and all semblance of sense — and “I’ve Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers,” which is, I guess, a joke, except it’s not funny.
This was, of course, copied by pretty much every single one of FOB’s associates, so now we’re subjected to stuff like Panic! at the Disco’s “London Beckoned Songs About Money Written By Machines” (which I’m told is taken from a Douglas Coupland book, but seemingly has nothing to do with the lyrics of the song), Cute Is What We Aim For’s “I Put The ‘Metro’ In Metronome” (which makes me want to shoot myself), and Gym Class Heroes’ VMA-nominated “Cupid’s Chokehold/ Breakfast in America,” which I’m guessing is the band’s way of acknowledging the Supertramp song they rip — uh, “sampled.”
You can’t blame it all on Fall Out Boy and their disciples though … I’m reasonably sure Fergie wasn’t aware of them when she decided to stick the “(Personal)” onto the end of “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Rather, she was probably trying to communicate just how, uh, personal the song is to her, and wanted to do so subtly (hence the parenthesis). Then again, this is also the same woman who misspelled the word “duchess” on her album cover, so I guess anything is possible.
The bottom line? We need to put a stop to this wanton titular abuse … and we need to do it soon. Perhaps we put crazy guys like Coyne or Stone in charge of naming all songs (note: there is roughly a 70 percent chance Sly would accept this position, given the relative, uh, openness of his current schedule). Or maybe we just go the Godspeed You! Black Emperor or ¡Forward Russia! route and just group songs into “sides” or assign them random numbers instead of titles.
That way, the list of nominees for the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards will read like a word-of-the-day calendar or binary code, which would be both awesome and incredibly easy for me to type out. In the end, we’d eliminate the current glut of annoying and incomprehensible song titles, and make my job easier. Which means we’d all win. Or at least I would. (I’m lazy.)
B-Sides: Other Stories I’m Following This Week
“I’d Make a Joke About Panic! at the Disco and ‘Simplicity’ Here, but I’ve Already Filled My Weekly Quotient of Making Fun of Them.” (see “Panic! At The Disco Try A Different Tack For New LP: Simplicity” )
“One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.” (see “On The ‘Choke’ Set With Chuck Palahniuk, Sam Rockwell — And Dave Matthews?!” )
“When I First Saw This Headline, I Thought It Was About Braid The Band, Which Would’ve Been Awesome.” (see “‘Braid’ Challenges Meanings Of Life, ‘Mario’ Coins; Xbox 360 Price Drop; Gamer Homophobia And More, In GameFile“ )
Questions? Concerns? “E-mails Chastising Me (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.
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