5 Songs That Aren’t as Sweet as You Thought
How your favorite tunes are dickish, disguised as delightful
Songs have a way of sometimes getting into our heads without our permission. Surreptitiously sneaking in during childhood or too many over-hearings on the radio, one day you find yourself humming the sweet nothings (and I mean nothings) of Gaga and the ever-virginal Jonases. But then there are the songs you do know the words to, that you’ve been singing your whole life but never really thought about. Therein lies the fun. Because amongst the innocuous of these back-door betties, there lie a few songs that are really, well, kind of awful. Cloaked in taffy-sweet melody, your favorite songsmiths have been doing a very poor job of hiding that they might have been huge assholes. So today we’re going to save you from yourself—or at least make sure you feel bad for liking these songs. Here are 5 that you’ll never look at the same way again.
5. God Only Knows—The Beach Boys
God Only Knows may be one of the greatest love songs ever written but there’s no denying that within the “I’m nothing without you” message Brian Wilson weaves a thread of douchebaggery virtuosic in its own right. It may be subtle, but it takes a special kind of heartlessness to start a love song with the line “I may not always love you”. Just imagine what that poor girl the song was about must have been expecting to come out of his mouth instead when he said he wanted to play her his new number about their romance. As if the start wasn’t bad enough, Wilson goes on in the second verse to point out if she ever leaves him his life will go on, “Believe me.” Sure he tries to un-dig that hole by pointing out how sad he’d be, but as anyone who’s ever dated a girl knows that doesn’t exactly, what you call, work.
4. In the Summertime—Mungo Jerry
If the name “Mungo Jerry” doesn’t sound familiar to you, that’s alright. I don’t think they had more than this one hit. But every spring when it starts to get warm and the seasons get ready to shift, this hit pops into my head. So imagine my surprise when I looked a little closer at this innocent summer ditty. It seems that after the catchy “you got women, you got women on your mind” refrain, “Jerry” decides to enlighten his audience with just what to do if you find women on your mind. “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal / If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel.” Lovely Jerry. And what’s “what you feel” you might ask? Thankfully our lecherous friend clarifies a moment later: “When the sun goes down / You can make it, make it good and really fine.” Just a little old fashioned, “Hey pops, I’m going to bang your daughter but neglect to treat her well since, you know, you have no money” talk.
Just in case that isn’t enough to turn you off of Jerry’s vision of Summertime in the future, you can always investigate that line you never understood that comes after “you got women on hour mind”. It’s “Have a drink, have a drive”. Jerry: 2. Women and other people on the road: 0.
3. Que Sera Sera—Doris Day
Over the years, I suspect countless people have called upon this song for comfort in times of trouble. “Que Sera, Sera / Whatever will be, will be”—it’s a nice sentiment. Nice until you start to think about who’s asking the question, and what she getting that answer to. Then it turns out this is a song about a child asking her mother if she’ll grow up to look pretty and be successful. In a stroke of masterful parenting, mommy dearest responds wit, “ Well, I guess it’s possible…” We’ll see. Also known as, “You’re not so cute now, but things could work out better in the future!” That’s just the kind of soul-crushing upbringing that all children should have, right?
It’s no wonder that in the next verse we can see her sad childhood lead to low self-esteem and dating a total piece of shit as an adult. This is the guy that she asks “What lies ahead / Will we have rainbows, day after day?” Honey, do you love me? To this she gets the exact same lame response: “Eh… we’ll see.” In case you didn’t pick up on it, in relationship terms that means “I’m going to dump your ass as soon as a pair of perky D’s wanders by. By the end of the song this tortured soul has kids of her own and, as Dr. Drew patiently explained time and time again on Love Line, passes all this wonderful trauma on to her children. Poor little Sonny just asks, “Will I be handsome, will I be rich?”, and there the cycle repeats itself. Now a whole new generation can start their own cycle to enjoy the pain of “Que Sera, Sera”.
2. Jessie’s Girl—Rick Springfield
Standard choice of drunken idiots at bars across the country, Jesse’s Girl is one of those songs that you suspect may not be stellar from the get-go. After all, clearly this guy wishes he had another guy’s girl. But it’s that innocuous tag on the chorus of “Where can I find a woman like that” that gives you the vague sense that he really means he just wants a girl like Jessie’s girl. Nope. Take a closer look at those lyrics and sure enough you find out that Rick Springfield is not only a horribly cliché era artist, but a narcissistic asshole bent on stealing his best friend’s lady. And she doesn’t even want him!
Let’s go line by line: “Jesse is a friend of mine / Yeah, I know he’s been / A Good friend of mine”. Oh, so this is your best bud. Great! “But lately something’s changed / that ain’t hard to define / Jessie’s got himself a girl”. Man, I feel your pain. Bro gets in a relationship and drops off the face of the earth. Chin up. “And I want to make her mine.” …What?
We’ll skip the part where he fantasizes about their sex life, and touch briefly on this disturbing section, “And I’m lookin’ in the mirror all the time / Wondering what she don’t see in me / I’ve been funny / I’ve been cool with the lines / Ain’t that the way/ Love supposed to be?” which does little but make me imagine him as that awful guy from “The Pickup Artist”. This of course isn’t even to mention the disturbing ending to the song where he goes from “I wish I had Jesse’s girl” to “I want Jesse’s girl”, which gets a litte…rapey.
So to summarize, “Jessie’s Girl” is really a song saying: “Bro, I’m pretty hell-bent on humping your girlfriend. It makes me sick when you two get all lovey-dovey, and I keep thinking about you two doing it. I’ve been trying to get her interested in me but she’s having none of it. So…yeah, I’m just going to take her.”
Creepy. As. Fuck.
1. My Funny Valentine—Frank Sinatra
This one may or may not be a surprise; I don’t think anyone is shocked by the idea that Frank Sinatra was probably a drunk asshole. In fact, how could he not? It was practically the paragon of manhood at the time. That’s at least the only explanation I can come up with for “My Funny Valentine”, which is less of a love song and really more a single long, convoluted put-down wrapped up with an “I love you?” on the end.
Where on earth to start. The options are almost limitless. “Your looks are laughable”: ok, this could mean she gives funny looks, but it sounds pretty insulting. We need some context. What about the next phrase? Oh, that would be “Un-photographable”. Not only is it hilarious the way you look, but also you’re so ugly that nobody should even waste film on you!
But of course ol’ Blue Eyes isn’t done there, he makes sure to machine-gun off a few other insults in the form of questions. “Is your figure less than Greek / Is your mouth a little weak / When you open it to speak / Are you smart?” For the clueless in the crowd, these are what we call rhetorical questions. If the answer was yes, he wouldn’t be asking. Of course the poor girl knows that’s what he means when he insults her weight, her looks, and her intelligence. Thank goodness after crushing her sprit and dreams he insists that she stay forever.
And there are your top 5: the songs that you’ll never quite look at the same again, but I almost guarantee will continue singing anyway. I guess that makes these horrible songs ok: no matter what they say or do, we’re going to love them anyway. I guess it turns out we’re all just as bad as they are.