punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

How to Ruin a Song for Somebody

I harbor no illusions I am cool or hip in any way. In fact, I don’t even think anyone says anything is “hip” (or “hep”) anymore unless it involves the pelvic bone in some way. I was never cool, and I made peace with this in my teenaged years.

One of the things I recently remembered was how embarrassing some of my friend’s parents were. I am not talking about the problems like I had with abusive parents, I am talking about parents and teachers who tried to “relate to the younger set.” I think, if I could take a lesson from these people, it is “be yourself, your kids know better if you try anything else.” I am a poor liar, so this is easier for me, but I still see some parents do that. Faked interest, for example, which I think is insulting. “Oh wow...” says mom with a doe-eyed look when her kid shows her something. I always want to see how those parents react to a question like, “Mom? Can I have a dildo? I’m getting really horny with puberty and all, and my fingers get sore.” Even better, “I hate using yours, it’s too big.” Even better if it’s their son. HAH! But I digress.

One parent I recall was someone whose mom thought she was a world-class photographer. I don’t recall the kid’s name (I think it was Dean), but man, it was hard to miss his mom at any school-related activity. It’s one thing when someone has a camera at a gathering and takes pictures; cyaneyed is a good example of someone who takes lots of pictures with subtlety and grace and no next to no intrusiveness. Dean’s mom... it was like she wanted to be a ninja, but was given a camera instead of shuriken. I am sure somewhere she thought the Paparazzi had a good thing going, because this skinny-assed woman would make leaps, drives, swoops, and other feats of athletic prowess like a war photographer under heavy fire who owed a LOT of money to creditors back home. And it was not subtle. In fact, she ruined the shots of other mothers and their affordable 110 film Instamatics when she jumped in front of them with her Kodak 3000XZ Platinum and telephoto lens that doubled as a axle cap for a Mac truck. She was the only person I knew, besides wedding photographers, that had a detachable flash unit. My mother, who actually won a Kodak award for her photography in Africa, was annoyed at the snide comments this woman made about other parent’s cameras.

But my mom also had issues with trying to “understand” my “youth culture.” I recall she heard a song by Billy Joel, “Second Wind,” right around the time I was in therapy for my suicide attempts. I didn’t care for the song, maybe because I didn’t like a lot of Billy Joel’s arrogant style in his music (I have since softened up). But my mother said to me, “It’s like that John Lennon sings, [signing] You’re only human, you’re allowed to make your share of mistakes all right/
You better believe there will be times in your life... um... where you don’t forget your second breeze... yeah!”
[starts to dance]

Late, in particular, found this hysterical. This infuriated me at the time because, like many teens, I took myself WAY too seriously, and thought she was making light of my suicidal nature because she didn’t quite get it. I think my mother was in some kind of denial about it, because her approach was like I was an 8 year old who kept falling off his bike. But... I totally forgive her; it may have been the ONLY way she could relate, and at least she acknowledged I was having issues, and even though a misquoted song and cracker-dance (complete with snapping) was off the mark... at least she tried.

“Second breeze...” Kate giggled.

My mother got a lot of that stuff wrong, which I admit, infuriated me. Try getting a woman like that to buy something for you:

Mom: Do you have a Lego moon?
Toy Story Employee: A what?
Mom: You know, moon. Lego moon... something.
TSE: No. Our Legos are over here.
Mom: I KNOW, but my son asked for the Lego moon!
TSE: We don’t have a Lego moon. We have these space sets...
Mom: That’s it! Ooh, which one?
Me: [shouting at her back in time like people shout at the movie screen] Alpha-1 Rocket Base!
Mom: I think it was Alfred Moon. Something.

I met a lot of her type when I was a manager at Crown Books. “Do you have that book... it’s blue. Written by doctor somebody? Was on Oprah last year? Lots of people read it...”

So... the other day, I was still laughing at that memory, and how badly my mother sang and didn’t care. I was in the car with anyarm and takayla, and the recent hit song, “Sexy Back,” came on. For those of my friends who don’t listen to the latest pop trends, which is MOST of you, it’s a song from Justin Timberlake, former lead singer of a boy band called “N‘Sync,“ where he’s singing he’s bringing ”Sexy“ back, as if the trend ever left. He might as well say, ”I’m bringing eating food with a fork back! YEAH!” Well, I have to admit I like the beat, but anyarm, man... fingers snapping in the air, sashaying side to side like she’s starting a whole new revolution over it. So, I am listening to this, and takayla has this look on her face like she’s eaten something sour. So I step in, “I‘m wearing sexy hats... YEAH!“... and go from there. It occurred to me after this and Kanye West’s ”Gold Digger,“ that there was a formula behind this kind of thing. So without further ado:

How to Ruin a Song for Somebody
A Guide for Annoyed Parents and Office Workers

Note: Use this guide sparingly. Repeated use of this tactic will make you look like a jerk, and should only be used in emergencies. It involves moderate risk of making you look stupid, too.

Say you have a child or a coworker who really gets into a song that you don’t like. What makes it worse is when they keep playing it over and over, or re-enact the lyrics all the time while walking around. You could ask them to stop, but that only seems to encourage them. Using a judo-like philosophy, instead of resisting your opponent, you should carry them along in the same direction, and altering their path as they fly by. After a few times of doing this, the person will not be able to listen to the song again without thinking of you messing it up. They will quickly stop.

You don’t have to use all of these methods all the time. Just 3-4 should do the trick, or a lot of one, and bits of several others.

1. Get the lyrics slightly wrong. Not completely different, just wrong enough to sound like you might have misheard. Speak succinctly, especially when the artist uses words that end in apostrophes, like ”Aaaahm... not yo’ steppin’ stone!” should come out like, “EY-YI-YI’m not yer stepPING stone!” Enunciate every word to the point where you sound like someone with a British accent trying to imitate an American accent... but overdoing it.
2. Translate all mistaken lyrics to a G-rated format. If they talk about sex, talking about hugging. Popping caps into gangsta’s, it’s about throwing water balloons at a church picnic. That sort of thing. This words best with “implicit” lyrics best, like you completely missed the point. Don’t worry: you might not make it work all the way; halfway can be even better in some cases. Look to “Kidz Bop” for influences.
3. Sing louder than the song to draw attention to your lyrics.
4. Singing off key is good. Speaking off key is better. Singing in a different style off key is best, for instance, make it sound like you are singing in bluegrass style to a pop song or rap to soft jazz.
5. Pentameter is important: you want it to be off the syllables enough to make a true fan of the music wince, but not so much that you end up speaking way past the lyrics ending.
6. Forget whole words and phrases. Use “um” and “ah” sparingly, ending some completely garbled sentences with “UH HUH” “YEAH” or “WHAT WHAT” or “HEY HEY” Bonus points for making, “YOWSAH YOWSAH YOWSAH” work.
7. Use excessive and awkward body language like “how white people dance.” Make it look like you are being completely spontaneous in your movements, but still holding back in case your parents catch you. This will leave you in an awkward limbo of not completely letting go.

Let’s take an example. “Gold Digger,” by Kanye West starts out with an artful chorus by Jamie Foxx that pours like golden blues and gospel.

She take my money when I’m in need
Yea she’s a trifflin friend indeed
Oh she’s a gold digga way over town
That dig’s on me

This can become

Oh... She’s taking money... when I need her!
She’s a stifling friend who digs!
She’s digging gold, all over the town... yeah!
She’s digging for meeee! WHOO!

Kanye is obviously trying to explain that while he’s not saying his girlfriend just dates men for the money, she’s certainly dating and hanging around a lot of rich men from his town, but he’s okay with that (later on he says he doesn’t care about all this, he still loves her, which is a classic blues thing: the girl I am in love with doesn’t reciprocate, but will be with my desperate self as long as I pay for her stuff):

ow I aint sayin she a gold digger
But she aint messin wit no broke niggaz
Now I aint sayin she a gold digger
but she aint messin wit no broke niggaz
get down girl go head get down [repeats this line a few times]

This is an example of implied lyrics: you assume that she really is someone who only cares about money even though he says “he’s not saying that... however... if you observe her dating habits...” So, we can completely screw this up for the 11-year old daughter belting this out in the back seat of the mini van, by tying it to Builder Bob!

YEAH I am not saying she digs gold
But she’s making a mess with all those ditch diggers
OOH! I am not saying she digs gold
But she’s making a mess with all those big ditches
UH! Dig away like Builder Bob[repeat this line a few times]

Again, these lines are best while dancing out of step, and pronouncing digger like “dig-GERZZZ!”

“Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake can be completely ruined by a moderate combination G-rated series of changes, even tackling the beeped-out swear word. The song attempts to be a male stud pride anthem about a guy who comes in to some event and is more masculine and attractive than all the other men around him. Those men were so effeminate in their metrosexual style, his strong masculine presence was undoubtedly overdue for the women, and so he’s bringing “sexy” back as a concept. Then it goes rather oddly into a bondage, discipline, and sado-masochism thing which I’ll leave up to my readers how to make G-rated. Here’s a verse to get you started:

I’m bringing sexy back.. yeah!;
them motherf***ers don’t know how to act.
Come let me make up for the things you lack,
cause you’re burning up, I’ve got to get it fast.

I sang,

I like the sexy hats! Yeah!;
All their mothers don’t know how to act.
It makes up for their stupid hats,
I’ll burn them up and give them better hats....
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