The internet, it’s a truism to say, is studded with hilarious buffoonery.
I was recently doing a little recreational Googling to find some lyrics, as one does, as it had occurred to me that I’d never actually worked out what was being said in a particular song, and this Googling led me into a comically dumb corner of the web: lyrics meaning sites.
The song in question was Placebo’s ‘36 Degrees’. I was listening to their first album the other day, and it reminded me of the many conversations that took place at school back in the nineties around what on earth Brian Molko was singing in the chorus.
This was pre-Google, pre-smartphone, it was all just teenage guesswork. So having listened to the track countless times over the years I’d never known what the lyric was - but it’s 2014 now, we live in a shiny digital future, and such questions can be answered in seconds.
I looked it up, and it turns out that the lyric in question was “Someone tried to do me ache”. No wonder we didn’t guess it, that’s a really weird thing to say. Here, take a listen, see if you could have got it.
Anyway, being a fastidious kind of soul, I looked on quite a few lyrics sites to see if they were all in agreement, and in doing so happened across songmeanings.com.
Now, this isn’t a site that scientifically analyses song lyrics. They don’t employ a panel of linguists and poets to pick apart the nuances, imagery, construct and references that are inextricably intertwined within any given song’s lyrics. No, it’s basically just that same conversation that me and my teenage chums were having back in the nineties – this is a site full of unfounded guesses by uninformed kids.
And so it was that I found myself scrolling through a hilariously shit series of interpretations of ‘36 Degrees’, increasingly amused by the idiocy of it all.
For example -
"I read somewhere that 36 degrees is the temperature that your body drops to if you have drunk way too much.”
“Actually, I believe the 36 degrees refers to a 36 degree angle because he has his shoulders touching his toes and he is bent back with his knees being the centre point.”
And my favourite of all -
“Supposedly this song is about the perfect temperature to have sex at.”
I mean, come on. What a bunch of fucking clowns.
The last one there was presumably written by someone who’s never attempted to have sex at 36 degrees Celsius (or indeed at all, ever, probably), or they’d know that the first thing you’d do would be to find an air-conditioned room. ”Supposedly”? Supposedly according to whom?
This stupid guesswork amused me greatly. So I plugged a few more songs in to see what the berks of songmeanings.com had to offer…
1. David Bowie – ‘Space Oddity’
“To everyone who said that this is a response to the Apollo 13 film with Tom Hanks, it is simply not because Space Oddity was written in 1969, whereas the film was made in 1995.”
There is much confusion on the site – some people think that ‘Space Oddity’ references the Apollo 13 space mission; this is unlikely, given that it happened a year after the song was released, but they don’t let anything as frivolous as a fact get in the way of arguing their point.
This has naturally evolved into some people thinking that the song was a response to the movie Apollo 13, which came out an impressive 26 years after the song did.
Cue much facepalming.
Also, this is insightful -
“It’s obviously one giant metaphor.”
Great, cheers for that.
2. Eminem – ‘Stan’
“I don’t think anyone should get offended by the way Stan killed his girlfriend.”
Blimey. That misses the point somewhat. I’d suggest that perhaps the offensive shockingness of the subject material is what gives the song its power. But maybe there’s something deeper afoot?
“Stan could be a combination of the word stalker and fan. Stalker + Fan = Stan.”
Ah, thanks professor. Tricky concept you’ve formulated there, I appreciate the detailed explanation. Anything more from the community?
"I LOVE THIS SONG! it’s so deep and makes me think about things… That’s all i can really say about the song… But i love it, and i love you, Eminem! (Marry Me, Please!)”
Right. OK, thanks.
3. Blur – ‘Song 2’
It’s worth remembering, before you read the following analysis, that ‘Song 2’ was a deliberately frivolous and shallow track, intended to parody and lampoon the American rock - and, more specifically, grunge - scene of the era.
It is purposefully devoid of deep meaning. But check out this guy’s attempt -
“I always thought the song was about fear of flying. Perhaps it’s him telling about the first time he flew on an airplane. Every noise and every bump is terrifying: ‘I got my head checked, By a jumbo jet, It wasn’t easy, But nothing is, No’ I think the next bit is him hearing the engins and feeling the terror (pins and needles) of something happening. Who knows maybe he was on a plane that had engin trouble (heavy metal) when he was younger: ‘When I feel heavy metal, And I’m pins and I’m needles’. The next bit he’s telling himself that everythings going to be alright and talking to the person in the neighboring seat to help keep calm: ‘Well I lie and I’m easy, All of the time but I’m never sure When I need you, Pleased to meet you’ I think the ‘I got my head done when I was young’ means that the whole thing is past tense and just him remembering it or telling a friend what happened. Ultimately the, ‘Woo hoo’ is just the terror he feels every time the plane bumps and jostles. It also is probably exilerating to know he survived and to think back on it.”
Come on. If you haven’t got a clue, you shouldn’t just guess. You’ve taken a cheery little throwaway song and turned into some kind of shit sixth form poetry there.
4. Kelis – ‘Milkshake’
Picture the furrowed brow of the person writing this one, deep in concentration, perhaps with their tongue poking slightly out of the corner of their mouth -
“Taken on a literal sense, this song generally means a woman who is “yummy”, like a milkshake, it taste good and brings you pleasure when you are enjoying it. On a more context level, it could mean that milkshake is using the body to tease the boys and they like it, so she flaunts it.”
Good-o. Thanks for giving it to us on a ”context level”, that was starting to get quite cerebral.
5. The Beatles – ‘I Am The Walrus’
This should be an open-and-shut case.
The genesis of this song is that John Lennon had received a letter from a fan, a schoolchild, telling him that their English teacher was analysing Beatles lyrics in lessons.
So Lennon set out to craft the most befuddling, random set of lyrics he could, designed specifically to be impossible to analyse for deeper meaning.
Because there was no deeper meaning. As such, presumably the folk of songmeanings.com will be aware of this, and there will be just one entry that explains the situation, right? I imagine they hold the song up as a sort of icon of impenetrable wordsmithery, the yin to their very yang?
“I heard that there is a British- (or something) folktale that when you see a walrus it is the ghost of someone who recently died.”"Everyone in their lifetime is at one point the walrus, the eggman, and even.. the goo goo goo joob. so i suppose the walrus is the leader, the eggman is the follower, and the goo goo goo joob is just undecided. this song holds all the answers.“
“The first part, ” I am he…” has four pronouns, and four lines. There were four Beatles. They are the “pigs from a gun”, since everywhere they went they had to run, or fly to, since Beatlemania was in full effect. A cornflake is a very fragile thing, and sitting on it would cause it to break. Fame is very fragile, and one false move could make or break your career. The next part refers to the various media events the Beatles were always a part of, like TV, radio, etc. Since they were first a “boyband”, their sponsers always wanted them to be cheery and fun. John was not one to smile, hence the”face grown long”, and would have a fake grin when asked to smile…”
Oh dear. That last one goes on like that for some time.
6. Spice Girls – ‘Spice Up Your Life’
Sometimes the sheer depth of analysis within songmeanings.com becomes quite post-modern, entirely transcending conventional critiques to enter a whole other realm of literary wisdom -
"I LOVE THE sPICE gIELS THEY ROCK i’M 15”"YOUR A FAG“
“shut the hhhhhhhhello up you are just a freakin queer”
“Ya’ll both suck cock-a-dooodle-dooo! wuhahahahahahaha!”
7. Lady Gaga – ‘Poker Face’
“Maybe it has to do with blowjobs. Poke her face”
Actually, yes, that’s probably correct.
I could go on all day. Why not have a go yourself? It’s really annoying and you’ll wish you hadn’t.