I know it was a nail-biting ordeal, but your patience is finally being rewarded — Part 2 of my top ten pop music clichés (here’s Part 1) is live n’ loud. Here’s the rest of the long-awaited list:
6. Rhyming “Change” with “Rearrange”: If the singer’s life is being changed by the breakup of their relationship, you can be sure that their life is also being rearranged. Or, in the context of a political song like Graham Nash’s “Chicago”, if the singer expresses the desire to change the world, it’s a safe bet that they also want to rearrange it.
Putting it this way seems a bit redundant to me. Still, I find this convention totally charming and I hope it’s neither changed nor rearranged. Or, as Bob Marley famously put it: “don’t let them change ya — or even rearrange ya!”
7. Love Is Knocking On Your Face: We’ve all heard lyrics about love knocking on the door, or more grammatically creative variations on this theme, like Tesla’s “love is knockin’ / outside your door.”
But your door, as it turns out, isn’t the only thing love can knock on. Sometimes love’s habit of knocking turns violent — just ask Paula Abdul, who got “knocked out” by a “love TKO,” or R. Kelly, who introduces his girlfriend as “the champ” because of her ability to knock him unconscious with her love.
Usually, in pop-song land, it seems like getting knocked out by love is a positive development. But if it isn’t, we’ve just got to follow Keri Hilson’s advice and get back up — and do whatever Ne-Yo adds about getting back in control of our “pimp ship.”
8. Rhyming “Life” With Something That Doesn’t Rhyme With “Life”: Although it may seem natural for song lyrics to talk about life, seeing as how being alive is something we all have experience with, using “life” as a rhyming word is fraught with peril.
This is because words that rhyme with “life” are pretty scarce, and the few words of that kind are either overused or only work if you’re striving for silliness. Aside from “wife” and a few archaic variations on that word (“alewife,” “fishwife,” etc.), there’s basically “fife,” “knife” and “strife.”
“Fife” probably won’t play well unless your song is about the Revolutionary War, and “knife” and “strife” seem kind of heavy metal genre-specific to me (although I suppose sometimes love, or the loss of it, does “cut like a knife”). I guess that explains why lyricists who use “life” tend to cheat a little and rhyme it with “nice” or something like that.
9. “I’ll Do Anything For You.” Lots of singers profess this to their lover, but is it true? I think anyone who makes this claim should be asked the series of questions made famous in Oliver, including “would you rob a shop?”, and “would you risk the drop?” — which means “would you be willing to be hanged until you are dead?”
Of course, some songwriters are even more up front about their level of devotion — both Bryan Adams and Prince, for instance, claim that they would die for you, while Bon Jovi and Damn Yankees do them one better by being willing to both live and die for you.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be a bit concerned if my significant other was that willing to risk bodily harm for me, even if they drew the line at having to get a few stitches.
10. Instrumental Bridges: It used to be that the typical pop song had a bridge, which traditionally means the section that comes after the second chorus.
What’s more, the bridge had a distinctively different melody and chord progression than the verses. Nowadays, instead of a bridge, a song often reuses the music from the verse part, but leaves out the singing.
Personally, I would prefer that, if a songwriter doesn’t feel like writing a bridge, they use a non-melodic, rhythmic part where they experiment with samples and weird effects. (The mid-section from Footloose that goes “cut . . . foot . . . loose, oh oh oh oh oh!” comes to mind.)
But maybe I’m just being a peevish fishwife. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this, and I hope you’ll remind me of any clichés I may have overlooked in the comments.
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