May 31, 2006

A list of factual mistakes in famous songs

This made me chuckle, being the combo music-lover and uber-nerd-of-random-facts that I am.

Factual Mistakes in Famous Songs
originally from The Onion’s AV Club

U2, “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”
It’s probably difficult to work the assassination of a civil-rights leader into a song––but if anyone can do it, Bono can! Unfortunately, he fudges the facts a bit in the last chorus of this song, when he sings about the killing of Martin Luther King Jr., “Early morning, April 4 / Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.” King was actually shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel at 6:01 p.m., which makes Bono off by about 10 hours. But he did get the date and the city right. Oh, and the pride part. Which isn’t bad for a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

Young MC, “Bust A Move
Though Young MC is completely logical throughout most of this song––he’s absolutely right, in most situations, you should bust a move––things get a little confusing in the last verse. He raps: “Your best friend Harry / has a brother Larry / in five days from now he’s gonna marry / he’s hopin’ you can make it there if you can / ’cause in the ceremony you’ll be the best man.” Now, why would your best friend’s brother choose you as best man over his own flesh and blood? Is Harry just going to be a run-of-the-mill usher at his brother’s wedding while you’re toasting and keeping track of the rings? Also, why would Larry inform you of his family-shaking decision a mere five days before the wedding? It doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, Young MC totally compensates for any logical gaps in the next line, when he rhymes “neato” and “libido.”

‘N Sync, “Digital Get Down”
On the surface, ‘N Sync’s “Digital Get Down” is just another song about mutual masturbation facilitated by webcams, but there’s a geography lesson hidden underneath all the “Baby, we can do more than just talk” talk. Turns out the lesson is that ‘N Sync doesn’t know anything about geography. In the chorus, they sing, “Digital digital get down just you and me / you may be 20,000 miles away, but I can see ya / and baby baby, you can see me.” Really? Twenty thousand miles? Well, since the Earth is round, and its circumference is roughly 24,000 miles, that means that at 20,000 miles away, ‘N Sync’s digital girlfriend would also be, at most, 4,000 miles away. Unless, of course, she’s in space, which would make Lance Bass really, really jealous.

R. Kelly, “Trapped In The Closet (Chapters 1-12)”
When he started to write his ridiculous hip-hopera, R. Kelly probably had no way of knowing that the thing would stretch out to 12 chapters’ worth of guns, affairs, leg cramps, well-endowed midgets, and sirens that go “Wooo wooo wooo.” Still, he should have kept better track of who was actually telling the story. In Chapters 1-7, Kelly relays the action in the first person (“I pulled out my Beretta,” “I’m sweating like hell,” “I said ‘Baby, get off my leg’”). But around Chapter 8, the “I” turns into “Sylvester,” and a narrator is introduced in the form of the all-knowing R. Kelly, who sings keen observations like “Then he continues to rough up the midget / as if the midget was under attack.” But in Chapter 11, both R. Kelly/the narrator, and I/Sylvester are telling the story. Simply put, this song is a nightmare for any student of English, just like most R. Kelly fantasies.

Willie Nelson, Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis, Steve Perry, Dan Aykroyd, and others, “We Are The World”
“We Are The World” was a very important song, both to starving Ethiopians and to comedy writers looking for an easy parody. But when the song tries to hammer home the preachiness, it ends up misquoting the Bible. Willie Nelson sings, “As God has shown us by turning stones to bread…” Biblically speaking, that never happened. In Matthew 4, the devil tries to get Jesus to turn some stones into bread, but Jesus refuses, saying, “One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” So the bread/stone miracle never happened. Also, in spite of what the song says, we are not the world.

Jennifer Lopez, “Jenny From The Block
This is one of those rare songs where every other line contradicts the one before it. For example: “I love my life and my public / put God first and can’t forget to stay real.” Yes, you’re right, J. Lo. “Real” people always remember to love their “public.” Or: “I stay grounded / as the amounts roll in / I’m real I thought I told ya / I’m real even on Oprah.” Translation: “I’m so down to earth. Seriously though, I’m making truckloads of money and getting TV gigs.” And, of course: “Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got / I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block.” Sure, Jennifer Lopez is just another multimillionaire from the Bronx, just like Gisele Bündchen is just another beautiful model from the slums of Brazil, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is just another huge action star/California governor from a tiny town in Austria. Never mind us, they are the world.

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  • Awesome! I’d love to see more of these, and now I’ll be trying hard to think of other blunders. . .

    Kristy — May 31, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  • If I’d seen this feature when it first ran, I would’ve e-mailed this to Amelie herself. I’m a huge fan of her column, as I posted about recently, which is why I’m a little let down to see her blatantly ripping off Chuck Klosterman in the Young MC passage. Here’s Chuck’s:

    “Those two songs were actually cowritten with Young MC, whose single “Bust a Move” is con-fusing for the following reason: Its last verse states, “Your best friend Harry / Has a brother Larry / In five days from now he’s gonna marry / He’s hopin’ you can make it there if you can / Cuz in the ceremony you’ll be the best man.” Now, why would anybody possibly be the best man in a wedding where the groom is their best friend’s brother? Why isn’t your best friend the best man in this ceremony? And who asks someone to be their best man a scant five days before they get married? This song is flawed.”

    Matt Gilmour — May 31, 2006 @ 9:32 pm

  • the best part about bono getting that wrong is that he stills sings it that way. in his defense, he was only 24 when he wrote that, and he sort of famously has always written his lyrics “on the mic.” you can be sure he knows the correct facts now. his 15-year old daughter is named Memphis Eve.

    c — May 31, 2006 @ 9:39 pm

  • Not to mention the very definition of irony, Barry Manilow singing “I Write the Songs,” a song he did not write.

    jeff tripodi — June 1, 2006 @ 8:00 am

  • Ah, the thing about “Pride” is that although MLK was shot at 6:01 p.m. in Memphis, TN, it was 12:01 a.m. back home in Dublin, Ireland. Early morning? Hm… probably not. But I imagine that Bono woke up that morning hearing the news.

    Emily — June 1, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

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