Well hi there! Welcome back to Pop Science, the series where Ben and I take a look at the glorious inanity that happens when pop culture tries to get all science-like. The whole series is here, and we’ve focused on the good, the bad and the ugly. Today however, we’re doing something a little different: the confusing. These are the lyrics so wildly off base that you can’t even really criticize them. I mean, what does one say to “the color of the sky is 3?”. Let’s find out!
Miracles by Insane Clown Posse
Nominated Line: whole song
Bethany: Ah, the song that launched a thousand magnet memes.
I could go through and correct this song, I could finally tell Shaggy how magnets work, but instead I’m going to give you my five favorite delightful observations they make about science:
5. “You don’t have to be high to look at the sky”.
4. “I fed a fish to a pelican at Frisco bay. It tried to eat my cell phone, he ran away”
3. “Shaggy’s little boys look just like Shaggy. And my little boy looks just like daddy”
2. “Magic everywhere in this bitch. Shit’s crazy”
1. “Water, fire, air and dirt Fucking magnets, how do they work?”
I mean, if this were a classroom, could I even kick this guy out? To say he’s high is an understatement, but is it weird it’s kind of making me laugh? I mean, it’s more entertaining than Hillary Duff, and it takes a certain amount of creativity to turn a couple of those phrases. But I can’t endorse this right? Downfall of America and all that? SO MUCH AMBIVALENCE.
Ben: I have not spent a lot of time in the discography of messieurs Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope since my years working night shifts at McDonald’s, and inexplicably, time has warmed me to their schtick. This song drops me somewhere in a vortex between willful ignorance and playful stereotypes, and I found myself deeply charmed. Seeing Shaggy mime the act of running away while J details his story of almost losing his cell phone to a voracious pelican in a song about unexplainable miracles hits some sort of pleasure nodes I didn’t even know I had.
I wasn’t aware that ICP could be appreciated ironically, but there’s enough layers here to make an onion dip jealous. The fact that each member has no less than nine nicknames listed on their Wikipedia, all of them clearly based on some sort of unimaginable backstory. (Shaggy’s best were “Ham’d Burglah” and “Guy Gorfey,” while Violent J is also known as “Moon Glorious,” “Golden Jelly,” “Fats Pepper,” and “Bullet.” What lives these gentlemen must lead.)
College Humor has a series of videos called “If Google Was A Guy,” and I think it’s possible that ICP treats their tracks with the same sense of curiosity. They seem like the sort of people who would craft a single and shoot a gloriously expensive video just so that at some point, someone would come up and explain to them why there are rainbows. I hope someone has by now.
Bethany: Yes to everything Ben said. The science may not be there, but these guys know exactly who they are and who they’re appealing to. How else could you explain Juggalo Championship Wrestling?
The Scientist by Coldplay
Nominated Line: whole song
Bethany: Oh Mr ex-Paltrow. You called your song “the scientist”, because, as you clarify “Questions of science, Science and progress, Do not speak as loud as my heart” . Oh good. I’ve got the whiny emo kid over here highjacking my science class. I mean, it’s like I asked for an essay on the cardiovascular system and you wrote me an essay on your broken heart. Fantastic.
This is going to be a long semester.
Ben: I’m the Coldplay stan of this pairing, but I was the one who suggested this song, since this really is indefensible. If we’d spoken up at the time, we might have been spared a number of things, including “conscious uncoupling” and the snoring mess that is A Head Full of Dreams.
“The Scientist” is a deeply emotive song, and its music video is cool as hell, but its a lyrical travesty from beginning to end. The words are structured in a way that no human has ever attempted to use as normal communication, and it makes a vague feint at rhyming that it never really succeeds at – only one word is rhymed throughout the song, and the words “heart” and “apart” are brazenly matched with “are,” and “hard.” Chris Martin is trying to rhyme mostly through a lack of elocution – which probably helps in the video, since he has to sing the song backwards, and in slow motion. You don’t want too many consonants cluttering that up.
Bethany: That is a far deeper explanation than I expected. I thought it was just one of those “I’m versatile! I can write deep and whiny songs about heartbreak from many angles! See, this one is even called the Scientist! I have a PhD in matters of the heart!”
Ben: “I have a PhD in matters of the heart” is actually my Tinder profile.
White Coats by New Model Army
Nominated Line: whole song
Bethany: This song might be anti-science, but I can’t really tell. Who are these men in white coats? Doctors? Scientists? Psychiatric professionals? What’s going on here? Is this an anti-nuclear war song? I mean, at least System of a Down had a clear thesis statement.
Ben: I can’t parse it either, and I’m not going to try. I was much too distracted by the music video, which is such a wonder of awfulness it seems impossible that it exists at all. At first I assumed that my ears were deceiving me, and despite the late-80’s sound to the song, it was a late-70’s tune, and the music video was from a pre-MTV time when bands made music videos just to have something to stick at the end of their concert VHS tapes.
But no, “White Coats” is from 1989, which may not necessarily be a peak year in music video creativity, was at least a decade into music video competence. And yet this video looks like it was shot on a borrowed video recorder by Brian, their untrustworthy roadie. Though they clearly spent a fair amount of the studio’s money on the affair, since at several points they cut to poorly executed helicopter shots of the band standing atop impressive cliff faces. I just hope they didn’t make Brian fly the helicopter, too.
Fancy by Iggy Azalea
Nominated Line: “I can hold you down, like I’m giving lessons in physics”
Bethany: Is it just me or did Iggy Azalea have one of the fastest “hey she’s cool!” to “hey she’s awful!” turns in the history of pop? I don’t really keep up with these things so much, but it gave even me whiplash.
Anyway, this video always gets some credit from me because it recreates the entire movie “Clueless”, which is actually a pretty cool concept for a video. The line “I can hold you down like I’m giving lessons in physics” however, not so much.
I mean, most physics courses do teach you something about gravity, which holds you down. But quite frankly, that works whether or not you know why, and the physics lesson itself rarely involves holding anyone down. Maybe they do things differently in Australia.
Ben: I have long been a defender of pop stars who the internet piles onto, as things get heinous so quickly, and I stick with them as long as I can (I’m sorry I had to leave you behind, Macklemore. The breakers got too big). I feel for Iggy, who somehow had a video break this month where her fiancé proudly announced that he’d cheated on her with multiple women, including a 19-year-old, and she still engendered shockingly little sympathy. The world is a callous place.
The “talentless” Azalea, who had two songs tied for number one in the summer of 2014, was introduced to us through this peppy track and its note-perfect recreation of Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (Heckerling later noted “it looks like they had more money for the video than I did the movie”).
I’m trying to come up with a defense of the line, and all I can manage is that Azalea is 5’10”, which is probably at least half a head taller than anyone she’s trying to match up against. As Archimedes would probably note, give me a place to stand and a long enough Azalea, and I can move the earth.
Bethany: By the way, I will admit I spent most of that video trying to read what’s on the white board behind her. It’s a pretty amusing list of the best all time rappers. I would have given her full credit on the physics line if it had instead been something like this:
Insert your musician of choice for Elvis, of course.
Supercollider by Fountains of Wayne
Nominated Line: whole song
Ben: I’ve somehow gotten ahead of Bethany on this one, but since I know absolutely nothing about supercolliders, or even regular colliders, I better wait for her to catch up.
Bethany: Huh, how’d I let that happen. Anyway, this whole song reminds me of this:
The use of the word “supercollider” in this song is clearly just meant to represent something vaguely spacey/sciencey, and it pretty much fails. The repeated line “Out of the blackness/Into the great big sky/Supercollider/Shooting inside your mind”.
A Supercollider actually has two technical meanings: either a programming language or a high velocity particle accelerator. While technically the latter group does shoot particles, they don’t shoot them in to the sky, nor do they shoot them in your mind. They actually shoot them in highly controlled environments in order to study their properties more closely . I mean, they could mean that they are testing their assumptions one at a time while psychologically controlling for their biases….but with lines like “Gather round the gas tower/don’t it kind of look like a bong”….I’m doubting they put that much thought in to it. I’m guessing they thought it was a little more involved in rockets or something.
Ben: My knowledge of supercolliders comes entirely from movies, where characters wander into scientific experiments and develop superpowers that are extraordinary and deadly, and also not explicitly licensed to DC or Marvel. I’m assuming that the songwriting process for this included a lot of bong hits and the viewing of some mid-90’s Michael Crichton-aping science fiction. Sounds like a good time, did not at all make for a good song.
Want part 2? Read it here.