Well hi there! Welcome to Part 2 of Ten Science So Confusing They’re Not Even Wrong, where we cover songs with science references so perplexing they can’t quite be classified. If you missed part 1, you can find it here.
“Cosmic Thing” by The B-52s,
Nominated Line: whole song
Bethany: In the long and grand tradition of songs that just yell random words that are vaguely scienc-ey, comes a cosmic song with a wonderful chorus: COSMIC! COSMIC! WOOO COSMIC! IONOSPHERE! SHAKE YOUR HONEY BUNS!
I’m beginning to think science education may not be the purpose of this song.
Ben: The B-52s have always had a lyrical style that can best be described as “Kubla Khan, but written by a UCLA freshman taking an improv class while high on cheap ecstasy.” It’s simultaneously both unremarkable and unforgettable, and if this band hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t find myself singing “Everybody HAD! Matching TOWELS!” aloud at random and inappropriate intervals in my life.
I’m reluctant to spend much time on this song, because I’m worried that doing so will cause it to move permanently into a section of my brain, probably evicting something more important on its way in. By time this post is finished, I’ll have no recollection of the Webster-Ashburton treaty, but I will spend the rest of the month hum-shouting “don’t let it rest on the President’s desk!” Away with you, Fred Schneider! Haunt this cranium no more!
“Friction” by Echo & The Bunnymen
Nominated Line: whole song
Bethany: Friction! Hey friction! This song cites friction so much I was really excited to see what kind of physics problem they were going to throw me. There was a reference to telescopes, and I kind of thought I knew where things were going, and then we got to this line “If I ever catch that ventriloquist/I’ll squeeze his head right into my fist.”
So the references to friction pick back up again with “stop this head motion”….then dies again with “Set the sails/You know all us boys gonna wind up in jail.” This test just got dark.
Ben: I have no beef with Echo and the Bunnymen, who I have always considered sort of the sonic equivalent of The Cure trying to create their own version of R.E.M.’s Monster (which, frankly, is sort of my jam). But there’s usually an unfascinating ambivalence to their lyrics, and it leaves the listener shrugging and going, “well, I guess it’s about something.”
I don’t know if the ventriloquist line is a metaphor, but I very much hope not. If this song was about the emotional pain that Ian McCulloch went through as a result of a dickish puppeteer upon whom he has vowed revenge, then I’m a million percent* back in on this song.
*since this is a science site, I should note that it is not actually possible to be a million percent into anything. I think.
Bethany: Wait, was this song on the Being John Malkovich sound track? I may have to rethink my review.
“What’s My Name” by Rihanna feat. Drake
Nominated Line: The square root of 69 is 8 something, cuz I’ve been trying to work it out.
Bethany: You know you’re a math geek when you hear a line like this and actually wonder why he stopped at 8 something, when there was so much more to say. Like 8.3066…..and that’s not the point here is it? No one was really going for math here were they? Well this is awkward.
Ben: It could be worse, Bethany. I had to go to Yahoo Answers in order to look up the joke. “Oh, eight as in… oh, I get it now.” Just humiliating all the way round.
It’s also a very Drake thing to throw in a bad math joke when appearing on a Rihanna song – everything about his appearance shouts “I’m out of my league here and I know it.” Why else would he be wearing a UMass sweatshirt?
Bethany: Yeah, let’s just pretend this whole thing never happened.
“The Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang
Nominated Line: “Let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.”
Bethany: Hey! It’s another song that’s not really wrong but makes me a little unsettled. I thought it would get better if I watched the video, but it actually got worse. The monkey costumes were actually used pretty well, which is part of the problem. Their impression of wild animals is just a little too good.
Ben: This is another song that brings up embarrassment, as I once had a pastor who emailed me to ask if I could put together “The Bloodhound Gang song” for a sermon she was doing. We had a good 36 hours of confusing, argumentative emails until I discovered that what she was actually referring to was this. We had very different cultural touchstones growing up.
This song arrived right about at the ideal point in my adolescence, as it was released during the summer I was 15 years old and working my first job at McDonald’s. I don’t think I’ve heard this song in at least a decade, but I bet if you plugged it into a karaoke machine and handed me a microphone, I could fly through the now-exceptionally-dated lyrics without barely a hiccup. “Yes I’m Siskel, yes I’m Ebert, and you’re getting two thumbs up!” The Wikipedia for this song says that it was remixed by both God Lives Underwater and Eiffel 65, which is a very turn-of-the-millenium piece of information.
My memory’s been abruptly jogged by writing this section: I did a post on this several years ago, during my “Hunt For The Most 90’s Song Of All Time!” As I recall, it scored moderately but not exceptionally highly. (I never finished the hunt, but it was clear early on that I wasn’t going to find a song more qualified than The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.”)
Bethany: Okay, I was wondering if I should confess I know every word to this song, and you talked me in to it. I also still know all the words to “The Real Slim Shady”. That is definitely the reason I forget where I put my keys every morning.
Ben: If Smashmouth didn’t exist, I would still know trigonometry.
“Make her Say” by Kid Cudi feat Kanye West
Nominated Line: When You Used Your Medulla Oblongata And Give Me Scoliosis Until I Comatosest And Do While I’m Sleep, Yeah A Lil Osmosis
Ben: I’m ahead of Bethany again! And once again, it seems wise of me to step back and give her the lead. I’m an expert on all things Kanye, but not the central nervous system (the space for that information was taken up by the lyrics to “Love Shack”), and I better stick to my lane here.
Bethany: I’m going to start this in reverse order here. There’s an old joke in science major circles about “falling asleep on your textbook and learning by osmosis”. The proper response to this of course is “that assumes knowledge works like water, and you’re clearly not passing”. Science majors can be cruel.
Back to the beginning though. The medulla oblongata is a really important part of the brain, responsible for all sorts of nice things like breathing, swallowing, sneezing and reflexes. I was going to give Kanye some credit here, because apparently there’s a condition called syringomyelia where the bone near the medulla oblogata has lesions and can eventually result in scoliosis….but then I realized he said that you use your medulla oblongata and give him scoliosis. I think there’s a blowjob joke in here somewhere, but frankly I’m not looking any further in to it. Oh, and comatosest isn’t a word. You’re welcome.
Ben: We keep stumbling into accidental cunnilingus references, and that’s really not what we set out to do here (though, to be fair, I can only speak for me). A little research digs up the medulla oblongata controls a number of involuntary actions, like the um, gag reflex and, uh, swallowing, and um, I guess the point is that this might not just be blather that Ye is spitting here (pun not intended).
Basically, the more you look at this, the less it seems like a fun verse with a TI reference and you start to get focused on the fact that they sampled Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” so that it became “poke her face” and… you know what, let’s just drop the mic and move on.
Bethany: Yeah, this is getting awkward. Science, you’re drunk. Go home.
Missed the rest of the series? Find it here!