The salad days of early 2000s pop-punk and emo were a cornucopia of wild song titles and pop culture references. For every ‘Cute Without the E (Cut from the Team)’ or ‘Michelle With One L’, there was a ‘What Happens If I Can’t Check My MySpace When We Get There’ or a ‘Reese’s Pieces, I Don’t Know Who John Cleese Is?’. Really, this is a game that could go on all day: ‘I Liked You Better Before You Were Naked On the Internet’, ‘The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage’, ‘It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Deathwish’ – it was an underrated time for wordplay and snarkiness in popular music.
But the kings of the art form had to be Fall Out Boy. Once again, an out-of-context list is all you need for hours of entertainment: ‘Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over’, ‘Sending Postcards from a Plane Crash’, ‘It’s Not a Side Effect of the Cocaine, I Am Thinking It Must Be Love’, ‘Nobody Puts Baby In the Corner’, ‘I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth’, ‘Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends’, and best of all, ‘I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me’.
The height of their verbose song titles came with the very first track on their second LP, From Under the Cork Tree. Although the album featured major hits with shortened titles like ‘Dance, Dance’ and ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’, the first track on the album was the long-winded ‘Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued’. Like most of the band’s song titles, it was eye-catching and seemingly some sort of inside joke. Except in this case, Fall Out Boy weren’t kidding.
The hard-hitting track was originally named ‘My Name Is David Ruffin And These Are The Temptations’, referencing the famous introduction that Ruffin would make during The Temptations’ concerts in the 1960s. The original name was another jokey pop culture reference that would have fit in with the naming conventions of the time, but there was only one problem: the band’s brain trust baulked at the idea.
“Our label said, ‘You’re going to get sued for doing that,’ and our lawyer said, ‘You’re definitely going to get sued for doing that,’ which totally sucked,” Pete Wentz told MTV News in 2011. “So we said, ‘OK, why don’t we immortalize you in a song?’.” That’s exactly what the band did, and so the track’s title was changed to directly reference the scenario that the band had been put in, retaining all the necessary stark without sacrificing any of the signature wordiness.
Whether it was intentional or not, the band even went back to the lawyer well on their follow up, 2007’s Infinity on High. That album’s fourth track is titled ‘I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)’, which is far more salacious than the original lawyer reference. No word on whether the same lawyer provided inspiration for both titles.
These days, Fall Out Boy have eased up on the excessively drawn-out song titles. The longest title on their most recent album, 2018’s Mania, is only six words. But true emo kids will never forget when the band were so in the thick of wildly rambling song titles that they were able to replace one protracted title with another equally long title just to avoid a lawsuit. Maybe one day we’ll get another ‘A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More Touch Me’.