Nobody ever said that writing songs was easy, but nobody ever said it should be this hard. The wicked ways of rhyme are twisted even further when the words have to keep time. It is needless to say that even some of the greatest songwriters of all time have been guilty of the crime, and below we’ve tried to collate some of the best of them.
Sometimes a flunk in the rhyming structure can add a certain vulnerability or expressive charm to music. Take, for instance, the Shakira classic – “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains” – there is a beauty to that indiscretion that that saves it from the clutches of the list below and elevates it towards one of the most affably memorable pop lyrics of all time—and that has nothing to do with my soft spot for the Colombian star.
However, other lyrical oddities and slip-ups prove so jarring and garish that you have to wonder how on earth they made it all the way to the radio. Below we have curated these songwriting sins for your own amusement. Some of them are baffling, others are just wrong and the occasional entry teeters so close to the ‘so bad it’s good’ boundary that they’re almost inadvertently brilliant. N.B. Black Eyed Peas have been omitted from this list for megabyte reasons. Enjoy…
The worst rhyming couplets in music:
Pink Floyd – ‘Bike’
“I know a mouse, and he hasn’t got a house
I don’t know why I call him Gerald
He’s getting rather old, but he’s a good mouse”
The tale of a noble mouse who was simply begging for Syd Barrett to call him Klaus.
Nick Cave – ‘Mermaids’
“She was a catch
And we were a match
I was the match
That would fire up her snatch”
Master songwriter Nick Cave divulges the sorry tale of the spouse and assistant of Ibiza’s No. 1 Fire Eater.
Chris De Burgh – ‘Lonely Sky’
“The cold north wind they call “La Bise”
Is swirling round about my knees.”
That ‘e’ in La Bise is certainly doing a lot of leg work here.
Des’ree – ‘Life’
“I don’t want to see a ghost
It’s a sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast”
Wouldn’t we all Des’ree, wouldn’t we all.
Ed Sheeran – ‘Shape of You’
“I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do”
Error: please check syntax.
Nirvana – ‘All Apologise’
“What else could I say?
Everyone is gay”
Sometimes you say it best, when you say nothing at all.
The Police – ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’
“It’s no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Nabokov”
There is a fine line between genius and insanity.
Pitbull – ‘Give Me Everything’
“Me not working hard?
Yeah, right, picture that with a Kodak
Or better yet, go to Times Square
Take a picture of me with a Kodak,”
Then go and develop the pictures on your Kodak. Kodak… Kodak.
Bob Dylan – ‘Wiggle’
“Wiggle ’til you’re high, wiggle ’til you’re higher
Wiggle ’til you vomit fire”
Bob Dylan seeming transposes the dancing plagues of Europe. Still not convinced this song isn’t a hoax.
Bryan Adams – ‘Everything I Do’
“There’s no love
Like your love
And no other
Could give more love”
The rinse and repeat method when every cliché has dried.
Dr Dre – ‘Nuthin’ but a G Thang’
“Never let me slip, ’cause if I slip, then I’m slippin’”
Lyrics that knock you on your back.
Billy Bragg – ‘Sexuality’
“Sexuality, your laws do not apply to me
A nuclear submarine sinks off the coast of Sweden
Headlines give me headaches when I read them
I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade”
When the William S. Burroughs word cut-up technique goes awry.
Wu-Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
“For cryin’ out loud my style is wild so book me
Not long is how long that this rhyme took me
Ejectin’ styles from my lethal weapon
My pen that rocks from here to Oregon”
At least there’s an admission of guilt here.
The Beatles – ‘Don’t Pass Me By’
“I’m sorry that I doubted you, I was so unfair
You were in a car crash and you lost your hair”
News reports said the driver came out unscathed but it was a close shave.
Kanye West – ‘Dark Fantasy’
“At the mall, there was a séance
Just kids, no parents
Then the sky filled with herons
(I saw the devil) in a Chrysler LeBaron”
Beyond the fact that none of it rhymes, herons have to be the least biblical bird since pigeons.
Liz Phair – ‘Flower’
“I’ll fuck you till your dick is blue”
And it was the best night of Papa Smurf’s sad little life… even more impressive is that this is the grand closing line.
Feeder – ‘Buck Rodgers;
“Get a house in Devon
Drink cider from a lemon”
Eleven would’ve worked lads, perhaps that’s why most people thought it said that.
Razorlight – ‘Somewhere Else’
“And I met a girl
She asked me my name
I told her what it was”
A fascinating story from a songwriter who once claimed to be better than Bob Dylan.
Toto – Africa
“As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”
The lyrical gymnastics to get Serengeti to fit here requires a doping investigation.
The Style Council – ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’
“Those who have and who have not
Those who are with and those who are without
And dangle jobs like a donkey’s carrot”
A rhyming stretch that could bridge the continents of Africa and Antarctica.
Kanye West – ‘Black Skinhead’
“They say I’m possessed, it’s an omen
I keep it 300, like the Romans”
Never let a wild historical inaccuracy get in the way of a good rhyme.
R.E.M. – ‘You Are Everything’
“The voices talking somewhere in the house, late spring
And you’re drifting off to sleep with your teeth in your mouth”
That sweet moment when the love of your life forgets to take their dentures out before bed.
Jay-Z ‘It’s Hot’
“Thirty-eight revolve like the sun round the Earth”
I’d love to say that contextually this comes out as a clever allegory. Sadly, it is merely a medieval scientific faux pas.
Queen – ‘Bicycle Race’
“You say black, I say white
You say bark, I say bite
You say shark, I say hey man
Jaws was never my scene
And I don’t like Star Wars”
When strong cinematic disputes get in the way of a classic rhyme battle.