All music listeners have enjoyed a song for the beat or the melody without much concern for the lyrics. Most of the time, learning that the lyrics to your favorite tune are nonsensical (or even offensive) doesn’t change how a listener feels about the song. Instead, the revelation becomes a sidebar for conversation as the listener enjoys the song with friends.
But then…there are songs that are more immediately transparent. The honorees of this Thursday’s Top Three are Creepy Songs that the music cannot mask, begging the question, “Did anyone have a problem with this when it came out?”
In 1980, Steely Dan released this song about the limitations of a middle-aged man’s relationship with a college-aged woman. Although most of the lyrics innocently point out the humor in that generational gap, the song takes a creepy turn towards the end:
The Cuervo Gold
The fine Colombian
Make tonight a wonderful thing…
So…yeah…since you can’t talk or dance with the young lady, you’re going to get her drunk off Tequila and high on cocaine? Yeah…that’s creepy, Steely Dan. Free drugs and alcohol are to college girls as white vans with candy are to children. Poor form, Steely McCreepenstein.
Album: E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Okay…so it’s a Michael Jackson song…and it means well because it’s supposed to be about a boy’s friendship with an alien from space…but…when you listen…
When someone in the dark reaches out to you
And touches off a spark that comes shining through
It tells you never be afraid
Then somewhere in your heart you can feel the glow
A light to keep you warm when the night winds blow…
Perhaps the innocence of this song resonated in 1982, especially from the world’s favorite entertainer and friend to ‘Webster’. But in 2010, that is the last context in which a grown-ass man’s words will be understood. And in the case of this song, Michael Jackson’s scandal-ridden years easily ruin “Someone in the Dark” for a present-day listener. That’s an unfortunate turn…unfortunately creepy.
Album: Measure of a Man
Yeah, I know a Clay Aiken song. What of it? I’ll tell you what. Of the three creepy songs, “Invisible” does the best job of hiding how creepy it is because the force of its pop/rock-ness is just that overwhelming. It may have been left off this list entirely if the creepy lyrics had been nestled in the verses instead belted out in the chorus:
If I was invisible
Then I could just watch you in your room
If I was invincible
I’d make you mine tonight…
Now…okay…I could understand if this is how someone felt…hypothetically…but you can’t just come out (no pun intended) and say something like that. No matter how much the person you’re talking to likes you already, this is the anti-‘ah ha’ moment that suitors do not want. And in this case, it seems like Clay hasn’t even told this person how he feels at all. Imagine if someone you barely knew walked up to you and said, “If I was invisible, I would watch you in your room.” You would text a friend immediately to learn about restraining orders, right? That’s because that’s creepy. The moral here is that you should rehearse your well-meaning confessions of ‘like like’ and make sure they don’t land you on a Take Back The Night hit list. If you don’t prepare, you’ll blow it, and not in the mid-life crisis way that Steely Dan did.