Art, Music, Writing

Wasted On Myself: Poor Grammar in Song Lyrics

If there’s one thing that I hate (and there isn’t: there are lots of things that I hate) it is poor grammar. However, if there’s one thing I hate more than poor grammar (and there’s isn’t: I hate a lot of things more than poor grammar), it’s poor grammar in song lyrics. When terrible grammar is used in everyday speech, there’s an opportunity for a pedant like myself to dive in, head first, and correct the deluded soul, but when it’s committed to a recording the error is rendered in 44,100Hz and played ad infinitum for everyone to hear.

The particular bugbear of which I speak was committed by popular dub step chartbusters, Nero. The song (and yes, it’s a song, dubstep-haters) is Promises. Let’s remind ourselves of the offending sentence: “Promises, and they still feel all so wasted on myself”. It’s the chorus refrain, repeated over and over, needling away at my brain and causing my to violently express my disdain at passersby (it’s not my fault they’re not listening to my iPod – fools!).Nero Promises - a picture of a band accused of bad grammar

Now let’s break this “sentence” down: let’s ignore the initial punctuational error. The missing colon. I used one, not two sentences ago, because I have a rudimentary knowledge of how to use one. I can even use a semicolon; you can see that there, but since this is meant to be heard and not written down I’m going to let it slide. There’s an “and” in there too, thus negating the need for one, so we’ll move on. I can even forgive the grammatical mix-up that it “feel all”, so it’s when we get to the last word of the refrain that alarm bells start ringing. MYSELF! For the uninitiated, myself is a reflexive pronoun and should be not be used in this context.

If you want a breakdown of how to correctly use reflexive pronouns, head on over here and educate yourself. Look, I just used one correctly. Clever me.

Unfortunately, using correct grammar and highlighting its incorrect use in others is often looked upon as pedantry and generally rude. It’s a neon sign hovering over the head of the intellectual and, dare I say it, elitist. Since it’s usually the barely educated who are the vanguard of poor spelling, terrible grammar and fly-by-night punctuation, it’s natural that the grammar-Nazis are going to find themselves victims of the same uneducated finger-pointers soaked in blame culture, no-win-no-fee claims and episodes of Jeremy Kyle.

So whilst, we’re on the subject of blame, who is the culprit behind the misappropriation of the reflexive pronouns? I don’t know, but I can name at least one celebrity figure whose lackadaisical attitude to the reflexive pronoun borders on maniacal: Jade Goody. During her tenure in Big Brother (or Celebrity Big Brother, I forget which, since the person she was talking to was equally forgettable) she engaged in a loud argument in which every sentence she spat included at least one misuse of the reflexive pronoun. It hurt my ears, as well as my eyes to watch. And I’m glad she’s dead. There, I said it.

Grammatical errors in song lyrics are rife. Let’s look at two more examples:

“She’s got a ticket to ride and she don’t care.”
“I can’t get no satisfaction”

See? Even the classics get it wrong, but since it’s The Beatles and The Rolling Stones we’re quite happy to let it slide. As we zoom into the futuristic decade of the teenies (that’s this decade for you squares) and txt spk, TOWIE and 4chan are the preferred languages, I can’t help but jump up in my comfortable chair when one of nations popstars flaunt their ignorance of the English language.

The argument for “artistic license” is a valid one, but I can’t help but think it is merely an excuse for laziness and when poor grammar gets in the way of understanding a song there needs to be some kind of retribution.

Here is another example from the current chart landscape. The artist is Calvin Harris and the song is Feel So Close. The error lies in the opening lines: “I feel so close to you right now, it’s a forcefield.” WHAT?! Never have two more contradictory sentences been placed in such prominence in a song (I’m sure someone will think of one). I wonder what was going through Harris’ whiskey-addled brain as he wrote that line: “Och, I need a song that makes absolutely no sense… wait a minute…”. Now, this song can be fixed with one tiny adjustment to they first line (“I feel so close to you right now, but there’s a forcefield”) but it’s too late: the song has been recorded, released, remixed and re-iTuned so many times that it’s out there in the public arena for all to hear, and yet, no-one has pulled up Harris for his nonsense.

Now, I don’t have a solution for the spate of poor grammar in pop music, but I reckon if we put our heads together we can come up with something. Perhaps a catchy slogan.

Grammar: it all feels so wasted on you.

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Wasted On Myself: Poor Grammar in Song Lyrics

  1. Hmm. Can’t help but think that expecting everybody to express themselves in standard English at all times makes you sound a) like you’ve never spoken to a person before and b) like you’re unaware that English changes ALL the time and that most grammar rules aren’t natural rules at all but arbitrary and madey-uppy.

    I agree, playing the pedant CAN be fun at times, but ALL of the time would just be exhausting.

    Posted by Mell Moore | January 26, 2012, 7:37 pm
  2. My issue isn’t with poor grammar in speech; it’s more with preserved forms of communication. Once a sentence is committed to the page or in this case, the mp3, it’s open to nit-pickery.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 26, 2012, 9:27 pm

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  1. Pingback: Is you is or is you ain’t bad grammar? « Sentence first - June 19, 2012

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