There’s artistic license, and then there’s these rhymes from Digital Underground, Fergie, R. Kelly, Sting and more.
At dinner tonight, the No Doubt song Spiderwebs came on in the restaurant. And, reflexively, when that song comes on, people start singing along. We can’t help it. That damn thing is insidiously implanted in every brain of my generation.
Whilst singing along, we encountered the lyric, “It’s all your fault, I screen my phone calls.” Which is such an incredibly sloppy rhyme. That got me thinking about other really sloppy rhymes… and off the top of my head, I was able to easily think of 11 incredibly, hilariously and ridiculously bad rhymes in song lyrics.
I wouldn’t even begin to think this is an exhaustive list. I’m hoping that, now that I’m on the lookout (and, maybe, you’re on the lookout), we’ll start spotting even more of these so I can make a volume two, three, four, and more of this list.
But that’s the future. For now, let’s enjoy some of the worst songwriting that mankind has ever seen…
1 | Africa by Toto
I absolutely love this song in a “the ’80s are awesome” way. But this lyric is just mind-boggling:
The wild dogs cry out in the night,
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company.
I know that I must do what’s right,
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.
As much as I appreciate the intricacy of a lyric like “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti,” you just can’t rhyme “company” and “Serengeti.” You also shouldn’t have to blurt out that entire line as fast as possible in a futile effort to catch up with the rhyme scheme.
2 | Humpty Dance by Digital Underground
The Humpty Dance is iconic. It’s also quite sad when your lyric writing is so weak and lazy that you acknowledge the weakness and laziness in the lyrics themselves.
I get stupid,
I shoot an arrow like Cupid,
I use a word that don’t mean nothin’,
3 | Straight Up by Paula Abdul
This is one of my favorite moments in any song, ever. She has a rhyme that works and then hilariously messes it up. For absolutely no good reason. The line makes perfect sense without throwing in the extra word.
Are you more than hot for me?
Or am I a page in your history — book?
Still makes me smile in the way that only perfect unintentional comedy can. Book!
4 | Method Man by Wu-Tang Clan
I’ve always found it strange that Method Man is the most famous of the nine Wu-Tang members, since, talent-wise, he’s somewhere in the back of the pack. This is a lyric from his vanity song that was on the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
Hey, you, get off my cloud,
You don’t know me and you don’t know my style.
To make this work, he has to half-mumble, half-mispronounce “style,” making it sound something like “st-oww.” And even then it’s an imperfect rhyme.
5 | I Don’t Wanna Wait by Paula Cole
She pulls off something here that is the rarely-seen double whammy of lyrical tragedy. She molests and violates the English language to try to make her rhyme work… and even with the horrendous grammar, the rhyme is STILL imperfect.
So open up your morning light,
And say a little prayer for I.
Dawson, Pacey and Joey are rolling over in their graves.
6 | Smack That by Akon
Akon is one of my least favorite artists ever, so, in general, I’m biased against him. But, objectively speaking, there’s no way that this lyric is anything but terrible:
I feel you creeping,
I can see it from my shadow.
Wanna jump up in my Lamborghini Gallardo.
Maybe go to my place and just kick it like Tae Bo.
Rhyming shadow with Gallardo is already borderline… but then rhyming both of those with a contrived reference to Tae Bo… yikes.
7 | Fergalicious by Fergie
Sometimes I wonder if Fergie is just kinda messing with people; like she’s some super genius who just devised these ridiculous songs to get her sociopathic jollies out of watching people sing along to them. Anyway, here are three lyrics I want to spotlight…
Fergalicious (so delicious)
But I ain’t promiscuous.
I’m Fergalicious (so delicious)
My body stay vicious,
I be up in the gym just working on my fitness.
T to the A, to the S T E Y,
Girl, you’re tasty.
Rhyming delicious with promiscuous — bad. Rhyming delicious and vicious with fitness — very bad. Spelling tasty with an “e” — unforgivable.
8 | Bills, Bills, Bills by Destiny’s Child
This was Destiny Child’s first single. This rhyme is almost more comical than bad…
Can you pay my bills?
Can you pay my telephone bills?
Can you pay my automo-bills?
Actually, I guess it’s a decent way to combine two words. Feels like it could’ve been in a Sniglets calendar. (To make a reference that 0.05 percent of my audience will get.)
9 | Rico Suave by Gerardo
This song was huge when I was in middle school. For those unfamiliar, Gerardo was a completely artificially constructed artist (like a boy band or Avril Lavigne)… he was just a South American guy with a nice, muscular body who some executives thought they could market in the U.S.
It was well known, even back then, that Gerardo was just handed a piece of paper with lyrics and he sang them. He didn’t write them, he didn’t have any input… he was like a shirtless, Latin Teddy Ruxpin. Which was probably the best thing for him, if he was trying to cling to any shred of artistic integrity.
My only addiction has to do with the female species,
I eat ’em raw like sushi.
But you kept persisting that I meet your parents,
Hah, they’re going to love my appearance!
I’m used to good old-fashioned home-style Spanish cooking,
If I try that I’ll be puking.
10 | Wrapped Around Your Finger by The Police
Sting has always written lyrics that are borderline overly pretentious. But at least they usually rhyme. (Yes, I’m fine with him rhyming cough and Nabakov in Don’t Stand So Close to Me.)
But in Wrapped Around Your Finger, his gratuitous literary reference doesn’t rhyme. And that easily qualifies it for my list.
You consider me the young apprentice,
Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis.
Those two words do not rhyme. No matter how much of an accent you have.
11 | Trapped in the Closet (Part 10) by R. Kelly
Did I save the best for last?
The midget says, “Mister, the man that pay me to this would kill me if I tell!”
He points the gun in his face, the midget say, “God, I think I just shitted on myself.”
Tell and myself don’t rhyme. Oh, and I checked with Webster’s, and they aren’t planning on adding shitted to next year’s dictionaries.