7 Songs that make no sense – and yet make total sense

Nonsense – utter nonsense. It really makes no sense, but that’s of course the point. If it made any, even the slightest amount of sense, it wouldn’t be utter nonsense would it? It would be partial nonsense. And yet sometimes, in just the right context, utter nonsense makes all the damned sense possible. Especially if said nonsense can be found in a song. Plenty of songs use nonsensical lyrics, but somehow the meaning of the song shines through nonetheless. Mind you – it may or may not be the intention of the song writer, but then again I tend to stray away from the intentional fallacy. Let’s take a look at a few of these songs, shall we?

Stand – REM: This has been noted as one of the most influential songs to my life, but really this song is nothing but a bunch of meaningless words strung together. The song basically was a dare among the band to write the dumbest and insane song that they could. And really – if you look at the lyrics – yeah….they’re pretty dumb. Take the line, “If wishes were trees – the trees would be falling.” If you’re not a very analytical person, that line might not make any sense. And yet it tells the listener that their dreams and wishes aren’t being fulfilled….that if they were trees – they would just let those trees fall down and rot. And that’s just one line of the song! The entire song tells you to “Stand in the place where you are,” and then tells you to face North or West. The song tells you to take a good look at your point of view, and adjust it to accommodate where you are, where you’ve been, and where you could be. The song tells you to take a Stand, but don’t be afraid to change that Stand if you need to.


Untitled #5 (Álafoss) – Sigur Ros: I could have chosen anything from the () album, but I chose #8 because it’s my favorite. The lyrics are full on gibberish. They mean NOTHING. They are not in a foreign language as most of Sigur Ros songs are – they are in a made up gibberish tongue the lead vocalist uses to find the melody of the song before any actual words can be applied. If any song (or in this case, album) could be said to be meaningless, it’s this one. And yet – meaning abounds. It’s almost as though one is listening to a classical piece; this album gives us similar ways to interpret itself. It digs into our soul and brings up base feelings. Sometimes we don’t even know these feelings exist. An extended slow bass line can make us feel like we’re coming out of the cold. A high pitched vocal can tell us the state of the world is driving us insane. The only clues in the songs are the title, and even in #5, Álafoss is just where the band records! And yet it’s a symphony full of meaning – different meaning to each person – but meaning nonetheless.


Touch of Grey – Grateful Dead: This song is nothing but a string of non-sequiturs strung together. It’s almost like a computer tried to write a song by taking popular phrases and rhyming them. I mean, how the heck does “the dog has not been fed in years” and “she can’t read at 17” really fit together? They don’t! And that’s the beauty of this song. Each line might fit with the previous – but not really. And it certainly won’t fit with the rest of the lyrics. It almost forms a stream of consciousness – or perhaps describes the madness of the world (the same madness described in Untitled #5). I will say the chorus does serve as a burrito wrapper for this mess of a song: I will get by/I will survive. Somehow – through this madness….I, and later we, will survive. Somehow we’ll make it through this crazy world – even if the dog who hasn’t been fed decides to make a snack of your drummer’s tibia bone (yeah, watch the video).


Stacked Crooked – The New Pornographers: Sometimes Carl Newman (of The New Pornographers) just doesn’t care about what the lyrics say, rather he cares about how the lyrics sound. Stacked Crooked is one of those songs. I spent years trying to find meaning in the lyrics – looking at fan theories stating anything from starting their own Vietnam style war to the quest of trying to find a prostitute. I finally decided the meaning for myself is a quest for power. One the speaker will be doomed to fail. The song starts out with the line, “I counted on my private Altamont.” This is, of course, a reference to the Altamont festival in 1969 – where the Hell’s Angels were hired for security with tragic results. Throughout the song, the speaker seems to know they’re doomed to fail. They lost a deal, they’ve got an Achilles heel, and they know they’re heading for the guillotine. And of course, they’re “stacked crooked in this quest.” Come to think of it, this could have been sung by LBJ. All of a sudden, the Vietneam style war seems to make more sense.



They Might be Giants – Fingertips:
if you’re unfamiliar with Fingertips, it’s actually 21 mini songs ranging from 4 to 12 seconds in length. According to TMBG, these mini songs are supposed to simulate a CD on random, skipping from song to song. And while that’s a perfectly plausible answer, there’s an even better theory – and since I said I don’t like to commit the intentional fallacy (even though I did in the last paragraph), I’m going with the theory that makes more sense. The theory is that these 21 songs are telling the life story of someone from conception (Everything is catching on fire) to death (I’m having a heart attack), and finally into the afterlife (I walk along darken corridors). It marks life moments such as the visit of the tooth fairy (I found a new friend, underneath my pillow), Adolescence (Leave me alone, leave me alone), Marrige (something grabbed ahold of my hand), divorce (I don’t understand you), and even second marriages (The day that love came to play). The songs even point out that life begins and ends with other people putting their fingertips all over you. It’s really an amazing song(s) if you look at it through this theory!


Richard Harris – MacArthur Park: This song gets a lot of hate because the over-dramatization of the cake that got left out in the rain (I don’t think that I can take it, cause it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again! OOOOH NOOOOO!!!!). Ok, yeah….sure. It might be a little upsetting, but that line was certainly a bit hyperbolic. Having said that – a true appreciator of music knows that this was more than just cake. This is the relationship the speaker laments over the course of the song. Sure – what the heck is the rain? We don’t really know – it doesn’t make sense. We can guess that maybe it’s metaphorical for crying (I mean he cried so hard about a stupid cake, three times!), but the lines feel like nonsense. Still – we know something else is going on. Poor guy. Maybe he should have had a better fashion sense. I mean, striped pants? Seriously?



I am the Walrus – The Beatles: As the first lyrics (I am he as you are he as you are me
and we are all together) we just wonder how many freaking doses of LSD John Lennon dropped before writing this gem. And what the hell is the Walrus and how can you also be an eggman? And does that mean they are also the Walrus as they are the eggman as well as they are? Seriously, this song will give you a headache trying to interpret it! Lennon even said it was just a bunch of randomness put together. You know what else is a bunch of randomness put together? LIFE! Yes. Life is random as this song. Yes, part of I am the Walrus is from a dream, part of it is from Through the Looking Glass, part is from a childhood lymeric , but they were all obviously influences in Lennon’s life. The blending of this randomness represents the blending of Lennon’s (and ultimately everyone’s) life, and what influences him and us. Perhaps if I were to write this song, it would be called “I am the Nerfherder,” as Star Wars influenced me. It would quote Emily Dickenson, AC/DC, and reference that strange dream I had about the coffee shop that I know exists, even though I know it doesn’t really exist. But I digress – It doesn’t matter what the Walrus is. The Walrus isn’t Lennon – but the Walrus, is part of Lennon’s internal lore. Thus the Walrus IS Lennon, and Lennon is the Walrus. Goo goo g’joob!


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