Fancy yourself as a songwriter? Well here’s how not to maim that tune with questionable lyrics.

1. Pride
You may be justly proud of being able to namecheck ‘That famous book by Nabokov’ (c. Sting), but that’s no excuse for writing rampant tosh. Brandon Flowers of The Killers justified their line ‘Are we human or are we dancer?’ on the grounds it referred to an obscure Hunter S Thompson quote. Well frankly, you can piss up a rope, Brandon. That, since you ask, is a reference to an obscure Viz cartoon.

2. Prejudice
They may be reformed renaissance men nowadays, but back in the mid ‘80s The Beastie Boys thought it would be hilarious to adopt the sexual politics of adolescent bonobo monkeys. They summed up their attitude on ‘Girls’: “Girls! to do the dishes! Girls! To clean up my room! Girls! To do the laundry!” Lead MC Ad Rock is now married to Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna. Something tells me that this one doesn’t get many airings when they’re flicking through the family albums.

3. Private jokes
I’m sure it sounds like a top wheeze to throw in a daft line or two at 3.40am in the studio after several recreational cigarettes have been passed round. But we somehow feel excluded from the joke when we hear Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘Saturday Night’, “Pneumothorax is a word that’s long. They’re just trying to put some punk back into punctured lung. Panic over, party off, party on, ‘cos we are birds of a feather, and you can be the fat one.” Is that driftweed blowing across the desolate prairie? A bell tolling gently in the distance?

4. Pretension
As a rock star it’s part of your job description to invent an exotic, debauched persona for yourself. But Suede’s Brett Anderson leapt from the sublime to the ridiculous on their 1997 hit ‘She’, when he sang, “She, shaking up the karma. She, injecting mari-joo-ana.” Doesn’t sound too convincing, eh, readers? Mind you, he did once claim on ‘My Insatiable One’ to “Shit paracetamol” on an escalator, so who knows what warped practices he was into back then.

5. Controversialism
We live in a sick world. But just how sick? The Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Yes’, for instance, tells us about ‘plagued streets of pity’ where ‘you can buy anything’. Such as: “He’s a boy, you want a girl, so cut off his cock. Tie his hair in bunches, fuck him, call him Rita if you want.” So you can ‘buy’ crude DIY gender-realignment, coupled with incestuous child-rape? Are you quite sure? Do Amnesty International know about this? Or are you just a little too eager to shock us?

6. Psychedelia
In Kasabian’s ‘Cutt Off’, Tom Meighan sings of a scientist hooked on LSD. As is his constitutional right. But there’s a thin line between psychedelia and indepsypherable ptwaddle. And he jumps right over it when he sings “Aaaaa-aaaa-aaaaah…chew the backbone! A solar system! These clever convicts!” OK, time for your medication, chaps. Actually, on second thoughts, I think you’ve had quite enough.

7. Innuendo
The euphemism is a delicate flower – and Missy Elliott gives it a good old hammering on ‘Work It’. “Call before you come, I need to shave my cho-cha, You do or you don’t or you will or won’t cha, Go downtown and eat it like a vulture.” That’s a tempting offer, Missy. But how exactly should I eat ‘it’ like a vulture? Is your ‘cho-cha’ actually dead? If the process of putrefaction is setting in then I imagine it might not be too tasty. She later promises, “Take my thong off and my ass go boom!” We’ll leave well alone, thanks.

‘Crap Lyrics’ by Johnny Sharp is out now

Photo Gallery – the 50 worst pop lyrics of all time

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