I recently learned that one of my close friends knows all the words to R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” This, as you must know, is an impressive accomplishment—right up there with knowing how to fold fitted sheets and do open heart surgery. This is a pal I’ve known for about eight years and naturally I called her a liar. “Prove it!” I dared. And she did.
Sure, she missed a few lines because she was laughing at my awestruck facial expression. But somehow, miraculously, she did know the lyrics. When I sing along to this particular song, my accompaniment ends up being more noise than words. I’m totally with it at the chorus. I feel fine as I sing that it’s the end of the world as we know it. But the rest of the song? I catch phrases or words. Eye of a hurricane. Book burning. Leonard Bernstein.
I’m pretty proud of the fact that I know all the words to Salt n Peppa’s song Shoop. Random, I know, but it’s something Ellen Degeneres and I have in common. But my friend’s total familiarity with “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” takes the cake. I’m shocked that she can decipher the words, and I’m flabbergasted that she can keep up with the high-speed song. Ever since I discovered her secret skill (maybe I’ll suggest that she put it on her resume), I’ve been thinking about songs that are hard to sing along to. If I met someone who knew all the lyrics to these songs, and could sing them like the real thing, I would be mightily amazed. I think I would even be speechless, which, as the voice of Oh My Words, is the highest compliment I could give you.
*Click the song titles to be taken to a youtube video with appropriate lyrics. I challenge you to sing along!
Dog Days are Over—Florence + the Machine
The radio hasn’t quite ruined this song, and I still attempt to sing along whenever it’s played. Lead singer Florence Welch’s voice is beautiful and mesmerizing but there’s something almost yodel-like about it, no? I’ll admit that during research for this post, I looked up the lyrics and realized that the part of the song that I always thought was just a demonstration of pretty vocal range is actually words. (What do you sing after “the dog days are done?”) That means that I’ve been singing something akin to Heh oh hee oh heh oh ee la he cooo for no good reason.
Dynamo of Volition—Jason Mraz
First off, I love Jason Mraz so if you know the words to this song I’m going to assume that you too are a fan and then I will assume that we have the potential of being best friends or soul mates. I adore Mr. A-Z’s clever lyrics with their interesting rhymes and occasional sexual innuendo. This particular song has the trademark Mraz wit, and it’s fast. In theory, I know the words, but I am incapable of singing them as quickly as him. (There goes my rapping career…darn.)
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag—James Brown
I’m not sure why I consider this a difficult song to sing along with. Okay, James Brown’s soul sort of muddies the clarity of the words. But maybe the real reason is that it’s because it’s pretty much scientifically impossible not to dance along to “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” so who can spare the brain space and energy to sing too? I’m not talking about the tapping-your foot-and-bobbing-your-head kind of dancing, but the get-down-and-boogie kind. If you can pay proper dance tribute to this song and sing the words properly you deserve praise, accolades, and a million hits on youtube. (Seriously, could you film yourself singing and dancing because that sounds like a blockbuster to me…..Are you uploading yet?)
One Week—Barenaked Ladies
This song is probably in the same category as “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” By the time your brain processes the words they’re 12 stanzas ahead of you. I can sing certain parts, but put it all together and I tumble all over myself. In case you’re dying to know, and I’m sure you are, I think my favorite parts of this song that I can never sing along with are:
Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon/Cause that cartoon/Has got the boom/Anime babes/That make me think the wrong thing.
Like Harrison Ford/I’m getting frantic/Like Sting I’m Tantric/Like Snickers,/guaranteed to satisfy
You Can’t Stop the Beat—from the musical Hairspray
According to the movie trivia on imdb, the cast of the 2007 Hairspray movie called this song “You Can’t Stop to Breathe” because of the speedy singing it demanded. Apparently, Queen Latifah was one of the few who had no problems singing it because of her rapping experience. I found “You Can’t Stop the Beat” with accompanying lyrics on youtube and I’ll tell ya, even when I can read the lyrics as I attempt to sing it’s hard not to gasp for air partway through like a wigged-out fish.
And of course, here’s the song that inspired it all: