Pop’s finest lyricists are rightly hailed as poets. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, while everyone from Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell to the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and Public Enemy’s Chuck D conjure vivid and intense worlds with their words.
Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl once memorably described his songwriting as like “extending a hand to the listener”. But sometimes songwriters’ hands overshoot. In trying to come up with a meaningful lyric, they lose their grip on reality.
In fact, the rock and pop landscape is littered with lyrics that either collapse under the weight of their own pretentiousness or make no sense whatsoever. Pressure in the recording studio to come up with something profound means artists who strive for gravitas often end up writing lazy nonsense. Even the mighty Dylan isn’t immune from this crime.
Here we pick twenty of our favourite bad lyrics. They’re a mixture of the affected, the torpid, the terrible and the plain bonkers. Do some of them fit into the “so bad they’re good” camp? Possibly. But mainly they’re just bad. Can you match the words with the artist and song?