Saturday, March 15, 2014

The limits of my language means the limits of my world. (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

So, considering all the important things going on in the world, let's prioritize and consider one of the subjects most vital to each and every one of us: Katy Perry.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, it took me two tries to spell her name right. My first try was Katie, but the Google machine showed me the error of my ways. She really doesn't impact my life that much.)

Now, to be honest, there's nothing wrong with Katy Perry. She's an attractive woman (even though she chooses to hide it under some industrial-grade makeup), and somewhere under all that Autotune, there might be a nice voice. (Might be. I suspect it needs some work.) But here's the thing.

I recognize that she doesn't write her own music. But she really needs to consider her lyrics a little harder. Let's look at two of her recent hits.

Now, I'll admit that Ms Perry gives good video, and this is no exception. But I really want to watch it with the sound off, because the song annoys the crap out of me.

There are no less than five writing credits, which is rarely a good thing. Particularly, in this case, because this song is nothing but a solid block of clichés (this is an unfortunate side effect of writing by committee). This, for example, is just the first verse:
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess.
So I sat quietly, agreed politely,
I guess that I forgot I had a choice;
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything
Now, I suppose that it's possible to bite your tongue while holding your breath, but why would you do both at once? Kind of self-defeating. But almost every line contains some over-used phrase or clichéd euphemism. The worst, of course, is the chorus, which uses, as its central theme, ANOTHER SONG ENTIRELY!
I got the eye of the tiger, the fighter, dancing through the fire.
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar;
Louder, louder than a lion,
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.
The damned thing is just a massive pileup of overused platitudes. And her more recent hit has an even bigger problem. The title, and the central theme of the song, is built around a cliché that she didn't even use right. This one has six writing credits (surprise! Katy is one of them!), and for some reason, none of them ever bothered to look up what "a dark horse" refers to?

Here, let me help you out: a "dark horse candidate" is somebody who comes out of nowhere and gets a lot of votes. It's not somebody who's supposed to be scary or dangerous. So who told you it should be used that way?

I like your videos, Ms Perry. You put a lot of work into them, and it shows. But here's a new word for you: "lyricist."

Really, you should look it up. It's a concept you need to consider.

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