The good folks at Blender magazine have come up with a list of the worst lyricists of all time (or, at least, Reuters tells us they have; it’s not up on Blender‘s own site yet), and the dubious honor of the No. 1 spot goes to Sting (pictured), for the former English teacher’s awkwardly shoehorned literary allusions. Most notoriously, there’s the “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” line “Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov,” in which the Policeman has to mispronounce the Lolita author’s name to make it fit the rhyme.
Now, I’ve done my share of beating up on Sting for his pretentiousness; when he came out with his album Ten Summoner’s Tales (a Chaucerian allusion punning on Sting’s real name, Gordon Sumner), I wrote a review of the CD entirely in faux-Middle English rhymed iambic pentameter couplets. Still, I’m not sure it’s fair to bash Sting for being well-read and ambitious; after all, Bob Dylan makes similar allusions all the time, and we can’t get enough of him. But Dylan’s references come with a wink and a self-deprecating chortle, while Sting’s are humorless and seem meant to show off his erudition. So, bash away at Sting, then, but is he really the worst ever?
PopWatch addressed a similar list a few months ago when we looked at the worst rhymes in pop history, but who’s been consistently bad over time? I’m gonna go with our readers’ consensus and say Steve Miller. There’s the cringe-inducing couplets in “Abracadabra” (“Abra, Abracadabra/I’m gonna reach out and grab’ ya”) and “Take the Money and Run” (“Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas/You know he knows just exactly what the facts is”), the obtuse rhymes (rhyming “hand” with “hand” in “Livin’ in the U.S.A.”), and the just plain incomprehensible lines (“the pompatus of love” in “The Joker”). He’s not quite the Ed Wood of lyricists, but he’s darn close. But go ahead, PopWatchers, you make the call.
UPDATE: Blender apparently has more regard for Steve Miller’s lyrical skills than PopWatch does; the magazine’s 40 Worst Lyricists list is now posted online (link contains NSFW language), and the Space Cowboy is not on it.
addCredit(“Sting: Sven Hoogerhuis/LFI”)