You know when a song’s rolling along just fine, and then one line throws everything off, either because it doesn’t fit with the rest or because it features a flaw in logic or grammar too glaring to ignore?
I know the bit about “Do you paint your toes because you bite your nails?” in “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” is such a line for many people, seeming to suggest that the object of the singer’s affection is some sort of freakish toenail-chewing contortionist. The image of her gnawing on her toenails jars you right out of the sultry ambience created by the rest of the song.
At least in “Who Are You…” the offending line is only sung once. That’s not the case with Travis Tritt’s 2002 album cut “Time to Get Crazy,” which makes sport of repeating “as bad as I hate to it’s time to get crazy” as many times as possible in the span of three minutes. The song would be about ten times better if it said “as much as I hate to” instead. As is, I find it virtually unlistenable. (In fact, I hate this one so much that I classified it as a thing that threatened my sanity in 2008… and 28 months later, here I still am.)
I’ve always been a little bothered by “Gettin’ her into the world she’s been hungryin’ for” in Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein’s “The Taker” as well, particularly since “hungerin'” would have fit just as well and been a lot less distracting. In this case, they were probably attempting some wordplay; I just don’t think it was clever or necessary. As much as I like Kris and Shel (and Waylon), I’d rather have the real word.
I see that two of my examples involve grammar, but I’m never bothered by “ain’t,” which, besides offering an extra dash of working-class authenticity, seems a more forceful sort of denial than “isn’t.” With its single syllable, it’s also an easier metrical fit. I just can’t condone “as bad as I hate to” and “hungryin’ for” when the grammatically preferable alternatives would work equally well.
And I really wish the writers of “Who Are You…” had found some other rhyme for “fails.” Because I don’t want to see, or think about seeing, anyone biting their toenails. Not now, not ever.
Are there any otherwise good songs with single lines or word choices that bug you?