20 Nonsensical Songs from the ’90s
Arguably RHCP's most coherent song, “Scar Tissue” lands on this list because it sentimentally gestures at profundity. The song falls into the nonsense zone when Kiedis mixes far-fetched metaphors with bizarre, self-centered romance.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey / Butane in my veins and I'm out to cut the junkie / With the plastic eyeballs, spray-paint the vegetables / Dog food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose
Where does one begin when discussing the bizarreness of Beck’s “Loser”? Every stanza presents a new, headache-inducing labyrinth of lyrics that seem haphazardly arranged. Fortunately, Beck has an explanation for the song's egregious incoherence:
“Steal My Sunshine” by Canadian group Len dropped in the summer of ’99 and weaseled its way into all our lives. (Perhaps, we were subconsciously suckered by the discreet sample of the infamous disco track “More, More, More”). Though much of the lyrical content coming out of the ‘90s was equally ridiculous, “Steal My Sunshine” is particularly nonsensical. The entire song was conceived at a three-day rave (and the phrase “tribal lunar-speak” tells us everything we need to know about the substances involved during the writing process).
The Most Nonsensical Lyric:
Though Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” is an undeniable ‘90s staple, it lands on the list for one reason: the incredibly outrageous images it conjures. “Double cherry pie” and “disco lemonade;” the aroma of intercourse and confectionary sugar. The steamy, sticky song was inspired by a moment in John Wozniak’s life wherein his girlfriend’s roommate entered their dorm after they’d just finished making love. The roommate described the room as smelling like “sex and candy,” which Wozniak clearly found intriguing. However, in later interviews Wozniak admits, “
Most Nonsensical Lyric: I get knocked down, but I get up again / You are never gonna keep me down / I get knocked down, but I get up again / You are never gonna keep me down / I get knocked down, but I get up again / You are never gonna keep me down / I get knocked down, but I get up again / You are never gonna keep me down
Unfortunately for Chumbawamba, “Tubthumping” might top this list. Though the song’s sentence structure is mostly coherent, the almost four-minute hit repeats itself into utter oblivion (save the welcomed “pissing the night away” interpolation). In fact, the 1997 song sounds less like a pop hit and more like a malfunctioning radio-clock. Despite the single's hypnotic monotony, the British ditty landed at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 just months after its release.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: Meat-eating orchids forgive no one just yet / Cut myself on angel hair and baby's breath
It almost feels like a sin to add the Pisces Jesus to this list, but Kurt Cobain was often a nonsense machine when it came to songwriting. Though much of what he produced worked because of the palpable pain imbued in each word, it’s undeniable that songs like “Heart-Shaped Box” are largely comprised of incoherent gibberish – beautiful as it is.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: Nothing on the top but a bucket and a mop / And an illustrated book about birds / See a lot up there but don't be scared / Who needs action when you got words
Performed live at what might be the most iconic MTV Unplugged, “Plateau” almost begs to be interpreted and understood. But, alas, it too weighs heavy on the nonsense scale. However, in Kurt Cobain’s defense, he admitted in many interviews that he often purposely produced witty gibberish to fit the melody. If Virginia Wolfe were alive, she’d probably call “Plateau” an exercise in stream-of-consciousness.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: With the lights out, it's less dangerous / Here we are now, entertain us / I feel stupid and contagious / Here we are now, entertain us / A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
The only song on Nevermind to give writing credit to all three band members, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was, admittedly, a Pixie’s rip-off. Cobain recalled in an interview striving to make “the ultimate pop song” and, in doing so, also created one of the most beloved alt-rock songs in history. However, the grunge jam is not without flaw. When asked about the song’s conception in an interview, Cobain admitted, “The entire song is made up of contradictory ideas. For example, the chorus is full of nice words that rhymed: ‘A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido.’” Oh, and the name of the song isn’t as revolutionary as it sounds. Instead, it refers to a popular brand of deodorant aimed at young girls in the ‘90s. How’s that for nonsensical?
Most Nonsensical Lyric: Don't you ever fear, I'm always near / I know that you need help / Your tongue is twisted, your eyes are slit / You need a guardian
Most Nonsensical Lyric: I'm a blond bimbo girl in a fantasy world / Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly / You're my doll, rock'n'roll, feel the glamour in pink / Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky
Aside from the obviously misogynistic implications of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” the song was wildly popular in the ‘90s – no thanks to any sort of deeper meaning or intelligibility. A footnote on the back of the Aquarium album states that the song is a “social commentary,” though glorifying coercive control doesn’t exactly promote change. Nonsense. Pure nonsense.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: It's like rain on your wedding day / It's a free ride when you've already paid / It's the good advice that you just didn't take / And who would've thought, it figures
First things first: Alanis Morrisette is the queen of deep, meaningful lyrics and thus barely deserves to be on this list. However, there’s no ignoring her massive faux pas. Nowhere in her four-minute hit does she describe an ironic circumstance. This, unfortunately, renders the entire song nonsensical. Luckily, Alanis eventually acknowledged her misuse of the word.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: Hold it now and watch the hoodwink / As I make you stop, think / You'll think you're looking at Aquaman / I summon fish to the dish, although I like the Chalet Swiss / I like the sushi 'cause it's never touched a frying pan
“One Week” by Barenaked Ladies starts out as an ode to an argument and abruptly transitions to utter gibberish. It's bad enough that Barenaked Ladies is a ska/rap band masquerading as a rock band, but trying to pass off complete balderdash as meaningful is absolutely egregious.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) / I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah
Some decades after the Spice Girls took over the world, Mel C – otherwise known as Sporty Spice – admitted that the illustrious “zigazig ah” lyric was actually a code-name for “sex.” But, seeing as the group’s fan base was mostly made-up of yelping young girls, “zigazig ah” served its purpose well. Unfortunately, “Wannabe” still must go down in the nonsense hall of fame – for “zigazig ah” and coaxing a love interest to fornicate with your friends.
Most Nonsensical Lyric: Stuttering / Cold and damp / Steal the warm wind, tired friend / Times are gone / For honest men / Sometimes, far too long for snakes / In my shoes / Walking sleep / In my youth, I pray to keep
Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” is a powerful, dark, and deep song, but that's mostly because Chris Cornell’s delivery is nothing short of poignant. He makes you believe there’s meaning in those meticulously randomized words. And, perhaps, there is (though it’s highly unlikely). Chris Cornell even admitted, “
Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova” is a beloved ‘90s classic, but it reads like a lofty, Beatles-inspired LSD trip. And that’s okay – much worse songs have gotten away with a lot more nonsense. However, “Champagne Supernova” lands itself on this list for one reason and one reason only: Even Noel Gallagher can’t pinpoint what exactly the lyrics are trying to communicate. “
Most Nonsensical Lyric: Macaulay Culkin was in Home Alone / Fell deep in love, but now we ain't speakin' / Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton / When I met you, I said my name is Rich / You look like a girl from Abercrombie & Fitch
When pop group LFO released their 1999 single “Summer Girls,” it skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 – there was no rhyme (rhyming “speaking” with “Keaton” isn’t exactly poetry) or reason. But it stayed there for quite a while before, a decade later, landing on Billboard’s list of biggest summer songs of all time.