Sunday, 22 May 2011

perhaps i am spending TOO long on

What's your favourite rhyme in pop music?  Do you have one?  How stupid a question is that?  I'm not even entirely sure what my own answer is, come to think of it, though i'm pretty tempted to go for Jarvis Cocker's remarkable "Your name was Deborah, Deborah / It never suited ya, suited ya" from Pulp's "Year 2000".

I do definitely have a least favourite one, though.  Allow me to quote some Coldplay.

Said I'm gonna buy a gun and start a war,
If you can tell me something worth fighting for.
- Coldplay, "A Rush of Blood to the Head"

I'd be lying if i claimed i could explain precisely why i find this quite as annoying as i do.  I think it has a lot to do with the horribly earnest tone of the whole song, the way the plangent, bland music seems to lend support to the words, as if they were really interesting and original.  But it's also particularly the way that Chris Martin presents this rhyme.  There's just something about both the words and his performance of them which absolutely shouts out LOOK WHAT I DID LOOK WHAT I DID I MADE A RHYME AND WENT ALL POLITICAL, AT THE SAME TIME, THAT'S TWO THINGS AT THE SAME TIME THAT I DID THERE, I'M LIKE A POET AND THAT.  It is presented as a serious, insightful and original political statement, and it isn't one.

However, in waging war against this, i have to ask myself what i'm actually fighting for - because rhyming "war" with "fighting for" is a really really popular thing to do.


Five hundred and five results.  That is very nearly one in every thousand songs listed on  And, if we make the completely reasonable assumptions that a) is entirely correct and b) contains a representative selection of the total number of pop songs released everywhere, this means that there are 28 (.3) songs released each year which rhyme "war" with "fighting for".  That's more than two a month.  That's millions.  And it's not even just millions, it's more than this number:

And it completely trounces "mercedes / ladies", though i reckon this is one to watch for the future.

Of course, not all of them are incredibly annoying like the Coldplay one, some of them are by incredibly cool people, and some don't even rhyme "war" and "fighting for" at all, but just contain both terms.  But quite a lot of them do; i think the absolute low point is this Robbie Williams song, in which he essentially sidles up to a battlefield and goes "Guys guys GUYS, what's all this about, eh?"

I won't go to war,
Lay down your guns,
What are we fighting for?
- Robbie Williams, "Happy Easter (War is Coming)"

Anyway.  Can you find a more overused rhyme in pop music?  I shall only accept proof based on facts derived from eccentric use of search engines.


  1. My favourite is the Divine Comedy's:

    I like your car, you curse like a trooper
    During a hard reversing manoeuvre.

    Arguably that's three rhymes. If so I'll nominate language/sandwich from Land Down Under. My least favourite is me/see/you/do. Again, technically two rhymes. They're all really common words so I don't know how you'd test it, but I think probably every vacuous pop starlet has done it at least once. It's arguably in Common People, though, so it's not pure evil.

  2. It might have something do with the fact that /fə/ is a much more natural pronunciation.

  3. Andrew - language/sandwich is pretty special. There's also this, from Big Boi's rap in Janelle Monae's 'Tightrope':

    Act up and whether we high or low we gonna get back up
    Like the Dow Jones or Nasdaq
    Sorta like a thong in an asscrack

    which i quite like, though i guess that if we start on rap then there's no way back really.

    Ben - much as i enjoy your enthusiasm for the schwa, are you sure that we'd say that at the end of a phrase? "Fight /fə/ your right to party", sure - but i'm pretty sure i'd say "Is it worth fighting /fɔː/?"
    Also, you didn't reply to my email at all.

  4. i was too curt. it's stressed at the end of the phrase, so we'd say /fɔː/. but to stress 'for' is unnatural *in a general sense*. of course i have no statistics to support me so i could be wrong in every way but i'd wager /fə/ is by far the more common pronunciation in all (roughly-in-a-chris-martin-accent) speech, and that 'for' occurs far more commonly in positions where it is unstressed. that's what i mean by 'more natural'.

    my intuitions went like this: stressed 'for' is annoying to the ear because it's the relatively-much-less-common pronunciation so it seems to impress on us it status as a rhyme-word and so as poetry but at the same time constitutes poor poetry because what makes it 'poetry' (rhyme) is the enforcement-by-syntax of a less natural pronunciation whose unnaturalness is exacerbated when stretched by a whining singer into ɔːːːːːːːː.

  5. i'm not much of a replier!

  6. Oh ok, sure, that makes sense. like it. Also, i just really dislike Coldplay generally; this may be a factor also.