First things first, go here to get some awesome covers of 80s songs from Buffet Libre. It’s truly a great site.
The other day I was watching VH1’s tribute to The Who and saw a bunch of musicians imitating Daltrey’s famous Baba O’Reilly scream . . . ‘YeeeAAAAHHHH!” . . . And I thought, “That must be the best ‘Yeah’ in the history of rock.” But then I remembered that The Beatles really made “Yeah” a household word for rock musicians. What makes Roger’s so special is the phlegm and the power, the oomph and the rage, the victory and the ear-bleeding volume. It’s not just a “Yeah.” It’s a movement. It doesn’t mean, “Yes,” it means . . . Nothing and everything. It got me thinking about what are the best nonsense words in popular music. And I do love to make lists.
Then Fong Songs posted a tribute to the greatest nonsense song in history. So I got off my ass, put pen to paper, and came up with this list.
Plus, I’m flat on my ass, virtually immobile due to an injury caused by an angry tornado. My ass time is your benefit. Note: I’m sure I’ve missed some, so drop a comment and school me!
THE TOP 10 NONSENSE WORDS IN POP MUSIC
10. Mmmm-mmm-mm-mmmm. Mmm Mmm-The Crash Test Dummies. A vastly underrated Canadian band who never got better than they did on the album this came off of, “Afternoons and Coffee Spoons.”
9. Yow! Alphabet City-Prince. The sound that starts what is one of my favorite Prince tunes from one of my favorite Prince records.
8. Mmmbop. Mmmbop-Hanson. Say what you want, I love this song. I thought the whole album was fantastic, actually. The band didn’t really go anywhere after this, but for one summer this was as crystal pure as pop could get.
7. Oooooooooooooooooooo. Cha! Welcome to the Jungle-Guns and Roses. That’s not the wind blowing at the beginning of the greatest metal song ever, it’s all Axl. (And the producer, of course.)
6. Sizzurp. Through the Wire-Kanye West. I’ve never been a “fshizzle my nizzle” fan. Snoop was okay hen he was young and backing Dr. Dre, but he’s gotten to be too cute for a pot-smoking gangsta. Which is kinda gross. But Kanye West seems to have gone to a similar school of rapology: When you can’t think of a rhyme, make up a word! Which he did, when he matched “sizzurp” to “bezerk” (which doesn’t even rhyme, really). And in so doing, he took the technique away from Snoop without looking like a biter.
5. Aye aye aye! Crazytrain-Ozzy Osbourne.
4. Mhaow hao haow. La Grange-ZZ Top. The opening, lecherous chatter. If you don’t love this, you don’t love rock and blues. And on this cover by The Eels, which is an instrumental, if you close your eyes you can even hear the sounds.
3. Hee-eee! Hoo! The Way You Make Me Feel-Michael Jackson. Mike did his signature bleepy sounds on so many of his songs, but my favorite is this one, right at the beginning.
2. Yeaaaaaah! Baba O’Reilly-The Who. Roger Daltrey’s post-inspiring scream only places second on the list here.
Sorry, Rog. There’s one better word here. A word that has inspired an afore-mentioned post. A word that has spawned dozens of covers. And that word is . . .
1. Mnah Mnah. Mnah-Mnah-The Muppets. Subjected to dozens of spellings, dozens of covers, and never as brilliant as the original. I’m not posting any here, as Fong has done this song justice over at his site.
BONUS: 11. Papa ooo mow mow-The Rivingtons. Like all great lists, this one goes up to 11. Because it’s louder.
AND THE DISQUALIFIED SOUND:
3. Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup I. Work It-Missy Elliot. Yes, after she threatens to put her thang down flip it and reverse it, she does just that. Forcing DJs and music nerds to go out and buy vinyl so they can play it backwards. Backwards messages don’t count for this post because they aren’t sounds that can be reproduced through ordinary speech. Hence, no “I buried Paul.” But this was so much more. People actually sing along to this one. So I almost included it. But I didn’t. But then I wrote about it, so I kinda did include it after all.