I would like to make claim to an enunciator of the year award. Since I know of none that have existed before, I hereby give the award to Ivan Doroschuck and Men Without Hats.
For those who don’t know, Men Without Hats were a popular new wave band of the eighties. Their biggest hit was Safety Dance. What I most liked about them are the two albums that followed. Pop Goes the World and The Adventures of Women and Men Without Hate in the 21st Century were both solid albums. Before Men Without Hats, I wasn’t sure that a new wave band could put out a solid album. This is, to me, what sets them above other eighties acts.
Well after a long hiatus they have another solid album out: Love in the Age of War. It’s been out for a couple months but I just found out about it last week. The album has one property that simply shocks me – I can understand every single word in at least half of the songs on the album.
To the last one, every single song put out by the labels that I’ve tried to figure out has usually no less then 2 sketchy lines that try as I might I have to guess at. This wouldn’t be so bad if lyric sheets were included with each album. But the labels try to save money in ways the public is not pleased with.
Thus I was crestfallen when Love in the Age of War came with no lyrics. Certain lines in all the songs might be a mystery to me forever, especially since the online lyric sites consider the album to be too small to have lyrics up yet.
Then imagine my surprise a few days later to realize I could distinguish all the lyrics in not one or two songs but at least 5 of them on the album.
I’ve long bought into the conspiracy theory that the labels deliberately get their acts to slur their words. Or make such a wall of sound that it hides some lyrics. Yeah they want more cowbell on Don’t Fear the Reaper – you can almost understand what the singer is saying.
The problem with this particular conspiracy theory is that motivation seems to be lacking. Maybe in a quest for lyrics, some super fan will buy the sheet music, just to make sense out of their favourite singer. The only other way the labels would make more money (the only one I can think of) is, since they are multinationals, issuing the lyrics with the album in another country might increase sales from imports. I actually heard of someone importing Nirvana’s Nevermind for its lyric sheet.
So in my lifetime of being a music consumer, over 30 years, I think the big labels earned a whopping $2 more from everyone I know by keeping the lyrics mysterious.
Has Men Without Hats bucked the trend completely? No. The Girl With the Silicon Eyes has a couple stanzas that I think are in French. And again, Your Beautiful Heart has a line that I think is French.
Still, I have a chance of learning the lyrics to 8 of 10 of the songs with lyrics on the album. At a week ago, that’s figuring out far more songs than I ever had before on any album.
Or maybe this inability to figure out lyrics has to do with music being international. After all, Men Without Hats are based just 300 miles away in Montreal, in the same country I live in. Perhaps I just understand the accent.
I wonder how many of those lyrics that seem to you well-enunciated are actually words that your brain has constructed to fit what your ears can’t distinguish. I point you to an essay on “Mondegreens“, which tells us that
Wikipedia has a word or two to say about this, too.
I’ve had many Mondegreens in the past. In this, the era of the lyric site, I’ve uncovered many recently. But for those sketchy lines I was only about 75% sure of my ‘forced’ fit. In this album, I’m about 98% sure of the sketchiest lines. It’s different. You can hear the enunciation on YouTube. I actually wrote down the words for two of them – Close to the Sun and Head Above Water. I’m really sure of the lyrics.
If it weren’t for copyright law I’d suggest posting the lyrics here, just to help others.
Probably the safest thing to do would be to post them on the label’s own YouTube upload of the songs, assuming such things exist 🙂