Songwriters provide the soundtracks to our lives and have a knack for saying exactly what we are feeling, which, of course, we didn’t know how to express.
But, even with their superior rhyming skills and penchant for translating the human condition into beautiful lyrics, that doesn’t mean they always pronounce everything perfectly. Your favourite playlist is probably as full of simple spelling mistakes and hilarious grammatical errors as it is of beloved hit songs.
So, we’ve rounded up the iconic pop songs that leave us scratching our heads, even as we’re happily singing along...
"Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga
In the case of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” could it be that misuse of objective pronouns is what made the love go sour?
Lady Gaga sings: “You and me could write a bad romance,” when, as your schoolteacher will quickly tell you, it is properly you and I.
This is one of those tricky grammar rules that trips many people up, but there’s actually an easy way to know which pronoun is correct. Simply remove the you and from the sentence and see if what’s left makes grammatical sense. “Me could write a bad romance?” No. I could write a bad romance.
This one can’t really be chalked up to an issue with syllables or fitting the lyrics to the beat, since I and me are both short words. It’s just that in colloquial speech, which pop music often imitates, we commonly say you and me.
"Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan
The use of lay versus lie confounds many people. Both lay and lie can be used in the present tense; however, lay technically requires an object. You can lay down a book or lay down the law, but if you’re talking about a person, they lie down.
Here’s where it gets even more tricky: people do lay down sometimes, but only in the past tense.
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police
“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” has one of those great, explosive choruses that makes it impossible not to sing along, but it’s for grammar nerds not to cringe as you arrive at the lyric: “Everything she do just turns me on.”
In that sentence, the verb do should be does, and Sting had plenty of room there to sing: “Everything she does just turns me on.” This seems like it may have been a style choice, rather than a mistake—and a a magical one at that.
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
In the timeless Ghostbusters theme song, Ray Parker, Jr. asks over and over again, “Who you gonna call?” The answer, of course, is the Ghostbusters, which are a group of people.
Since the Ghostbusters are a group, they’d be described using the pronoun them, and that means their theme song should technically ask, “Whom are you going to call?”
That said, being haunted doesn’t leave a lot of time for considering proper grammar. Plus, nobody speaks like that. So, if there’s something strange in your neighborhood, don’t worry about pronouns. Just make the phone call!
"I'll Never Break Your Heart" by the Backstreet Boys
Grammar-minded boy band fans have probably been seething about this Backstreet Boys song since it came out in 1995. At one point in the song “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” band member A.J. McLean actually sings: “As time goes by / You will get to know me / A little more better.”
Luckily for The Backstreet Boys, millions of adoring fans were willing to overlook the mistake and still get to know them … a little more better, making them one of the most successful pop acts of all time.
"I Don't Want to Wait" by Paula Cole
In the theme song for the late 1990s teen drama Dawson’s Creek, songstress Paula Cole sacrificed perfect grammar for the sake of a good rhyme. Her 1996–97 pop classic “I Don’t Want to Wait” includes the line: “So open up your morning light / And say a little prayer for I.”
The correct pronoun in that lyric would be me, not I. But “Say a little prayer for me” doesn’t rhyme with the first line of the verse, nor does it rhyme with the next two lines: “You know that if we are to stay alive / Then see the love in every eye.”
Whether or not any of those lyrics make sense is another issue entirely, but Paula Cole stuck to her own version of the grammar rules, and it paid off.
"Exercise Yo' Game" by Coolio
The rapper Coolio’s stage name suggests a penchant for inventing new words. But, in his 1995 song “Exercise Yo’ Game,” he took creating new words to a whole new level when he misspelled the word exercise as “E-X-C-E-R-I-S-E.”
A typical misspelling may have included a Z, as in exercize, or added an extra C, like excercise. But Coolio can’t misspell words like just anyone!
He took a difficult word to spell and made it entirely his own. For that, we have Aretha Franklin levels of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, although Coolio may prefer to spell it R-E-S-C-E-P-T.
"Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones
It’s one of the most iconic song lyrics of all time: “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Of course, any grammar nerd can immediately recognize that those lyrics don’t quite follow the rules.
Technically, can’t get no is a double negative, and the song should say, “I can’t get any satisfaction.” But, would it really be rock and roll if they followed all the rules? The Rolling Stones were rebels, and in this case, their rule-breaking ways paid off with a timeless hit.