Posted by: dougery | September 21, 2012

Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication File #268: Cher Lloyd’s “Want U Back”

[Disclaimer: This post was mostly written back in August but for various reasons never completed in a timely manner.]

A pair of Boston-to-Buffalo-and-back drives has brought me once again into the heart of the maelstrom known as Pop Music. A seven hour drive, multiplied by 4 equals over a full day of FM radio top 40 exposure which, the CDC should remind you, may result in Toxic Shock Syndrome. The cure for this, I suppose, is to be supplied smaller and smaller doses of increasingly banal pop songs until it’s safe again to mope about with your “Bonnie Ver”. It’s kind of like that diver’s disease, The Bends. Surfacing too quickly from the depths of all those crushing 4/4 beats and jumping right in to radiohead will leave you doubled over and vomiting on your feet because, you know, modern society is alienating or something.

Enter the Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication Files!

This time we’re featuring artist Cher Lloyd who I know absolutely nothing about only that I heard her song 20 times and it is now part of the RNA of every one of my body’s cells. The song is called “Want U Back,” which would have been the name of that classic Jackson 5 cut if they had written text messages back then. Fortunately for us we now have texts and tweets to pare down all those unnecessary words, letters, emotions, psychological depth, etc…

Want U Back


[Verse I]

Hey, boy you never had much game

I’ll give Lloyd this, she doesn’t waste time setting the table. This young lady is/was unhappy with her ‘boy’. Possibly in the bedroom. Whatever the case, the term ‘game’ is appropriate. Urban Dictionary defines ‘game’ as a ‘a measure of smoothness in the opposite sex.’ It also frames a relationship as something that one side can win. This seems like a very healthy way to view relationships.

So I needed to upgrade

If the previous line wasn’t revealing enough, now we see Miss Lloyd likening her boyfriend to a cellular phone plan. As you’re probably familiar, love come in 6 month, 1-year or 2-year commitments, after which you simply trade that poor sumbitch in for a faster, more reliable model.

So I went and walked away-way-way, UGH!

Let’s pause a moment here and talk about that noise. That seemingly misplaced bit of punk in this punch-bowl of generic pop. I won’t hedge, that grunt is the reason I’m TUSEFing this song. That noise is equal parts frustration, anger, orgasm, joke. Nobody in real life makes that noise. At least, nobody I have ever met. It strikes me as a uniquely feminine noise, a kind of ovarian yawp.

Now I seen you been hanging out

Welp, I already know how the rest of this goes…

With that other girl in town

‘That other girl’ is an absolutely loaded phrase. Lloyd is setting up your typical binary love system. ‘Boy’ can either be dating her or ‘that other girl.’ Ignore the fact that the town is filled with women. In this mindset they are all reduced to the singular entity ‘other girl.’ The next line is telling.

Looking like a pair of clowns-clowns-clowns, UGH!

‘Other girl’ is basically a clown car full of all other feminine types. All of which are inferior to Lloyd who just upgraded her love life. But she is not content to just upgrade. Previous year’s model needs to be made obsolete and completely undesirable. After all if ‘other girl’ shows interest, well, that casts doubt on the entire idea of the upgrade. What if the previous plan had more ‘game’ than was originally suspected? You can tell the exact moment this dawns on LLoyd by listening for that constipated noise.

[Bridge]

Remember all the things that you and I did first

Lloyd’s baby-talk is insufferable…

And now you’re doing them with her

…It reminds of a scene from “Regional Holiday Music” episode of Community where Alison Brie’s Annie is dressed up as a sexy Miss Claus who sings like Marilyn Monroe meets Betty Boop. Her voice gets more and more ridiculously baby-ish until she can’t even talk, ending in the nonsensically hilarious: “Boop bee doop bee doop boop sex!”

Remember all the things that you and I did first
You got me got me like this, UGH!

I’m willing to wager that no, ‘boy’ is not currently remembering all those things, but Lloyd certainly is. From the sound of things (UGH!) it’s got her so worked up (UGH!) that she’s experiencing some kind of sexually based gastrointestinal distress (UGH!).

And now you’re taking her to every restaurant
And everywhere we went, come on!

Lloyd’s right. She’s being perfectly reasonable. If ‘boy’ had a heart he’d forgo all of the places he enjoyed in the past out of respect for Lloyd’s loss.

And now you’re taking her to every restaurant
You got me got me like this, UGH!

You do remember it was you who dumped him, right?

[Chorus]

Boy you can say anything you wanna
I don’t give a sh, no one else can have you

The PG-rated cussing is totally adorable. Very much solidifies the delicate balance of the Mickey Mouse-club / bad girl image.

I want you back, I want you back
Want want you, want you back, UGH!

Ah, Pouting. The last resort of the childishly selfish. I realize that every UGH! in the song is exactly the same noise, but if you listen closely you can actually her the singer’s emotional age devolving as the lyrics go by. It is likely counterproductive to quote an Adam Sandler movie when trying to gauge a pop-culture artifact’s intelligence, but by this point in the song, truly, ‘everyone in this room is now dumber for having listening to it.’

I broke it off thinking you’d be crying
Now I feel like sh looking at you flying

Reading lyrics literally often leads to unexpectedly hilarious results. I’m now picturing Lloyd staring up into the sky as ‘boy’ Peter Pans ‘other girl’ away into the night sky.

I want you back, I want you back
Want want you, want you back, UGH!

[Verse II]

Please, this ain’t even jealousy

Uh, I kinda think it might be?

She ain’t got a thing on me
Tryna rock them ug-a-ly jeans-jeans-jeans

I hope they are mom jeans. *Crosses fingers* Mumbles ‘please please please.’

You clearly didn’t think this through
If what I’ve been told is true
You’ll be crawling back like boo-hoo-hoo, UGH!

And we’ve officially regressed straight back to an infantile emotional psychology.

[Repeat Bridge]

[Repeat Chorus]

[Swing Verse]

Oooh, oooh, I thought you’d still be mine
When I kissed you goodbye uh-oh uh-oh

I mean, I guess we all make mistakes, right? A hasty decision to dump someone when maybe there were still strong feelings left. Still, it’s inexcusable and more than mildly shitty to demand one’s ex to remain single while you move on with your own life.

Oooh, oooh, and you might be with her
But I still had you first uh-oh uh-oh

Bragging rights, I guess?

[Repeat Bridge]

[Repeat Chorus]

[Bizarre Ke$ha-esque Coda]

Does this sound like a helicopter
Brrrrrrrrrrrr

My only reaction to this forced bit of dada style end-lyrics is to wish that a fraction of its weirdness stretched back into the main body of the song itself. So much of Top 40 music feels ordinary and humorless. While I think there is something to be learned from asking why this is the case, I’d much prefer to not have to ask it at all. I’m sure there is some kind of pop song cutting room floor where all strange edges are sanded off and a bunch of suits double check to make sure everything has been colored neatly inside the lines. Maybe that is why I was drawn to the UGH!s, the moment where Lloyd nearly clears the gap. Oh well. *apathetic hipster sigh*

(Re)Watching: Parks & Rec S2

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Responses

  1. ovarian yawp. genius. that is all.


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