Humor isn’t a necessary component of great music, but it sure makes it a lot more fun to listen to.
Take AC/DC for example. According to one of my favorite web reviewers, George Starostin, AC/DC were a joke. Their entire shtick was to be funny. AC/DC took the basic elements of hard rock: volume, misogyny, and high-pitched vocals, and quite literally turned them up to 11 in order to create some of the most over-the-top and ridiculous rock music of all time. But they’re great. AC/DC are an incredible band, and the high level of self-awareness inherent in their humor makes them all the more genius. While they may have been a joke, AC/DC were a very well-told, commercially successful, and critically acclaimed joke. All of the songs on this list contain a heavy dose of that AC/DC charm: a perfect balance of humor, self-awareness, and calculated abandon that add up to something extraordinary.
5. Me & You & Jackie Mittoo
by Superchunk, featured on I Hate Music
There’s something wonderfully ironic and flat-out hilarious about opening a song, and titling an album, with the line “I hate music”. I don’t even have to explain why. Superchunk are one of the pioneering bands of 90’s indie, and though they’ve been in the business for almost 25 years, they haven’t received much public recognition among anyone but hardcore indie fans. But you know what? They don’t really care. They’ve enjoyed the ride anyway. In this song, the band takes the stance of someone who is frustrated with making music, because it can’t heal their grief. They reference the late reggae musician Jackie Mittoo as someone they would want to bring back if they could. But in the process of the song, they show how the experience of being in a band and making great music makes it all worth it. They lovingly send up being crammed in the back of a van, spending half an hour at a record store, and sweet summer breezes. Okay, maybe this song isn’t laugh-out-loud funny. It’s more of a smirk-and-a-chuckle song.
Funniest line: “I hate music, what is it worth?” You do know you’re in a band, right?
by Rebecca Black
Three years ago, Rebecca Black was an unassuming thirteen year-old drama geek who stumbled into international stardom. She was hated by the entire world for creating this beautiful monstrosity, and she seemed utterly clueless about it all. Fast forward to today, and she’s one of the most self-aware YouTube stars around. She knows that she’s famous for being terrible, and she embraces it. I think Rebecca is showing a kind of maturity that nobody really expected from her. “Saturday”, the long-awaited sequel to “Friday”, is crammed with references to her debut single, which is hilariously genius in itself. On top of that, it’s much, much better than Friday. The lyrics actually make sense, the AutoTune is much less evident, Fat Usher is nowhere to be seen (besides the shout-out he gets at the end of the video), and the song is catchy in a pleasant way, instead of in a mind-numbingly annoying way. All in all, Rebecca is showing us that even though she’s moved on to the next day of the week, she hasn’t lost her ability to give us a supremely catchy earworm that cracks us up to no end.
Funniest line: “Yesterday was Friday, today is Saturday.” At least she only went through two days this time.
3. I Am a God
by Kanye West, featured on Yeezus
At first listen, this doesn’t sound like a funny song. The production is decidedly ominous, and Kanye West calling himself a god? Been there, done that. This is just yet another example of Kanye’s well-publicized narcissism, right? Wrong. Well, kind of wrong. And kind of right. Kanye does think pretty highly of himself. But he also sees how the public perceives him, and he simply owns that stereotype in this song. You want self-serious narcissism? He’ll give you self-serious narcissism. Except it’s not serious. Just like AC/DC, Kanye made this song as ridiculous as possible to consciously make a statement. Here’s Kanye’s thoughts on the actual Jesus: “I know he the most high, but I am a close high.” No one, not even Kanye West, could say that without bucket loads of sarcasm. Listen to the third “I am a god” in the chorus of the song, how it’s spoken in that deep, otherworldly voice. That’s Kanye mocking all the people who think of him as a joyless, solemn, self-proclaimed genius. While the song does touch on a few serious topics, such as Kanye’s attitude towards his public image, on the whole he was just trying to have fun and twist people’s expectations. On that front, I would say he succeeded enormously.
Funniest lyric: Do I even have to say it? Really? “HURRY UP WITH MY DAMN CROISSANTS!”
2. We Can’t Stop
by Miley Cyrus, featured on Bangerz
2013 was the year of Miley. When people think of 2013, the main pop culture-related image that will come to mind will be Miley Cyrus straddling a wrecking ball in the nude. That in itself is pretty funny (and somewhat mortifying). Her antics are our generation’s version of Elvis Presley’s gyrating pelvis, The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, and Michael Jackson debuting the moonwalk. I’m not saying that Miley’s music can stand up quality-wise to any of those artists, but she is just as, if not more, ubiquitous than any of them. It’s a stone-cold fact, and the sooner you embrace it, the easier a pill it will be to swallow. But am I the only one who felt as if Miley was just completely trolling us last year? It was like she took all of the aspects of today’s pop scene: the manic artsiness of Lady Gaga, the hidden-in-plain-sight sexuality of Katy Perry, the trashiness of Ke$ha (sorry, Kesha), and concentrated them to make herself into the consummate 2013 pop star. But she did in it such an over-the-top, shameless, and in-your-face way that it just became hilarious. She begged for our attention, and we were only too happy to give it to her. Her relentless commitment to 24/7 partying in “We Can’t Stop” came across as simply hysterical in my eyes. Think about it. Someone had to actually sit down and write the lyrics: “We run things, things don’t run we.” I initially hated Miley and everything she was doing, but I eventually came around to appreciating her as the expert media-manipulator that she is. And she makes me laugh. That always helps.
Funniest line: “La da di da di. We like to party.” Nothing says “party girl” more than baby talk.
1. Bubble Butt
by Major Lazer, featured on Free the Universe
They played this at my prom. It was the first time I had heard it, and I knew, the very moment when Bruno Mars uttered that legendary phrase, “Bubble butt. Bubble bubble bubble butt”, that this would be the funniest song of the year. It’s simultaneously a critical commentary on the pop cultural obsession with huge behinds and a celebration of that very same thing. It’s so stupid that it transcends all notions of good taste and just becomes pure euphoric fun. And the music video, directed by Eric Wareheim of “Tim and Eric” fame, is one of the best and funniest I’ve ever seen. It shows true courage when we as a society can look at ourselves and say: “OK. We like big butts and we cannot lie. And yeah, it’s kind of messed up that our music videos are sexualized to an absurd degree. But at the end of the day, that’s who we are. So let’s be proud of it.”
Funniest line:”Bubble butt. Bubble bubble bubble butt.” It’s almost as fun to type as it is to say.
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