The Terrible Pop-Song Relationship Advice Hall of Fame


Over the summer, we listened to the radio a lot, and we began to notice something: Most pop songs offer really terrible advice. Any intelligible lyrics that aren’t advising you to move your ass a certain way are usually shouting out instructions that, if you follow them, will probably ruin your life, plunge you into huge amounts of debt, or lead to a guest appearance as an alcohol-poisoned extra on The Jersey Shore. And, in particular, most of the solutions offered for wooing a lady or dude seem, well, pretty disastrous. We’re not sure Dr. Phil would ever advise you to “get your drunk text on.”

Not to get all Tipper Gore on y’all — we feel that Usher should be able to tell you to do stupid things with abandon — but if you want to start or stay in any sort of healthy relationship, it’s probably best to ignore the things that Lady Gaga is crooning in the club. After the jump, check pop songs’ worst advice about love and sex.

On dating techniques and the differences between classes: “In the Summertime,” Mungo Jerry

This is a staple of every oldies and classic rock station from about May to August — and why not? The tune is jaunty, the seasonal glorification relevant, and the whistling pretty darn catchy. But if you listen closely, Mungo Jerry has some pretty terrible, Tucker Max-level advice on how to score those “women on your mind.” And it doesn’t just end with the ill-advised, “Have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find”:

If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel Speed along the lane Do a ton, or a ton and 25 When the sun goes down, you can make it Make it good in a lay-by

This seems to lack a bit of finesse in the courting department, if you know what we mean. We’re not even sure what a ton and 25 are, but we would guess that you shouldn’t do it.

On long-distance relationships: “I Like It,” Enrique Iglesias

A pretty serious club anthem that heralds the return of the bemoled Latin crooner, “I Like It” is also a sort of homage to cheating in the club while your significant other is on vacation. Which, you know, is probably a bad idea, actually. When you wake up the next morning disheveled and bleary-eyed only to discover that the dude in your bed is neither Enrique nor your boyfriend, you’re probably going to feel a little trashy. Observe:

Girl, please excuse me If I’m coming too strong But tonight is the night We can really let go My girlfriend is out of town And I’m all alone Your boyfriend is on vacation And he doesn’t have to know

But don’t worry about it! Enrique promises you immortality and also shrieking:

Let the time time pass ‘Cause we’re never getting old No I won’t oh oh, oh oh No one can do it better Turn around I’ll give you more No I won’t oh oh, oh oh Shout it out, scream it loud Let me hear you go

On dating more than one person at a time: “Rise Above It,” Lil Wayne feat. Drake

Now, it’s true that dating rules have changed, and that if you’re keeping it casual there’s nothing necessarily wrong in dating around, or dating a few girls/boys at once. But it can still get awkward and, somehow, we think that Drake’s way of juggling ladies may exacerbate the situation:

Don’t like my women single, I like my chicks in twos And these days all the girls is down to roll I hit the strip club and all them bitches find a pole Plus I been sippin’, so this shit is movin’ kinda slow Just tell my girl to tell her friend that it’s time to go

Nothin’ but class, my friends. If you just had a pole in your living room/car/mom’s basement, and if you somehow manage to lure two ladies down there, they will be ON THAT SHIT in no time. And girls love it when you’re all like, “Baby, I love you, but I only do threesomes.” Are we right, ladies?

On handling a break-up with maturity and grace: “Erase Me,” Kid Cudi feat. Kanye West

You see, Kid Cudi met this girl. He liked her! And she liked him. In fact, things started off pretty well, terrible pickup line (let’s leave Aaliyah out of this, shall we?) notwithstanding:

Uh, I’m Yeezy She said, “Hi I’m Aria,” No! You an angel, you wave hi to Aaliyah

But then the fame and money and all those bottles of Henny Black crept up on them. Kid Cudi had to choose between his lyrical prowess and his new girlfriend. And then she started spending his money, which made him upset. So at the end, he did what anyone would: ended it and wished her a slow death.

But all good things gotta come to an end-a She let it go to her head, no, not my Aria The height of her shopping was writers blocking me I couldn’t get my shit out anyway, I hope you die Aria

On beauty standards and when physical force is appropriate: “Tik Tok,” Ke$ha

Ke$ha is definitely the queen of that leopard-print-leggings-plus-neon-plus-whiskey-breath fashion that’s so in these days — and also possibly the queen of bad advice. Most of her songs advocate some pretty dumb stuff — drunk texting, drunk driving, drunk tooth-brushing, drunk everything, really — but “Tik Tok” shines for its weird standards and violent behavior. Ke$ha is at the club, with a pedicure and clothes and P. Diddy-walk or whatever, and she espies a line of potential gentleman callers. But the lady has expectations. What are they?

Ain’t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here And now the dudes are lining up ’cause they hear we got swagger But we kick ’em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger

Really, Ke$ha? You might not go to the club looking for romance, but you’re also probably drunk enough that everyone looks a little like Mick Jagger. And plus, Jagger? Not, like, Justin Timberlake? She’s not the worst offender in terms of rigid beauty norms — think every rap song about booties/waists/thighs — but still, bizarre. And then if that dude drunkenly makes a pass at her, what happens?

I’m talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk Boys tryin’ to touch my junk, junk Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk

Well, actually.. .maybe that’s an appropriate reaction to a drunk dude groping you. But seriously kids, no taking these as pearls of wisdom.

On how to land a guy: “Statistics,” Lyle Jennings

Now, this one was more of an R&B novelty hit than a chart-buster, but it is, regardless, notable for the sheer quantity of erroneous information it contains. The song claims to steer all you heart-breakin’, booty-shakin’ ladies out there straight into the arms of a gullible and willing husband. We’re not sure where Jennings gets his information, but we feel pretty certain that most of it is made up. Like for example, the opening chorus:

25% of all men are unstable 25% of all men can’t be faithful 30% of them don’t mean what they say and 10% of the remaining 20 is gay

Uh oh… so, by Jennings’ calculations that leaves us with “a 10% chance of ever finding your mate.” Yipes! Dr. Jennings, PhD of Love, what should we do? The first couple rules are actually probably good advice: respect yourself and don’t get involved with married men. Fair enough, Jennings doesn’t diverge much from the cherished Dear Abby line on that stuff. But it’s the third one where things get suspicious again:

Rule number three Tell him that you’re celibate And if he wants some of your goodies he’s gonna have to work for it

Wait, what? Being old-fashioned is one thing, but getting yourself to a nunnery to get a man seems sort of… counter-intuitive. Plus, what is this, 1957? But luckily, Jennings finshes the song out with some more scare tactics:

15% of all men got a complex 15% of all men don’t practice safe sex 20% of them come from homes without a father and there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll marry a coward Something to think about when you’re taking a shower Something to swallow when you’re drinking bottled water

OK, then!

On settling: “Love the One You’re With,” Stephen Stills

There may be something to avoiding ridiculously high standards in a boy/girlfriend, but, regardless, we can’t get down with a total free-for-all. This song plays everywhere, and its message is mostly like, “Stop being so uptight, man. Free love! Screw you, Crosby!” And so forth. But in the time-honored tradition of rock songs, it also manages to be incomprehensibly vague, sort of sinister, and altogether bad advice at the same time.

If you’re down and confused And you don’t remember who you’re talking to… Well, there’s a rose in the fisted glove And eagle flies with the dove And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey Love the one you’re with

What? Eagles? Roses? Gloves? Is this some sort of bizarre coded song to start the Stills revolution? Possibly. Nonetheless, the basic premise seems not just flawed, but, to be frank, some freshman-year shit. The hook-up culture isn’t the huge crisis that some folks portray it as, but this whole free love thing seems pretty suspect. Plus, we think this is the only song that really counts as the singer’s anthem/creed. Stills seems pretty confident in his guidance:

Turn your heartache right into joy ‘Cause she’s a girl and you’re a boy Get it together come on make it nice You ain’t gonna need anymore advice.

Oh, just bone already, jeez.