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10 Really Weird Inspirations for Popular Songs


This week, we got news that R. Kelly was back in the songwriting business when he posted a new track to Twitter — a new track about his tonsils. Well, to each his own. In any event, R. Kelly’s new song inspired us to think of other strange and unusual inspirations and topics for popular songs, from the bizarrely mundane to the just completely random. Click through to listen to songs about body parts, fish, ice floes, and other things that, as far as we’re concerned, make pretty weird subjects for songs, and be sure to let us know your own favorite songs with bizarre inspirations.

Song: “Untitled” by R. Kelly

Inspiration: R. Kelly’s tonsils

“I just wanna thank God upstairs for keeping his hands on me, and keeping all the doctors focused through my surgery,” R. Kelly sings. This week, R. Kelly revealed the first new song since his July emergency throat surgery. He tweeted, “It’s been a long time coming but I finally feel a lot better about my throat since the surgery and this is the first song I wrote.” The song is a screw you to all the haters who thought his career wouldn’t make it past the surgery — not that there were any, but that’s probably irrelevant. What is relevant is R. Kelly’s healthy tonsils.

Song: “Oh Larsen B” by British Sea Power

Inspiration: The deterioration of the Antarctic Larsen Ice Shelf

As far as we know, there aren’t too many songs about ice formations out there, but British Sea Power seem to have an affinity for the Antarctic ice shelf: “My favourite foremost coastal Antarctic shelf/ Oh Larsen B, oh you can fall on me/ Oh Larsen B, desalinate the barren sea.”

Song: “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles

Inspiration: A Sardinian boat captain who loved the noble octopus

Apparently, Ringo Starr thought up the lyrics to this whimsical Beatles classic after her took a boat trip with his family in Sardinia in 1968. The captain tried to feed Starr octopus, and when he refused, began a history lesson on the octopus, including the story of how they build gardens with shiny objects that they find on the ocean floor.

Song: “White Room” by Creem

Inspiration: Pete Brown’s empty apartment

Though the lyrics to this classic song, written by poet Pete Brown, make it seem like a lot more is going on than just a simple white room, in truth this song was inspired by Brown’s brand new apartment, completely unfurnished with sparkling white walls.

Song: “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” by R.E.M.

Inspiration: An attack on Dan Rather

This song was inspired by a 1986 incident in New York City, when news anchor Dan Rather was attacked by a man (or maybe two) who showered him with blows, yelling, ‘what’s the frequency, Kenneth?’ Apparently, at least one of the assailants was William Tager, who believed Rather had been brainwashed by the media.

Song: “Come and Buy My Toys” by David Bowie

Inspiration: What appears to be a yard sale run by a child

To be honest, we’re not sure where Bowie got the inspiration for this track, but wherever he came up with it, what came out is a charming and little heard song inciting all the “smiling girls and rosy boys” to come and buy his little toys. It’s not creepy, we swear.

Song: “New Shoes” by Paolo Nutini

Inspiration: Paolo Nutini’s new shoes

Though it’s not unheard of for artists to base a song around their footwear (Nelly’s “Air Force Ones” and Nancy Sinatra “My Boots are Made for Walking” are two of our favorite shoe-related tracks), we think this ode to a new pair of shoes is pretty weird. Maybe Paolo Nutini could get away with it if he was a rapper or an attractive lady, but as it stands, we think it’s a little ridiculous.

Song: “The Boll Weevil” by Leadbelly

Inspiration: The industrious boll weevil

This blues standard, originally written as “Mississippi Boll Weevil Blues” by Charley Patton and subsequently covered by many artists, this song follows the life of the boll weevil, the notorious pest that feeds on cotton crops and devastated the cotton industry in America in the ’20s.

Song: “Salmon Dance” by the Chemical Brothers

Inspiration: Dancing fish

This song is about a boy looking at his fishtank, wherein dwell many kinds of fish, including Fatlip the Piranha, Sammy the Salmon and Puffa the beatboxing Pufferfish. They teach him how to do the “Salmon Dance,” which as far as we can tell just involves moving your body like ‘a salmon swimming upstream.’ We’ve heard lots of songs about random dances, but this one takes the case.

Song: “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles

Inspiration: Bucking the idea of the Beatles as text; Lewis Carroll

The inspiration behind this song is really something more like anti-inspiration: the song was combined from three different songs that John Lennon had been working on, but when John Lennon found out that children were studying Beatles song lyrics in school, he decided to mess with their minds by writing a verse full of nonsense words. The only other inspiration to be found in this song is the walrus himself, who was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Lennon realized slightly too late that Carroll had cast the walrus as the villain.