Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Scoreboard

After the frenzy of comments offering up various songs in which various phrases were repeated great numbers of times, I can compile the following scoreboard, sorting out the current leaders by number of words per phrase (and thanks to the poster known as Scraps, which I suspect is not his real name, for suggesting that particular taxonomy for this project).

I do want to take a moment to thank everyone who contributed to this project, and if you just tried to think of a repetitive song but couldn't beat any of the prior offerings, you still participated, and I still thank you. At its best, writing OPC is like hosting a party, and this was the best party yet.

My initial inclination was to limit this to Top Forty hits, since no one wants to count how many times Kraftwerk say "Tour de France" in the six-and-a-half-minute version of "Tour de France." But there were plenty of songs suggested that are familiar radio favorites without ever being Top Forty hits:

Two words: "I Can't Stand Losing You," by the Police, for "I can't": 70 times. At a running time of 3:10, that's approximately one "I can't" every pi seconds. The amazing thing is that song never gets annoying, despite the fact that there's a phrase repeated three score and ten times, and despite Sting's legendary capacity to annoy.

Limiting it to the Top Forty would have made the winner "Beat It," by Michael Jackson, for "beat it": 56 times, or maybe even more. I counted 67, but it's awfully hard to count, especially the part where Michael's saying "Beat it," and it's repeated as an echo three or four times. Whether those count or not is at the discretion of the listener, but clearly, no one wants to be defeated. Also, Eddie Van Halen can play that guitar just like a-ringin' a bell.

Three words: "Take a Chance on Me," Abba, for "take a chance": God only knows how many times. I counted Agnetha and Frida singing it 15 times, and Benny and Bjorn singing it 109 times, which would make 124, except that total is almost certainly wrong. The problem is not just that the guys are chanting "Take a chance/Take a chance/Take a chance" very quickly through much of the song, but that their backing vocal gets buried in the mix, and it's hard to hear sometimes whether they're still singing it. If anyone is technologically adept enough to strip out the backing vocals on this record so they can be heard clearly enough to be counted, be my guest. All I know is that this is the winner.

Four words: "Taking Care of Business," Bachman-Turner Overdrive, for "taking care of business": 27 times. Of all the songs on this list, this is probably the easiest one to beat. Technically, I guess the next two songs beat it, with the phrases "why can't we be" and "boys are back in."

Five words: "Why Can't We Be Friends," War, for "why can't we be friends": 47 times.

Six words: "The Boys Are Back in Town," Thin Lizzy, for "the boys are back in town": 26 times.

Seven words: No entries so far. What's wrong with you guys?

Eight words: "Voices Carry," Til Tuesday, for "hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry": 19 times

Nine words: "Next to You," the Police, for "all I want is to be next to you": 15 times. Reader MJN suggested the nine-word phrase was repeated 27 times, but I listened again to the song and got only 15, which is still the leader in the category, alongside "Never Say Never" by Romeo Void, which repeats "I might like you better if we slept together" 15 times. Maybe MJN listened to it twice.

Neither of those songs cracked the Top Forty; the Top Forty leader I have is "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)," by the Rolling Stones, which repeats the title phrase either 12 times or 25, if Keith is actually saying "It's only rock 'n roll" each time on the outro, although mostly it sounds more like " 's only rock 'n roll" or "only rock 'n roll." It's too late here for me to listen to it again.

Ten words: "It's the End of the World As We Know It," R.E.M., for "it's the end of the world as we know it": 22 times

Fourteen words: "I Want to Know What Love Is," Foreigner, for "I want to know what love is, I want you to show me": 7 times

Sixty-six words: "Out of My Head," Fastball, for "Was I out of my head? Was I out of my mind?/How could I have ever been so blind?/I was waiting for an indication/It was hard to find/Don't matter what I say, only what I do/I never mean to do bad things to you/So quiet but I finally woke up/If you're sad, then it's time you spoke up too": three times

23 comments:

MJN said...

"Next to You"
Lyrics by Sting

I cannot stand it for another day
When you live so many miles away
Nothing here is gonna make me stay
You took me over, let me find a way

I sold my house
I sold my motor, too
All I want is to be next to you.
I'd rob a bank
Maybe steal a plane
You took me over
Think I'm goin' insane

What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you

I've had a thousand girls or maybe more
But I've never felt like this before
But I just don't know what's come over me
You took me over, take a look at me

What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you

All I want is to be next to you
All I want is to be next to you
All I want is to be next to you

I saw my doctor he said give it time
I’ve got this feeling, gonna lose my mind
When all it is is just a love affair
You took me over baby, take me there

What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you
What can I do
All I want is to be next to you

T. Nawrocki said...

My bad. Upon further review, I get 26 times for "All I want is to be next to you," making it the clear leader in the category.

Joe said...

I think an appropriate theme song here would be Styx's "Too Much Time On My Hands."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQiJdf-ebIs

Pike said...

I'm worried about all of you.

rob said...

Sting x mid-80s = 28 "free free, set them free"'s and 38 "we'll be together"'s, comparable to his 25 "put on the red light"'s and 10 "that's my soul up there"'s.

I really thought AC/DC would clean up in this company, since all their choruses repeat the title four times, but the songs aren't long enough, e.g. "Highway to Hell" scores a very disappointing 19.

rob said...

Seven words: the Pet Shop Boys' "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" They ask the musical question 25 times, but they also say "What have I" 80 times in 4:15, which is in Michael Jackson / No Doubt territory, though it seems nobody can touch "Take A Chance On Me."

Gavin said...

Despite the predictable "too much time on your hands" sniping, I think this is really interesting, and not just because of the joys of geek-rock tabulation.

I wouldn't have thought about the unifying quality of Sting, Michael Jackson, and ABBA being their repetitive songwriting, but I can hear the connection now: they all have engaged in the relentless pursuit of the shiniest pop hook available, and then demonstrated a willingness to beat it into the ground.

Joe said...

That wasn't sniping. I was hoping someone would count the number times of they say "too much time on my hands." Not me. I have a job. (That was sniping.)

T. Nawrocki said...

I almost counted them, but I figured it wouldn't come close to "the boys are back in town."

OK, I'll count: An even 20.

Still, thanks for sticking up for us, Gavin. I think it's interesting that almost all the winners turned out to be Top Forty hits -- if not for "It's the End of the World As We Know It," and throwing in "What Have I Done to Deserve This," they'd all be either Top Twelve hits or songs from "Outlandos d'Amour."

As they used to say on Fat Albert, if you're not careful, you just might learn something. They only said it once per show, though.

Sting said...

On behalf of Stewart, Andy and meself, I'd like to thank OPC for all the synchronicity. This is the most exciting thing to happen to me since the Wet Bus Stop incident of '79!

What can I say? I'm Sting. I'm repetitive. I can't, I can't, I can't help being a bloody genius. And now if you'll excuse me, I can't, I can't, I can't be late for tantri-cise (*fit of giggles*) Trudiiiiie!

T. Nawrocki said...

Thank you, Sting. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you very much.

Joe said...

If you picture Tom as both sides of that exchange (and who among us didn't?) this whole place starts to feel a little like Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

T. Nawrocki said...

Starts to?

Scraps said...

Scraps isn't the name I was born with, but neither is the name that I guess is my real name these days. Anyway, most of my friends call me Scraps.

Rob said...

Scraps is quite possibly the most amazingly comprehensive human music-data storage unit I've ever met, and I've met a few.

T. Nawrocki said...

Hmm, seems like someone else posted in this thread under a name that is his "real name these days" but not the name he was born with... Why don't you fess up? What have you got to hide, Mr. GORDON SUMNER????

Sting said...

Stewart and Andy used to complain, “Oh Sting, you’re so bloody repetitive, how many times do you need to remind her you’re walking on the moon? Maybe one 'hee-yo, hee-yo-yo' would do fine?” I said right, you write a song per album about Soviet bureaucrats or inflatable dolls or Charlton Heston movies and I’ll keep singing “don’t stand, don’t stand so” and we’ll see who ends up with the big seat on the reunion tour bus. It’s not my fault if every little, every little thing I do is magic! Magic, magic!

And cor, I’m not the one who hit #1 with a song that goes “wrapped up like a douche” 24 times. You Americans!

T. Nawrocki said...

Oh, come off it, Sting. Like you would ever ride in anything but a limo. I bet the last time you were on a bus was when you were going on location to shoot "Brimstone and Treacle."

Scraps said...

Rob, I don't know which Rob you are, but that's a nice Cook & Moore clip.

MJN said...

Hey, Sting, Andy DID write the one about the inflatable doll. Don't be so quick to claim all the credit.

Gavin said...

I can't believe I didn't think of this one at the time: in Nirvana's "Sliver," Kurt Cobain sings "Grandma take me home" 43 times (by my count). This knocks BTO off the leader board, and is even more impressive when you consider it all happens in just 2:17.

Gavin said...

I mentioned this topic to my friend Robert Rossney, who immediately nominated Steely Dan's "Show Biz Kids." Throughout the five-and-a-half minute song, the backup singers repeat "I'm going to Lost Wages / Lost Wages / I'm going to Lost Wages." ("Lost Wages" being old show-biz slang for Las Vegas.) 38 times, by my count.

That means we have new leaders!

In the two-word category: "Lost Wages," 114 times.
In the five-word category: "I'm going to Lost Wages," 76 times.
In the twelve-word category (which means that technically, this song is champion of all categorys from six words through twelve): the aforementioned refrain, 38 times.

But ABBA still reigns supreme.

Scraps said...

Very good!

I miss Bob.