Our 50 Favorite Song Titles (That Use Parentheses)
There's an art to settling on the perfect song title. In most cases, it's usually best to keep it pretty simple. You'll never go wrong picking something easy to remember, which is why most artists choose a title that reminds people of their song's chorus. But sometimes a song title, no matter how well intentioned, doesn't quite capture the complete essence of a song (either intentionally or unintentionally) and requires a little extra clarity to chisel it into listener's memory banks. For example, Blue Swede's "Hooked On a Feeling" is a reasonably memorable title, but it might've benefited from a parenthetical add-on like "Hooked On a Feeling (Ooga Chaka)" in order to remind people of the song's inexplicable tribal background vocals. I guarantee you record clerks were asked countless times back in 1974, 'What's the name of that "Ooga Chaka" song?'
The parenthetical is crucial to the writing process (especially when discussing music). No matter how your strive for the perfect informative sentence, often you need some additional context after the fact to provide needed context. (And this is why mankind invented parentheses.) Logically, the same concept translates to song titles, where the vast majority are short by design. They are merely quick reference points so the public can catalog the song in their cluttered minds. It's not surprising, however, that some songs need a little added information to help job the memory. If this title doesn't tell you what you need to know, here's a little help in case you needed it. In the following list, we examine the many reasons for using parentheses when titling songs via a list of our 50 favorite examples of the craft.
In descending order of preference for dramatic purposes.
Note: I've taken the liberty, when multiple versions of a song exist, to pick my favorite version of the song for this list.
PICKLED PRIEST'S 50 FAVORITE SONG TITLES (THAT USE PARENTHESES)
50 "... (And That's No Lie)" | Heaven 17
If we follow the general rules around the use of parentheses (the plural of parenthesis), the main thought outside the parenthetical should stand alone grammatically and the parenthetical statement should merely be a writer's aside or afterthought. For example: He was a good kid who was liked by his parents and friends (but all would agree he would benefit from bathing more frequently). The main point is made, but a slight walk-back is added for a bit of context. Song titles do not work the same way as sentences due to space limitations, so song titles need to be more concise, using every word carefully in order to lure in a potential listener. With that in mind, there are no set rules for using parentheses in song titles. The only guiding principle is to make the song more memorable in any way you can. Some work better than others of course, as you will see by the end of this list. Why do some work and some do not? To quote Eric Clapton (someone we really can't stand), "It's in the way that you use it."
To confuse matters from the start, we begin with Heaven 17's "... (And That's No Lie)." In this instance, the main context is replaced by an ellipsis (...) which tells us absolutely nothing about the song whatsoever. Here, it's the parenthetical that does all the heavy lifting, reinforcing the validity of whatever unknown phrase has just been uttered. Here, the indication is that no matter what was just said it's the god's honest truth, I swear. You've got to admit, it's a clever way to set a mysterious tone for the song to come (which is pretty damn sad, if you must know).
49 "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" | Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
This song was written about a life-changing evening, so it's no surprise Frankie wants to take us back to relive his magic "love at first sight" moment from 1963. That said, the title "December, 1963" alone is far less memorable for a listener than it is alongside its oft-repeated parenthetical (10x to be exact). To this day, if you say "I love that song 'December, 1963'" you'll probably get confused looks. But if you then follow with a quick, "Oh, what a night" (why no exclamation point?) in your best falsetto, everyone, and I mean everyone (over the age of 40) will know exactly what you're referencing. The parenthetical is a common device for artists who don't want to title their song with something so overt, but are willing to provide a little "helper" as an afterthought to jog the memory (and sell more records). I'd argue this song should've added a specific date to the title to add factual credibility (i.e. "December 14, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)"). Why stop at giving us just the month? Especially, when, on that night, you were both "hypnotized" and "mesmerized" by the girl of your dreams. I might've even added the exact time.
48 "The Things (That) I Used to Do" | Stevie Ray Vaughan
My writing teacher in college hated the word "that" in sentences. He argued (that) it was the most overused word in writing and (that) it was frequently unneeded. Perhaps Stevie Ray Vaughan had the same, or similar, teacher at some point during his early years. This is a brilliant title for that reason alone. It shows an awareness of unnecessary words, but also understands (that) some people might think the title incorrect without that overused word present. So Stevie's solution is to please all the people all the time. And that's (that).
47 "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" | The Swingin' Medallions
The titular "Double Shot" could've come from a number of sources sans parenthetical. From a shotgun, the implication is you might be staring down the business end of a 12-gauge. From a bartender, you could be jump-starting an epic drinking binge. From a doctor, it could mean a multi-faceted solution to some nagging "male" problems. Hence, in this rare case of a double shot with positive connotations, it's wise to clarify matters. Give me a double shot (of espresso)! A double shot (of kindness)! And, of course, a double shot of my baby's love!
46 "Everybody Thinks I'm a Raincloud (When I'm Not Looking)" | Guided By Voices
The subtle execution of a well-played parenthetical cannot be understated. It can take the meaning of a song and flip it on its head with a few choice key strokes. Such is the case here. It doesn't have to make sense, necessarily; it just has to confound. I mean, if everyone is thinking he's a raincloud, why does it matter whether he is looking or not? What are they thinking when he is looking? All that matters is he got us thinking of his song title. Mission accomplished.
45 "I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital)" | Conor Oberst
I like how this song goes from an understandable, fairly common fear of death in general to an understandable, fairly common fear of dying in a hospital. I get it—dying in a hospital is the ultimate cliché—and holds no romance. Don't we all want to die in a blaze of glory? Or, at the very least, at home with headphones on, enjoying one last great song.
44 "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)? | The Buzzcocks
With the addition of parentheses, the story goes from chick-flick to disaster movie in a split second. I know which movie I'd rather watch.
43 "Ladies for Babies (Goats for Love)" | Nadine Shah
This one from just a couple years ago, Nadine Shah twisted a song from fact to absurdity with her eye-opening afterthought and in the process made all of us do a collective double-take. Uh, that's not right, is it? Is it!?
42 "(Are You on the Inside or the Outside of Your) Pants? | The Makers
Parentheticals do not need to make grammatical sense in song titles. It's rock and roll, so do what you want. This is why we developed the concept of "artistic license" in the first place. Sometimes the use of parentheses can be primarily for amusement or comedic effect. To wit, this extended parenthetical from Pickled Priest garage rock favorites, the Makers. If you follow the rules of parentheses, the words outside the curved brackets should be able to stand alone as a complete thought. In this case, the song would then be technically titled "Pants?" as if a salesperson is pressuring you to try on a pair in the dressing room of some expensive clothing store. Instead, the long intro here twists the intent to something completely different and decidedly sexualized. Go girl! Do you wanna dance?
41 "Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)" | Electric Six
This title is likely an homage to all the adolescent boys from the 1970s, perhaps the 80s too, whose best putdowns were invariably centered around bringing the other person's mother into the mix in the crudest way possible. The easiest way to get a rise out of your verbal sparring partner was simply to imply you were doing something disgusting with their mother or their mother was doing something disgusting with someone else (including you). In this case, I can see it unfolding on the playground of my mind like it was yesterday. "Hey Jimmy, wanna see some naked pictures...of you mother!?"
40 "A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)" | The Lucksmiths
After a couple crude bastards in a row, here's a more delicate use of parentheses courtesy of Australia's finest purveyors of the hushed entreaty, the Lucksmiths. Into every argument should fall a moment all can agree upon, a timely statement so imbued with intelligent perspective and insight that it cannot be refuted—also known as the sobering thought. Deployed at just the right time, it's capable of defusing even the most volatile conversational timebomb.
39 "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" | Genesis
It shouldn't surprise anyone that "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" comes from Genesis' 1975 album Selling England by the Pound. The title of the album and the song title both have a very mercantile feel, implying anything can be bought or sold and anyone can be anybody if presented with the proper accoutrements. That the song is about exactly the opposite—being content just as you are—doesn't diminish the subtle little curveball edited into the title's annex.
38 "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" | Blue Öyster Cult
Once, when I was a teenage restaurant employee, a girl I worked with was buzzing about a Blue Öyster Cult concert she attended the previous night (I was more than a little jealous, of course). She commented about how awesome it was when the whole crowd joined together to sing "(Come Feel) The Reefer," and then simulated her elation by swaying her hands overhead in a mock stoned reverie. An enchanted evening for her, no doubt. In the moment, of course, I couldn't wait to pounce on her mistake, and she was appreciably crestfallen as I explained the song's true meaning. It was one of those moments you know will be retold for a lifetime the second it happens. While I owe her a handsome debt for a story told countless times hence, in truth, her version could've worked, too. There's a decent chance the song would've been one of those classic pot smoker's anthems, trotted out every April 20th alongside the Toyes' "Smoke Two Joints," Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf," and Sleep's hour-long "Dopesmoker."* Actually, the real lyrics to the song sound like the product of a stoned 70's rock band, so that's not even a stretch. But the original song dreams of love eternal, existing long after we leave this mortal coil, which in theory makes death less of a hard pill to swallow. All it took was putting "(Don't Fear)" in parentheses and suddenly our ominous and unavoidable demise didn't seem so violent and frightening anymore.
*Apologies to countless other weed-related classics not mentioned, but these were the first three that popped to mind.
37 "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" | Kate Bush
People are always running up hills for one reason or another. Sometimes to prove mental or physical toughness (a la Walter Payton back in the day). Sometimes to get a better view of something (fireworks, the Sermon on the Mount, or, in my case a Bob Dylan performance). Getting to the top of a hill is symbolic of achievement and always has been. But with a simple parenthetical, Kate raised the stakes tenfold by implying her chosen hilltop is where God cuts backroom deals with mere mortals. In this case, Kate's looking to do a Freaky Friday switcheroo with her man so they can better understand each other (presumably couples therapy didn't work). It immediately takes a simple song and adds an air of Biblical intrigue to the mix.*
*The song was originally titled just "A Deal With God," but was changed in deference to potential religious blowback.
36 "Rabies (Baby's Got the) | Six Finger Satellite
I like the quandary this presents—totally uncharted territory for you hopefully. Do you abandon your baby or ride it out and see what happens? It's a real relationship tester. I also think it was clever not to front load the parenthetical—that would be too conventional for the situation. All I know is that, when I was a kid, we were constantly warned about rabies and regaled with stories of some kid with puss caked around his mouth because he picked up a dead squirrel or got bit by a flying rat or something, followed by a course of treatment which involved getting a hypodermic needle spiked into his abdomen every day for about three months. You wanted no part of that this or any other day and anyone rumored to be afflicted was the equivalent of the Elephant Man until medically cleared by a team of doctors.
35 "(I Feel Like) (Gerry) Cheevers (Stitch Marks on My Heart)" | Chixdiggit!
There have been plenty of songs with a double parenthetical; one before, one after the proper song title. But Pickled Priest doesn't stop there, we keep pressing forward. And in Chixdiggit!'s homage to famed Boston Bruin's goalie Gerry Cheevers, who used to draw stitches on his goalie mask for every puck he took to his face, we get a total of three magnificent parenthetical add-ons. And in the process, we also get the perfect analogy for the life of a heart— bruised, beaten, but unbowed, still capable of putting itself out there like a goaltender standing in the way of Bobby Hull slapshot.
34 "You Think I Don't Know (But I Know)" | Charles Bradley
Undeniable Truth: Not every parenthetical is actually needed. Some are implied. If you say, "You think I don't know" to someone, you're basically saying that you know. I think there's some solace, however, in knowing officially and definitively that the person does indeed know and isn't just bluffing and that's the purpose here. But he could still be bluffing.
33 "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" | Elvis Presley
Considering how this song plays out, I might've switched the order of the main title and its parenthetical to "His Latest Flame (Marie's the Name)." After all, the story told is about a guy who visits an old friend to whom he gushes excitedly about his amazing new girlfriend. In time, said old friend realizes Elvis is actually going on about his current girlfriend, someone he thought he was going to marry someday. It's as harsh as it is unlikely. While the title flows better as is, it's more dramatic in the reverse, especially since the friend's realization doesn't come to him right away. Either way, it's a cracking, well-balanced title, thanks to its well-deployed parenthetical introduction.
*Personal bias admitted, via a spouse named Marie, but I stand by the selection.
32 (tie) "It's Not My Fault (It's My Fault)" | Discovery
32 (tie) "Didn't I (Say I Didn't)" | Vic Mensa
I love songs that make an emphatic statement and then undermine it moments later. It goes to every human's initial inclination toward self-defense. Here, the parentheses play the role of the subconscious, allowing some suppressed self-doubt to enter the discussion. Wait a minute. Was it my fault? Did I really say that? An internal struggle ensues.
31 "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)" | Frank Zappa
A title rich with possibility for fiction writers—it even comes with its own dedication—there's a whole lot baked (literally) into this song title. First off, who is Calvin? And why does he regularly pick up hitchhikers? And what is so special about his next two hitchhikers? Why would Zappa be writing a song for two unknown riders? You could teach a creative writing seminar for a semester with just this title for inspiration. Rarely has one parenthetical added so much intrigue.*
*The whole story, for those who need to know these things, is that Calvin is actually Calvin "Cal" Schenkel, the artist responsible for many of Zappa's album covers made during his Laurel Canyon days (and Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica). Apparently, Cal famously picked up (or acquired) a couple stoned hitchhikers one afternoon who wouldn't/couldn't speak or leave his backseat for a day due to a presumed LSD trip in progress.
30 "(I Want to Be a) Prostitute" | Hot Lips Messiah
We're sex-positive at Pickled Priest so if you want to be a prostitute, go for it. Follow your dreams.
29 "A Girl in Trouble (A Temporary Thing)" | Romeo Void
I'm sure some presumed the title implied a man will always be there to rescue a damsel in distress before long, but that wasn't the point. It's actually about pregnancy and abortion. A young girl "with baby" is deemed to be "in trouble" (depending on your perspective). Her trouble will end in due course whether she has an abortion or decides to have the baby, so the situation is always "temporary" even if the choice between the two is your own. While we're not here to talk about the song, per se, no matter how timely it may be, it's hard to separate the two in this case. On a side note, I give credit for not making it "(Is a Temporary Thing)." A small, but wise editorial decision. Facebook. Not The Facebook. It's cleaner. Word choices matter.
28 "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)" | Bruce Springsteen
I've always liked the Biblical phrasing of this parenthetical, which sounds like a something Jesus H. would say to brush off a fan when he doesn't feel like being chatted up at the moment. Toss off a pearl of so-called wisdom and be on your way, sir.
27 "Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)" | Randy Newman
We've taken all you've given
It's gettin' hard to make a livin'
Mr. President, have pity on the working man
What would you say if you had an audience with the President for a few moments? I hear a pregnant pause between the "Mr. President" part of this song and the parenthetical comment, like he's thinking of what to say next, but Randy takes full advantage of his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
26 "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)" | Parliament
If a whole room is giving up their funk at once, tearing off the roof is an absolute necessity. And I would know; I spent years watching high school hockey in rinks that smelled like the bottom of a septic tank filled with unwashed tube socks and sweat-soaked shoulder pads.
25 "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" | ABBA
You can call me any day or night
-Blondie "Call Me" (from American Gigolo)
The childlike chant of "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme" usually means a desire for toy, ice cream, or candy, but for the Swedish ladies of ABBA, they craved an all night fuckfest from "the darkness to the break of the day." They don't come right out and say it, but I do appreciate women who know what they want and know how (and when) to get it.
24 "Rock Me Again and Again and Again and Again and Again and Again (6 Times)" | Lyn Collins ft. James Brown
If James Brown, a self-proclaimed "Sex Machine," is in the house, Lyn didn't really need to ask—it's a given— but I do appreciate the clarification provided parenthetically. In the heat of the moment, it's very hard to keep track of such things. Everyone's gotta know their needs and/or limits, but unlike Mick Jagger, somethin' tells me James has got enough jam to hit the prescribed target and then some.
23 (tie) "I Hate You (But You're Interesting) | The Beautiful South
23 (tie) "I Hate You (But Call Me)" | The Monks
There's a fine line between love and hate and here are two good examples. Can you straddle both sides of the curved bracket is the only question? Give it a try if you are the self-destructive type.
22 "I Want to Be an (Anglepoise Lamp)" | The Soft Boys
How would you fill in this blank: "I want to be an __________"? Would "Anglepoise Lamp" have popped into your mind at any point in response to this query? Unlikely, which is what makes the parenthetical response so interesting. The pictured Anglepoise Lamp presents as magnificently designed, mechanically complex, and functionally versatile. It has proven timeless and practical over the years due to its adaptive personality. It can be used for interrogation, accent lighting, studying small print, studying for exams, or making hand animals on the wall (to name only a few). If only I had such a multi-faceted existence. If only I was admired for my intelligent design. If only I was as useful, reliable, and bright. I want to be an Anglepoise lamp! This is a great song about letting people be who they really are inside so who are we to put limits on it?
21 "I Love You 'cause (You Look Like Me)" | The Ponys
Honesty coupled wth rampant narcissism isn't something we've seen much of in recent years, if ever, especially in the White House, but at least the Ponys don't fuck around the point. This one is just funny, despite the fact nobody really wants someone who looks like them in the end, do they? If you do, you're vain. You probably think this parenthetical is about you. Don't you? Don't you?
20 "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" | The Might Be Giants
Credit where credit is due: a song title that is also educational. And it only took three words to do it. A public service announcement with an annoying yet strangely addictive voice over. Constantinople became Istanbul back in 1922, long before the goofballs in TMBG came around, but I bet the original marketing campaign for the changeover was far less successful than this one would have been.
19 "I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)" | Howlin' Wolf
At the time, I imagine, harsh. But in these days of inflation and war, a thoughtful and expensive gift. You really shouldn't have!
18 "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" | Kenny Rogers & the First Edition
Every hip cat is on to this song by now so I imagine this title phrase needs to be put on ice for a while (you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em), but that doesn't mean it's not a great collective title with a brilliant parenthetical hook as its super catchy caboose.
17 "You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)" | Buddy Holly*
Is this Leiber/Stoller classic a song Holly covered so people could sing it back at him? It makes sense, for Holly was the original nerd rocker, the prototype for acts that would follow for generations afterward (Elvis Costello, Marshall Crenshaw, Weezer, etc).
*Originally written for, and performed by, Elvis, I've chosen this version because I think it fits Buddy better than Elvis.
16 "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names" | Joan Armatrading
A bit controversial at the time, but now it's a declaration of sexual freedom. As long as the decisions are made by consenting adults, it's all good. Suggested safe word: "Parenthetical".
15 "She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)" | Jerry Reed
May the best attorney win. In country music, sometimes a great song title just falls into your lap. I have to imagine most of them are titled first, then backfilled with lyrics that serve the pun. There is no genre as shameless in its song titling, which is why so few have made their way onto this list. I don't like overly cloy titles for the most part. Sometimes they seems too forced for their own good, even if there is a touch of humor to be had. That said, this classic divorce song is sheer perfection.*
*Note: While this song advert adds the word "and" the song title technically doesn't include it.
14 "Man Smart (Woman Smarter)" | Harry Belafonte
This may telegraph the payoff a bit, but no matter; it speaks the truth and that's all that matters. The truth always goes down smoother accompanied by a lilting calypso beat, of course.
13 "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" | Bob Dylan
There are surprisingly few Dylan songs that officially use parentheses in their titles. That said, many of his song titles could've benefited from a parenthetical. A few altered examples:
"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Everybody Must Get Stoned)"
"Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again)"
"(Just Like) Tom Thumb's Blues"
"It Takes a Lot to Laugh (It Takes a Train to Cry)"
"Don't Think Twice (It's All Right)"
"Queen Jane (Approximately)"
"Not Dark Yet (But It's Gettin' There)"
Of the official Dylan song titles with curved brackets, he's had a few gems, but nothing beats the masterpiece tacked on to "It's Alright Ma," which is possibly the least soothing thing you could say to a worried mother to provide reassurance.
12 "Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')" | Devo
I'm a big fan of slyly affixing the parenthetical after the song title even if it doesn't flow naturally. In cases like this one, the afterthought adds delicious levels of innuendo to the main title.
11 "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll) | Nick Lowe
There's always a couple unspoken stories at the typical wedding reception; stories best kept under wraps out of respect for the occasion. But they don't serve copious amounts of booze all night for nothing. Sometime around midnight, the lips loosen up and the salacious gossip starts a-flowin'.
10 "She's a Bad Mama Jama (She's Built, She's Stacked)" | Carl Carlton
Sure, it's a straight rip-off of the Commodores' "Brick House," but the Lizzo won't mind, nooooo, the Lizzo won't mind! There's room for two great songs celebrating the majesty of the plus-sized real women of this world. And this one comes with a killer parenthetical boasting that "her body measurements are perfect in every dimension." A winning hand to say the least!
09 "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" | Meat Loaf
Man, Jim Steinman could be one funny fuck. And the fact the legendary songwriter paired with Meat Loaf to put his songs across was nothing short of kismet. I mean, "I want you, I need you / But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you / Now don’t be sad/ ’Cause two out of three ain’t bad” is just pure, inspired gold. Even the chorus of this song is a great play on words that can be used for all kinds of situations in this absurd world and I'm sure it has.
08 "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go" | Curtis Mayfield
The brilliance of this parenthetical is subtle. The main title is bummer enough standing alone in the corner. It's a jarring revelation if true and I imagine it probably is. But the "(Don't Worry)" add-on implies Curtis is informing someone that their moral handwringing, perhaps over sins committed or sins about to be committed, no longer matters at all. The subtext is that all of us are far too gone at this point to be redeemed. It's a concept that flies in the face of the confession and absolution crutch/loophole, of course, but in the unlikely event the end of this life is really heaven or hell...don't worry. Your fate it already sealed.
07 "Warmed Over Kisses (Leftover Love)" | Dave Edmunds
The development of the term "leftovers" was a distinctly 20th century creation, what with the advent of refrigeration, microwaves, and dual-career couples, so it's not a surprise that it took until 1962 for someone to first see a logical parallel between reheated food and fading love. Both still better than nothing, but lacking the original freshness. This was originally a Top 25 hit by Brian Hyland back in 1962, but the song was stolen forever by Dave Edmunds' banjo-intensive version cut twenty years later. Thankfully, as with some miracle foods (chili mac pops to mind), the leftovers are sometimes tastier the second time around.
06 "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" | Chic
If you're going to write a song that uses the word "dance" over 100 times in its lyrics, odds are the title of said song is also going to be "Dance, Dance, Dance" or some variation on that concept. But, if you're also going to add a catchphrase into the lyrics like "Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah"* in homage to 1920s radio DJ Ben Bernie and the 1969 dance-marathon-themed movie They Shoot Horses Don't They?, that people are surely going to be shouting at the top of their lungs from the dancefloor forevermore, you had better tell people, that, yes, yes, yes, this is the song that contains that inspired madcap moment.
05 "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)" | Me'shell Nedegeocello
One of the greatest moments in pop history where the carpet gets completely pulled from under the feet of another person, Me'Shell's definitive takedown of a femme foe-tale just rolled off the tongue effortlessly like all snappy comebacks do, but make no mistake...it stung! The payoff would be nothing without a great setup, and here the parenthetical spikes the ball directly into her opponents face with authority.
04 "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)" | Gary Stewart
You can try and try to deny country music its propers, but there's no way you can last for long against a genre that makes its bank on cheap rhymes, worn out themes, and anything clever that's ever been said at the rail of a Nashville dive bar. At some point, once you weed through all the wince-inducing puns and corny jokes, one of those titles is going to be pure 24K gold. And this is one of the finest known examples.
03 "You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)" | The White Stripes
You know your parenthetical has hit the mark when it causes people to pause, tilt their heads, and contemplate its meaning. What do you mean, "for a girl"? What else is pretty? At first, it seems like just an awkward compliment, perhaps spoken by a prepubescent boy struggling to find the right words to talk to a cute girl for the first time. The lyrics take a deeper plunge, but the title is just off-kilter enough to intrigue, just bent enough to require a closer examination of its intent.
02 "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind") | Loretta Lynn
Oh, sweet Loretta, we miss you already. You were ahead of your time and you've left ample proof of your groundbreaking genius behind for us to sort through. This song is significant for a number of reasons, primarily its female empowerment stance, but it's also a great example of a well-titled song. The parenthetical is the ultimate male libido shut-down. You may as well lock yourself up in a cell until morning like Otis from The Andy Griffith Show. You ain't gettin' any tonight.
01 "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding | Nick Lowe et al
A song written by Nick Lowe and covered by just about everyone else, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" (Oxford comma be damned) is best known as an Elvis Costello number, but I don't care who sings it, it's an absolute masterpiece. The same goes for its title, which seems a bit trite and idealistic sans its parenthetical. "Peace, Love and Understanding" alone sounds like something you might've heard at Woodstock back in 1967 from somebody like Country Joe & the Fish or Joan Baez. But it's a sentiment nobody can logically refute, but also one that seems like too much to tackle in one song. So, is it asking for too much at once? The answer is, of course, is absolutely not. Why shouldn't we strive for all three and why don't people get that that's all we've ever needed? Instead, it gets laughed off as a ridiculous conceit in a world gone mad. That said, someday somebody has to bring us all back to what's important and there's nothing funny 'bout that.
Take it easy my friends (and make time for some new music).
Peace. love, and understanding,