Jun 072009

Which songwriters come to mind when you think, Songwriters who frequently employ nonsense syllables to carry the melody? I think of two Pauls: Simon and Weller. It seems every third song by them includes a section that’s nothing more than melodic Las or Oohs. Are there other songwriters who stand out for using this device? No artists with a notable example only, please.


  21 Responses to “La, La, La”

  1. Maybe Van Morrison – Caravan and Jackie Wilson Says come to mind.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    Van’s a good one!

  3. BigSteve

    Brown Eyed Girl has la-las too.

  4. Do backing vocals count? Because for years, it wasn’t a proper Kinks song until it had Dave and Pete doing falsetto “La-la-la”s in the back.

    Van does the la’s a bit, but the tic I think of when I think of Van is that whole repeating lines over and over and over again thing.

  5. mikeydread

    The new Leonard Cohen Live in London CD has a crack-up set piece using a fine line in nonsense lyrics. The gag the profundities that lie beneath. Only Leonard Cohen could get away with this.

  6. alexmagic

    You’re just trying to bait Oats into cataloging Jarvis Cocker’s entire, unrivaled, impossibly deep catalog of nonsense syllables with Pulp, aren’t you? This could take up the rest of his year.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Backing vocals that support actual lyrics do not count, Great One. You’re right about the repeated lines being Van’s most notable tic.

    Alexmagic, I don’t know enough about Pulp to know that they’re big on this practice. If that is the case, bravo for beating Oats to the punch.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Whether Shooby Taylor and Leonard Cohen commonly use this device I don’t know. Remember the caution against artist’s sole uses thereof. Regardless, that song is a great example of what we’re talking about, Cher! Had this been a Battle Royale, I think you would win…hands down!

  9. I think the 90s master of this technique was easily Pavement. Malkmus dropped in more sha-la-las bop-ba-da-dahs and ooh-ooh-oohs than anyone else this side of the Brill Building. He even used stuttering to add extra nonsense syllables in “AT&T.” “Whenever, whenever, whenever, when-e-e-e-e-ever.”

  10. The Shooby Taylor is just a goofball extreme example – it’s all like that, but come on, he’s not a legit “artist”. I’m just playin’.

    What about Sting/Police. Obvious example is “de do do do”. Is he saying anything in Masoko Tanga? The title song on Regatta De Blanc… maybe that’s all there is.

  11. I’ve never actually heard anything by them but doesn’t that band Sugar Rios (sic) sing all of their songs in a made up language?

  12. cdm wins.

  13. BigSteve

    Sigur Ros only did the made-up language for one album, as far as I can tell. And they stole the idea from the 70s French prog band Magma.

    But neither of those are examples nonsense syllables exactly, which is what this thread is supposed to be about, so I’m calling shenanigans.

    Didn’t the singer in the Cocteau Twins sing syllables that were just sounds without meaning?

  14. I was pretty sure cdm was making a joke about Icelandic not being a real language.

  15. Damn, Sourbob, I thought you had my back.

    Nope, I was talking about the made up language, although I probably wouldn’t be able to discern it from the songs actually sung in Icelandic.

    Shenanigans, eh Big Steve? I direct your attention to the instructions at the top of this post which state: “Songwriters who frequently employ nonsense syllables to carry the melody?”

    I suspect that the made up language was largely comprised of nonsense syllables, and the nonsense lyrics were carrying the melodies.

    I’m a strict constructionist. Yup, me and Antonin Scalia.

    Mod, would you care to give us a ruling here?

  16. Mr. Moderator

    The Sigur Ros example may fall under “one notable exampe,” even if it is an entire album’s worth of songs in this nonsense language. That’s just one Mod’s opinion. I won’t strike your suggestion from the record or bring shame upon you.

  17. Hmmm… So Big Steve has already gotten to you, eh?

    Alright, I’ll withdraw my suggestion. You can’t fight Rock Town Hall.

  18. BigSteve

    My point was just that I didn’t think the lyrics on Sigur Ros’album () were ‘nonsense’ but a constructed language, like Magma’s Kobaïan. If the syllables have meaning, even if the meaning is known only to the writer, then it’s not technically nonsense. Unlike the Cocteau Twins, where the syllables are only sounds to carry the melody, and they just happen to be more varied than la la la.

  19. I still say it would’ve been funnier if you were just pretending not to know Icelandic was a language.

  20. Mr. Moderator

    To tell the truth, I thought that was the joke cdm was making in the first place. I had saved his comment in my Comment of the Month folder to review for consideration at month’s end.

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