Once again, having a google alert on the word “mmmbop” has proven to be quite interesting, as I’m not sure this article would show up on a search with the word “Hanson” (although the author does seem to jump between spellings) Be sure to check out the source for more reasons why some other songs are also about drugs/heroin.
It’s almost second-nature for musicians to write about drugs. Especially when you’re dealing with rock, where the idea is to do what everybody tells you not to do, and make it look like it’s cool. (This is probably where spandex came from.)
The catch is that musicians aren’t supposed to openly write about drugs (except in the case of rap, discussed here recently). They find metaphors, and usually those metaphors are about as complex as John Wayne’s dialogue. Everyone knows about the La’s “There She Goes,” i.e. the girl-as-heroin metaphor; or the Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” whose blatant “shoot, shoot” euphemisms all but sell the stuff. The chemical factor in David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was even spelled out clearly in “Ashes to Ashes” (with the line “We all know Major Tom’s a Junkie”), in case the kids missed the classic “floating above the earth” metaphor.
With songs like “Hotel California,” “Under the Bridge,” “Golden Brown” and “Comfortably Numb” all containing their crystal-clear to slightly hazy euphemisms, the list of artists who have poetically flouted their bad habits before the mainstream media is eons long.
But what about the more cleverly disguised songs? You won’t convince me that the only heroin songs out there are the obvious ones. It’s almost guaranteed that somewhere, some good-guy songwriter is kicking back, having pulled off such a well-disguised smack anthem that no one even noticed it. My mission is to uncover some of these sneaky writers. They deserve, at the very least, to be recognized for their ingenuity, and praised for fooling everyone.
Hansen, MMMBop – Dude, Hansen is totally on drugs. They may look innocent with their grinning, middle-school charm, but what they wrote here is more or less a side-spun commercial for the smack. Take the deceptively negative opening lyrics: “You have so many relationships in this life, but only one or two will last.” “Hold on to the ones who really care, in the end they’ll be the only ones there.” Such a verse could have come from Layne Staley himself, holed up alone in his apartment with his one lifetime companion. It sounds like a cold, pained wake-up call to the futility of meaningful relationships outside of substance abuse. Yes, I can see it could also just be about friendship. But let’s go further. “Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose … keep planting to find out which one grows.” Now, experimentation is built into the teenage mind, and we all know what comes from poppies. It’s a safe bet that any flower reference in a rock song is a neon arrow pointing to a drug reference (the classic example is the Stone Temple Pilots line, “pick a flower, hold your breath and drift away”). But still, it’s not enough. No, the real beef is the chorus: “MMMbop, tick a ta ba do ba, dooby dab a do ba, tick a tab a doo.” Have you ever heard more nonsensical singing? Those scattered, meaningless words are perhaps the biggest sign of an in-over-his-head singer who forgets his own lyrics, and if you don’t believe me, listen to anything off Down in Albion. I rest my case, Hanson are a mess of substance abuse. I’m definitely taking this to the authorities.