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Science Fails in Pop Music Songs

I’ve found that I enjoy certain types of music more when I don’t listen to the words too closely. However, a mild addiction to karaoke and a lifelong inability to “just let it go” has made it impossible for me to avoid knowing the lyrics.

We’ve been known to criticize how science is portrayed in movies and television shows here on Southern Fried Science. Pop music is far from innocent when it comes to scientific misunderstandings, and it seems only fair that I criticize that genre as well. Here are some recent examples that have been driving me crazy.

Metereology/Space Science

1) Katy Perry’s feel-good anthem “Firework” contains a misunderstanding about weather, or at least about emergency preparedness for severe weather:

“If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow”

I understand the sentiment. Perry is trying to say that good things come after bad things, which is a nice message. However, seeing rainbows is more commonly associated with mild rain then major storms like hurricanes. According to NOAA’s National Weather Service:

“The main ingredients to see a rainbow are the following:

  • You need to be standing with the sun to your back and the rain in front of you.
  • The sun needs to be less than 42o above the horizon.
  • The sun’s rays must be hitting the raindrops to create the rainbow.”

In other words, you wouldn’t see a rainbow if:

  • It is no longer raining
  • It is too cloudy or dark for the sun’s rays to reach a raindrop
  • You aren’t outside or near a window

Most hurricanes that are expected to be strong  enough to cause serious damage come with an evacuation order, and most residents wouldn’t return home until long after the storm was over.  In other words, it would no longer be raining and there would be no rainbow by the time people returned home to assess the damage caused by the storm. Hurricanes that wouldn’t require an evacuation would still involve people staying inside and away from windows, so you couldn’t see a rainbow even if you were still in town.

Or, put another way,

“Obviously you can tell she… has never been through a hurricane. I never saw a rainbow after a hurricane, just destroyed buildings and fallen down trees”

This 2005 image of Rita's aftermath shows that in fact, after a hurricane comes a desperate attempt to rebuild a shattered life. Image from ScaredMonkeys.com

 

 

2) Far East Movement’s “Rocketeer” has several lyrics that are troubling to anyone with a basic understanding of planetary and atmospheric science.

“Above the clouds in the atmosphere, phere
Just say the words and we outta here, outta here”

As it turns out, the atmosphere’s starting point isn’t “above the clouds”. It starts right at the Earth’s surface. Just ask the friendly geniuses at NASA.

This later verse just gives me a headache:

“Nah, I never been in space before
But I never seen a face like yours”

I get the idea- the girl he’s hitting on at the bar is extremely attractive. However, why would visits to space result in having seen faces more beautiful than those on Earth?

As near as I can tell, only six of the nearly 7 billion humans in existence presently live in what could be arguably described as “space”- the crew of the international space station. Don’t get me wrong, Russian Federation Cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri is a good looking dude. However, having seen his face does not cause me to re-evaluate how I view the attractiveness of Earthbound humans.

Genetics

3) Though it’s not really a song lyric, part of Lady Gaga’s 2011 Grammy performance caused quite a stir. Prior to singing  “born this way“, a new song with a gay rights message, she was delivered to the awards show inside a giant egg.

Photo credit: Danny Moloshok, Reuters, as seen on Time.com

She claimed to have been in the egg for 72 hours prior to the Grammys. When asked about the symbolism behind the egg, Lady Gaga’s creative director Laurie Gibson had this to say:

“It was necessary to incubate her for a certain time, because tonight she is actually birthing a new race, a new race that doesn’t have the ability to judge or hate in their DNA, so she is incubating right now so she goes through that process.”

Um…wow. I really don’t even know where to start here. The performance was pretty good, I guess, but I don’t think it resulted in the birth of a new race. I could point out the fact that it takes more than 72 hours for evolution to occur, or that evolution is a population-wide phenomenon and not the result of one individual, or that hatred and intolerance isn’t really a genetic thing. Mostly, though, I  want to know how she went to the bathroom while stuck for 3 days in a container that isn’t big enough to stand up inside.

Zombie science (which is totally a science)

4) Usher’s “DJ Got us falling in love” shows that his knowledge of the paranormal is far inferior to his dancing ability:

“Thank God the week is done
I feel like a zombie come back to life (back back to life)”

I suspect what he is trying to say is that after slogging through a bad week, a visit to the club has reinvigorated him (I know the feeling).However,  zombie-philes know that his analogy doesn’t make sense. In the overwhelming majority of zombie lore, zomb-ism is incurable. You can’t bring a zombie back to life by making it no longer un-dead, you can only make it all-the-way dead. While I’ve occasionally felt all-the-way-dead the morning after a trip to the club, I don’t think this is what Usher was trying to say.

Usher could probably use one of these. Image from TreeHugger.com

Bonus: A musician corrects her own science fail


 

Can anyone think of another example? I’ll send a free Southern Fried Science coffee mug to the person who provides the best one (as a comment below) in between now and next Friday at 5:00 p.m.