Nonsense Syllables

To me, one of the most fun parts about music is noticing trends in your own listening habits. For instance, I’ve often found that I’m willing to make lyrical concessions if the melody is particularly good. I can think of no better examples of this than the mix I’m about to present to you. The following songs all contain great uses of nonsense syllables, ranging from la las to uh ohs. Some might be a bit silly, but I can promise you that you’ll find at least one to sing along to. Special thanks to my good buddy Austin for helping me put this together.

You Aint No Picasso Mix: Nonsense Syllables

MP3: Elf Power – Hot Love (la la)
The last two minutes and thirty-six seconds of this song consist only of “la la” and the occasional “ooh.” Let that sink in for a second. You know you’ve written a great melody when over half the song can be nothing but nonsense. Crank up the volume and force this cover of a T Rex classic upon your neighbors. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.

MP3: Talking Heads – Pulled Up (oh oh)
It was a toss up between this song and “Psycho Killer” for the best use of oh ohs by David Byrne.

MP3: Thunderbirds Are Now – Make History (ba da)
The main portion of this song is among the best that TAN! have ever written. But where it separates itself from the rest of their songs is the outro. The last minute contains one of the most catchy nonsense melodies that I’ve ever heard.

MP3: Suburban Kids With Biblical Names – Rent a Wreck (ba ba)
Is this not the cutest intro ever? The “ba da ba” melody perfectly kicks this song off and sets the tone quite nicely. Also, there’s a great contrast between the opening, quiet ba das and then the explosive second time through.

MP3: Oh No! Oh My! – Walk in the Park (bap da bop)
While they serve more as a nice transition between verses, the ba da bops in this song couldn’t be left off the list.

MP3: The 5 6 7 8s – Woo Hoo (woo hoo)
While I originally heard and fell in love with this song through Kill Bill, I can’t hear it now without thinking Vonage. Even so, it has literally no words in it, giving it the highest nonsense rating of all these songs.

MP3: XTC – Too Many Cooks (ba ba ba)
I’m not sure that there’s a better way to start off a song than to kick it off with with some great nonsense lyrics. Thanks to XTC for practically writing the book on melody and nonsense.

MP3: Parlour Boys – Lovers (uh oh)
Much like TAN!’s “Make History,” this song really won me over with the outro. Hearing the ‘uh oh’ bit done live is always a blast as well.

MP3: Belle and Sebastian – We Are The Sleepyheads (ba ta da)
While the rest of this song might be fairly lame by B&S standards, the use of ba ta das keep it from being a complete let down.

MP3: Pavement – Cut Your Hair (ooh ooh ooh)
If you know me in real life, there’s a startlingly good chance that you’ve heard me do an off-key rendition of the intro to this song. I haven’t got the range of Malkmus, but it’s okay. No one can write ’em like he does anyway.

So now that you’ve read it, feel free to tell me what songs you think should have been included on the list.

36 thoughts on “Nonsense Syllables”

  1. imperial teen – yoo hoo


    and there is some white stripes song with good syllabic parts but I can’t think of it…

  2. Oslo in the Summertime?

    up-up-up-up-up-up ah-oh, ah-oh

    Is there a trick to transcribing these?

  3. White Stripes – “Fell in Love with a Girl” or “Little Room.”

    Imperial Teen – “Yoo Hoo.”

    The Monkees – “Last Train to Clarksville.”

  4. wolf parade-“dear sons and daughters of hungry ghosts”
    that would be one i would include with all the la la la la la las

  5. I distinctly remember lots of “Bum bums” in Casper & The Cookies – Yer Birthday…

    And how abouts Kaiser Chiefs’ Na Na Na Na Naa? I don’t think I have to point out the nonsense syllables in that one…

  6. Oh, I left two off the list just because EVERYONE has heard them:

    The Beatles – I Am the Walrus (koo koo ka choo)
    The Shins – New Slang (oooh’s)

    But you guys have some great suggestions. I can’t believe I didn’t think of some of these. Ugh. Oh well, I’ve always said that my readers were much smarter than I am. This, apparently, is still true lol

  7. I think that The Clean’s “Wipe Me, I’m Lucky” and Hidden Cameras “Doot Doot Ploot” would have sounded good in this mix too.

  8. Of Montreal – Lysergic Bliss
    The “ba da da” section at like the 2:30 mark is somewhat of a religious experience for me.

  9. “Love Me Like You” by Magic Numbers includes both “ooh ooh ooh-ooh” and “ahhh ahhh ahh ahh.”

    “Who Loves the Sun” by the VU is a classic (“ba ba ba baaaa”).

  10. Kudos to the person who suggested TMBG’s “Exquisite Dead Guy”, good call.

    Also, Lisa Loeb’s “Garden of Delights” has a delighfully obnoxious amount of “bop bop ba da bop”s at the end.

    Your blog is slowly becoming one of my favorites, awesome.

  11. There’s another song with no lyrics that could qualify for either “Woo hoo” or “Cha-cha,” Interpol’s wordless “5”.
    It might even seem that it has no lyrics, but that metallic-y scraping sound is actually Kessler’s voice!

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