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March 10, 2019 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Can you think of some tricky but fun songs to memorize?

Mr. just_ducky recently memorized the lyrics to Yakko's World and is pretty pleased about it. He'd like to memorize some more tricky songs. So far we've thought of these songs:
-One Week by the Barenaked Ladies
-It's the End of the World As We Know It by REM
-Word Crimes by Weird Al
-Intergalactic by the Beastie Boys

Songs he already knows include the Real Slim Shady, the Fresh Prince Theme Song, and Bohemian Rhapsody. He's looking for songs with a good tune, so that they are fun to sing. Hit us with your ideas, please!
posted by just_ducky to Media & Arts (73 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
The Elements by Tom Lehrer.
Weird Al’s Hardware Store is also good.
posted by Melismata at 4:01 PM on March 10 [8 favorites]

Guns and Ships from Hamilton. Or anything from Hamilton, really, but that one’s super intricate.
posted by bananacabana at 4:08 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]

I've been working for years on "Vesoul" and "La Valse a Mille Temps."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:08 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

I am the very model of a modern major general (same tune as Tom Lehrer's Elements song)
posted by basalganglia at 4:11 PM on March 10 [9 favorites]

Semi-Charmed Life.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:12 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]

Talking Hard Work by Woody Guthrie
posted by stinkfoot at 4:14 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel
La Vie Boheme from Rent
posted by umwhat at 4:15 PM on March 10 [10 favorites]

Hand in my Pocket by Alanis Morrissette. I was talking with a friend the other day about how hard it is to remember what the other hand is doing each time. Also, it’s a really fun song to sing.
posted by Night_owl at 4:17 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]

Rapture, by Blondie, is totally random and fun.
posted by mochapickle at 4:18 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]

Here and Now by Letters to Cleo
Recovery by Frank Turner
posted by jacy at 4:18 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]

Getting down Blues Traveller's Hook was pretty much the pride-and-joy memorize these lyrics song of the summer between my sophomore and junior years. I can still do the bridge from memory 25 years later.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 4:20 PM on March 10 [12 favorites]

Tons of great early-ish popular rap is fun for this. Salt-n-Pepa's Expression has great lyrics, and nearly anything by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Everything that Glitters is a more obscure favorite of mine, but of course there's the classic that allows whole family reunions to sing along : Parents Just Don't Understand). Digital Underground had some fun options too (The Humpty Dance : "Stop what you're doing, 'cause I'm about to ruin, the image and the style that you're used to...)
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 4:21 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

@basalganglia, I have a baritone friend who can sing the Modern Major-General so fast I've seen him leave pianists in his wake. And the accompaniment is just block chords.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:22 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

I've been Everywhere, by Johnny Cash.
Reba, by Phish
posted by bondcliff at 4:25 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]

"Getting Married Today" by Stephen Sondheim (here performed by Madeleine Kahn) was always a fun party trick in college.
posted by mykescipark at 4:38 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]

Another Jonny Cash option: One Piece at a Time
Maybe Alice's Restaurant
posted by mce at 4:40 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]

Brand New Day from Dr Horrible
You're Welcome from Moana has a fast rap
Sigur Ros - some songs are in a made up language called Hopelandic
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:47 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Salt-N-Pepa - Shoop
posted by Munching Langolier at 4:55 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Who Let the Dogs Out by The Baha Men
Largo al factotum from The Barber of Seville. The most famous part ("Fiiiiiigaro, Fiiiigaro, Figarofigarofigarofigaro Fiiiiigaro") starts at 3:20.

In general, any patter song has good potential for this purpose.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 5:00 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

The first two They Might Be Giants albums have some songs with some pretty fast talkin' and weird prosody. I also find myself sometimes singing "Dead" from their Flood album.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:19 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]

Anyone who can do Johnny Cash's "I've been everywhere" at an open mic pretty much never has to buy a beer. It's damn impressive to see.
posted by notsnot at 5:42 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Rapper's Delight and/or 8th Wonder by the Sugar Hill Gang are two of my favorites.
posted by sundrop at 5:42 PM on March 10

It's pretty obscure but Michael Clem's Going Back to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch might be fun to memorize just because.
posted by bondcliff at 5:51 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Not a song but there's The Announcers test.
posted by BoscosMom at 5:53 PM on March 10

Is Run-DMC too on the nose? It’s Tricky
posted by eyeball at 5:57 PM on March 10

Tom Waits – "Step Right Up" (that's right, you too can be the proud owner of the quality goes in before the name goes on…)
posted by Lexica at 6:04 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

All for the Best From Godspell is one you can sing together, though only one person’s part is tricky separately.
posted by FencingGal at 6:07 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Oh! Joseph's Coat from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! The whole song is fun because there's some really clever rhyming and a lively skipalong sort of tune AND if you sing it alone you can do all the parts in different voices.

But the BEST part of the song is the very end where you get to sing all the names of the colors. Like so:

It was red and yellow and green and brown
And scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And red and yellow and green and brown and
Scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And blue

posted by mochapickle at 6:10 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]

Fifty Nifty United States and the Animaniacs songs for US presidents are both fun and pretty useful (though the latter is a bit outdated). Ditto Tim Lehrer's elements song, though anybody who could manage that countries of the world song is probably up to the challenge.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:11 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]

Daft Punk - Technologic
posted by bfranklin at 6:31 PM on March 10

Trout Fishing in America's "Proper Cup of Coffee" might suit (check the tempo change at 3:00).

Just fun to sing? Well, what would life be without "Homegrown Tomatoes"? Maybe try some "Texas Cooking"? Or maybe sing like it's "Texas, 1947"? Damn, I miss Guy Clark.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:19 PM on March 10

The 'supersonic' part of 'Rap God'?
posted by WCityMike at 7:31 PM on March 10

Rapper's Delight is fun to perform and a beast to memorize.
posted by homodachi at 7:40 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J
posted by sevenofspades at 8:13 PM on March 10

clipping– The Breach
posted by rodlymight at 8:16 PM on March 10

Oh, I just thought of one more: Double Dutch Bus would be even better :)
posted by sevenofspades at 8:18 PM on March 10

If you're doing Gilbert & Sullivan the Nightmare Song from Iolanthe is also fun.

If you're going down an operatic road the number from Barber of Seville that's really a minefield isn't Figaro's aria so much as Bartolo's "A un dottor della mia sorte" (though the patter part doesn't start until halfway through.)

My fave, "Getting Married Today" from Sondheim's Company, is already mentioned above.
posted by Smearcase at 8:19 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Highway 80 by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer.
posted by darchildre at 9:09 PM on March 10

TVTropes also has a patter song page.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:22 PM on March 10

"What's This?" from The Nightmare before Christmas
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:04 AM on March 11

Lou Bega's Mambo No 5
posted by Neeuq Nus at 4:35 AM on March 11

Oh, just thought of another one that would be impressive to learn: Sam, by the Meat Puppets
posted by bondcliff at 7:19 AM on March 11

Fantasy by Ludacris.
posted by tryniti at 8:12 AM on March 11

"Mari Mac" by Great Big Sea has a fairly short verse, but it speeds up every time. Here's the album version -- but the live version on "Rant & Roar," with the crowd trying to sing along, is awesome.

Actually, a lot of their songs are good for singing along to by a man: they are well-represented in my Singing Loud In The Car playlist.

Frank Turner also has a lot of songs with a steady stream of lyrics that can trip you up. (Frank Turner is also on that list a bunch, along with "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" and the punk scat of "Jesus Built My Hotrod" and of course Louis Prima's "Angelina" )
posted by wenestvedt at 8:14 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

Tom Lehrer's "Lobachevsky" is are most other Tom Lehrer songs, too. (Tip of the hat to Rhaomi!)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:19 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

We didn't start the fire by Billy Joel.
I"ve been Everywhere Man. But the Australian version so you you'd have to learn a bunch of very unfamiliar place names and Australian place names are awesome.
posted by wwax at 8:51 AM on March 11

I enjoy having Blinded by the Light memorized (also Paradise City)
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:55 AM on March 11

"My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" by Moxy Fruvous
posted by emelenjr at 9:13 AM on March 11

ummmm... 88 Lines About 44 Women
posted by Bron at 9:16 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

How about "Enid" by the very same Barenaked Ladies, especially the background rap toward the end of the song. Holy cow, is it ever nonsensical. Here they are, because they are so damned infuriating to time right when singing:

I can teach you how to dance, how to sing, how to knit
How to make things that you never ever made before
Enid, I can teach you how to use cookie cutters
To make crazy things out of Play-Doh
Little houses, little farms, little accessories for your mom
For your Barbie set, for your friends and your family
Enid, I can teach you how to snowmobile, cross-country ski, snowshoe
But I don't want to!

"The Seventh Stranger" by Duran Duran. Of course, I'm biased (see nickname), but it's as close to poetry as you're gonna get. Dark, brooding and very introspective. I was quite pleased when I memorized it and "New Religion," which has its own minor staccato rap (!). God, I needed more friends in high school.
posted by theseventhstranger at 9:27 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

Ooh, what about the first rap on Broadway: the Rock Island Overture?

He's just a bang beat, bell ringing
Big haul, great go, neck-or-nothing, rip roarin'
Every time a bull's eye salesman
That's Professor Harold Hill, Harold Hill

posted by basalganglia at 9:50 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

Kris Kristopherson - Best of All Possible Worlds
Townes Van Zandt - Mr Mudd and Mr Gold
posted by TheCoug at 10:00 AM on March 11

I find Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" really enjoyable to sing. The second verse gets even more tongue-twistery.

Who's that gigolo on the street
With his hands in his pockets and his crocodile feet
Hanging off the curb, looking all disturbed
At the boys from home, they all came running
They were making noise, manhandling toys
That's the girls on the block with the nasty curls
Wearing padded bras, sucking beers through straws
Dropping down their drawers, where did you get yours?

Who's looking good today?
Who's looking good in every way?
No style rookie
You better watch don't mess with me
No money man can win my love
It's sweetness that I'm thinking of
We always hang in a Buffalo stance
We do the dive every time we dance
I'll give you love baby not romance
I'll make a move nothing left to chance
So don't you get fresh with me

posted by fiercecupcake at 10:01 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

Without a doubt, the song I have the most fun singing is Black Jesus by Everlast.
posted by lyssabee at 10:53 AM on March 11

To Sit in Solemn Silence from the Mikado

Now is this not ridiculous from Pirates of Penzance

The Galaxy Song by Monty Python

Whenever life gets you down Mrs. Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you've had quite enough...

Just, remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

The sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the Milky Way

Our galaxy itself, contains a hundred billion stars
It's a hundred thousand light years side-to-side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us its just three thousand light years wide

We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whiz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is

So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space
Cause there's bugger-all down here on Earth.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:25 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]

Where It's At by Beck
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 12:29 PM on March 11

For folkier types, Burns' Sheriffmuir Fight and Kipling's Anchor Song are memory-pushing standards.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 1:30 PM on March 11

Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout (would not take the garbage out!)
posted by cda at 1:47 PM on March 11

Childz Play by Cee-Lo Green, feat. Ludacris!

That Gray Goose got me loose, but my eyes were tight.
posted by nosila at 2:08 PM on March 11

Beck's Loser has a bunch of non-sequitur bonkers lyrics.

Anything by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, especially Tha Crossroads or First of the Month would be a challenge due to the rapidness of the speech.
posted by mmascolino at 2:28 PM on March 11

Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues. Bonus marks if you can sync it to the video.
posted by offog at 3:54 PM on March 11

Hayes Carll, "KMAG YOYO" and "Down the Road Tonight." Both lyrically packed and singable at a good clip.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:30 PM on March 11

I mean, you could do some King Missile too, but now we're getting into spoken word territory.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:09 PM on March 11

Also: Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan; Without Me and Lose Yourself by Eminem; It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock; Ain't Goin' Down til the Sun Comes Up by Garth Brooks; Mediate by INXS; Bust a Move by Young MC; Give it Away by the Red Hot Chili Peppers; King Without A Crown by Matisyahu.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:18 PM on March 11

I love this question.

Everything off the Pogues' Rum Sodomy and the Lash.
Oscar Brands's A Clean Song and Frigging in the Rigging.
John Prine: Come Back to us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:40 PM on March 11

Man of Very Few Words, by Mefite flapjax at midnite. Here are the lyrics, which name-drop multiple favorite singers and songwriters.
posted by she's not there at 5:02 AM on March 12

Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega
posted by exceptinsects at 9:53 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]

I Want You by Savage Garden!

There's also A Thousand Words by the same band.
posted by divabat at 5:08 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

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