Songs where the lyrics consist mostly of a long list of objects!
December 4, 2021 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I’m curious about people’s favorite examples of songs where the lyrics mainly consist of just listing off a sequence of objects. I feel like there are a lot of songs that use this lyrical trope but I’m having trouble coming up with generally known examples.

I guess the most well known example of this must be “The Twelve Days of Christmas” but I’m more interested in recent popular music genres (rock, hip hop, pop, folk, etc). My musical tastes are somewhat idiosyncratic so the ones I thought of first are “Soldier’s Things” by Tom Waits, and “Fulfillment Centre” by Richard Dawson; but I know there are much better known songs like this. (Also “We Didn’t Start The Fire” does not count. This is about objects, not names of people/events.)

More overthinking: there seem to be a couple of directions that songwriters go with this. There is usually a subtext to the list. Either the objects in the list are meant to suggest a relatively coherent characterization of a person or situation (Waits), or else they are chosen for their incoherence, as an implied criticism of something, say, like consumer society (Dawson). There might be other subtexts, like suggesting abundance (“12 Days”). I’m thinking there’s a novelty song or two where food items are listed but that seems less interesting to think about for some reason.

(I have no real reason for asking this question except for fun — I love when people post song questions on here. And because the last time I came up with one, I regret forgetting about it before posting it!)
posted by demonic winged headgear to Media & Arts (85 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Weird Al - Hardware Store
posted by 7segment at 1:32 PM on December 4, 2021 [5 favorites]


Soldier, soldier, won't you marry me?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2021


Not particularly new/modern:
My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music

Green Grow the Rushes O
posted by belladonna at 1:42 PM on December 4, 2021 [5 favorites]


The lyrics to the Negativland song “Car Bomb” are just a list of automotive components (broken up by an occasional strangled cry of “Car bomb!!!”).
posted by ejs at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


Special Ed, "I Got It Made"?
posted by runincircles at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2021


TVTropes has you covered, with subcategories even.
posted by credulous at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


I've been on a bit of a (post)punk binge recently and came up with these. Vaguely ordered by the percentage of just object naming, as IDLES has a fair amount of non-list in the lyrics.

Sports - Viagra Boys

Rumpus Room - Xiu Xiu

Mr. Motivator - IDLES
posted by crossswords at 1:47 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


I Love by Tom T. Hall.
posted by mefireader at 1:48 PM on December 4, 2021 [3 favorites]


I hate to say it, but Eddie Murphy - Boogie in your Butt (possibly nsfw)
posted by moonmilk at 1:49 PM on December 4, 2021 [5 favorites]


Waters of March is terrific although the Portuguese lyrics are better than the English ones.
posted by johngoren at 1:53 PM on December 4, 2021 [11 favorites]


It doesn’t exactly fit your criteria, but the Tubes song “What Do You Want From Life?” ends with a long and absurd list of objects.
posted by ejs at 1:57 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


New York, USA By Serge Gainsbourg is mostly a list of buildings. I don’t know if it’s funny on purpose but with the lyric “First National City Bank!” It always makes me chuckle.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:58 PM on December 4, 2021


The They Might Be Giants song “Alphabet of Nations” is a list of country names in alphabetical order.
posted by ejs at 2:03 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


A personal favorite is Queens Of The Stone Age - Feel Good Hit Of The Summer.
posted by buntastic at 2:13 PM on December 4, 2021 [5 favorites]


My favorite things from sounds of music
posted by sillysally at 2:20 PM on December 4, 2021 [4 favorites]


Galactic - I Got It (What You Need)
Freeland - We Want Your Soul
posted by eponym at 2:22 PM on December 4, 2021


Tom Lehrers Elements Song?
posted by crocomancer at 2:23 PM on December 4, 2021 [9 favorites]




Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3
posted by miles per flower at 2:41 PM on December 4, 2021 [4 favorites]


It has some extra lyrical glue, but what about Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time?"
The first day I got me a fuel pump
And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
Then I got me a transmission and all of the chrome
The little things I could get in my big lunchbox
Like nuts, an' bolts, and all four shocks
But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddy's mobile home
posted by jzb at 2:43 PM on December 4, 2021 [4 favorites]


The Contents of Lincoln's Pockets by Rainer Maria actually contains the list of what was in his pockets at the time of his assassination.
posted by purpleclover at 2:44 PM on December 4, 2021 [3 favorites]


His Indie World by Mary Lou Lord lists a whole bunch of 90s-era indie acts that are cooler than she is.

I don't think I fit into his indie world
Guided By Voices and Velocity Girl
Eric's Trip and Rocket Ship, Rancid and Rocket from The Crypt
Bikini Kill and Built to Spill, it's plain to see that I don't fit

posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


Suzanne Vega's "Predictions" lists ways of telling the future. Not objects, exactly, but most of the things on the list are objects (mice, dice, fountains, fishes, etc.)
posted by Redstart at 3:05 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


These Are The Daves I Know - Bruce McCullough / Kids in the Hall

Joseph's Coat of Many Colors - Andrew Lloyd Weber / Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

If I Had $1000000 - Barenaked Ladies

Numb - U2

The 1989 McDonald's Menu Song
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:13 PM on December 4, 2021 [6 favorites]


Greens Greens - Stephen Sondheim / Into The Woods
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:19 PM on December 4, 2021


Things You Left Behind" by The Nails. Slightly NSFW.
posted by mmoncur at 3:23 PM on December 4, 2021


The catalogue aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni (though it doesn't list objects, as such...)
posted by altolinguistic at 3:28 PM on December 4, 2021


The Kiwi Burger song.
posted by socky_puppy at 3:31 PM on December 4, 2021


Would a list of anxieties count? "The end of the world as we know it" by REM.
posted by effluvia at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


Nancy Drew by Tuscadero

Jacket by Shallow Gravy (Hank's band from the Venture Bros)
posted by the primroses were over at 4:01 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


I’ve Been Everywhere written by G. Mack, popularized by Hank Snow, and a hit for Johnny Cash.
posted by sudogeek at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2021 [6 favorites]


The children's song Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes? What about Dem Bones?

There are various month and days of the week songs, too... but if going that simple is ok, then I'd argue that the most popular song like this is actually the ABC song...
posted by stormyteal at 4:06 PM on December 4, 2021


if people count... Le Tigre's Hot Topic

a list of imaginary spectacles... ELP's Karn Evil 9 (1st impression) (link starts about 5min into it to spare you high progressive rock soloing - then skip ahead to 8:30 and 11:40 after the initial list if you're really not into more high progressive rock soloing)

this might be a bit of a loose fit but since you already have one song by him... Tom Waits - Step Right Up

and here's another of emotional states... Tom Waits - Emotional Weather Report
posted by kokaku at 4:12 PM on December 4, 2021 [3 favorites]


These Foolish Things?
posted by LizardBreath at 4:19 PM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


Lords of Acid : LSD = Truth
posted by glonous keming at 4:30 PM on December 4, 2021




Brian Eno’s Third Uncle
posted by cakelite at 5:20 PM on December 4, 2021


Look I know you said not names of people but I think if you're seeking songs with lists of perceived objects, Mambo Number 5 is at least in the spirit of the ask
posted by phunniemee at 5:25 PM on December 4, 2021 [10 favorites]


ZZ Top - Sharp Dressed Man
posted by cali59 at 5:43 PM on December 4, 2021


Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon.
posted by Oyéah at 5:55 PM on December 4, 2021 [4 favorites]


The Elements, Expanded by Marian Call, if you like the Lehrer original

This Might Be A Wiki has a whole page of TMBG songs where the Lyrics are (almost) entirely a list.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 6:26 PM on December 4, 2021


Ooh ooh! Earlier this year our local film fest showed the documentary The Donut King, which featured this song: Doughnut
posted by pepper bird at 6:42 PM on December 4, 2021


Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner by The Evolution Control Committee list off foods.

Craigslist by Weird Al is a reading of listings ostensibly posted on the classified ads website, and Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me lists off the sorts of things that get forwarded in e-mails (does that happen anymore?)

Pr0n S0ng is a lot list of smutty things said with (according to someone) "no bad words". NSFW nevertheless.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 6:42 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Boxes and Squares by Tank and the Bangas
posted by chrisulonic at 6:48 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


REM’s It’s the End of the World As We Know It.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:19 PM on December 4, 2021


Daft Punk Is Playing At My House by LCD Soundsystem.

You Were Right by Built to Spill.
posted by kensington314 at 7:48 PM on December 4, 2021


Farm Auction by Garnet Rogers
Kelligrew's Soiree
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:06 PM on December 4, 2021


Kathleen Edwards' Pink Emerson Radio does this to devastating effect. Each verse catalogs meaningful items in her home, lamenting in the chorus "there's no time to wait, there's no time to waste," before revealing in the last verse "Sirens up on the street, Smoke is burning my eyes, And the neighbors are screaming at me. I can only carry one thing, I can only carry one thing."

Breaks my heart every time.
posted by platinum at 8:24 PM on December 4, 2021


"I've been everywhere" originally by Geoff Mack but covered by dozens of artists most recognizably probably Johnny Cash's version.

And on insufficient preview I see already mentioned. But really it's been covered a lot
posted by Mitheral at 8:29 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


There are lots of songs with lists in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, but probably the best example is “I’m Called Little Buttercup.”

(My cat’s name is Tommy, and sometimes I call him “SoftTommy and his Succulent Chops.”)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:40 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


"That Funny Feeling" is mostly this.
The surgeon generals' pop-up shop, Robert Iger's face
Discount Etsy agitprop, Bugles' take on race
Female Colonel Sanders, easy answers, civil war
The whole world at your fingertips, the ocean at your door
posted by Rhaomi at 9:29 PM on December 4, 2021


You're the top!
You're the Coliseum
You're the top!
You're the Louver Museum
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet
A Shakespeare's sonnet
You're Mickey Mouse
You're the Nile
You're the Tower of Pisa
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop
But if, baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top
You're the top
You're Mahatma Gandhi
You're the top
You're Napoleon Brandy
You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary
You're cellophane
You're sublime
You're a turkey dinner
You're the time of a Derby winner
I'm a toy balloon that's fated soon to pop
But if, baby, I'm the bottom
You're the top
You're the top
You're an Arrow collar
You're the top
You're a Coolidge dollar
You're the nimble tread
Of the feet of Fred Astaire
You're an O'Neill drama
You're Whistler's mama
You're camembert
You're a rose
You're Inferno's Dante
You're the nose
On the great Durante
I'm just in the way
As the French would say, "de trop"
But if, baby, I'm the bottom
You're the top
You're the top
You're a Waldorf salad
You're the top
You're a Berlin ballad
You're the baby grand of a lady and a gent
You're an Old Dutch master
You're Mrs. Aster
You're Pepsodent
You're romance
You're the steppes of Russia
You're the pants on a Roxy usher
I'm a lazy lout, who's just about to stop
But if, baby, I'm the bottom
You're the top
posted by brookeb at 9:37 PM on December 4, 2021 [8 favorites]


King Missile - Equivalencies
posted by aws17576 at 11:24 PM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Orange Tic Tac by Sophia Kennedy. It's mostly, but not exclusively, a list, with the bonus that it has a very list-y cadence.
posted by looli at 12:58 AM on December 5, 2021


Rhode Island is famous for you - version here by Blossom Dearie - features a list of things coming from each US state.
posted by rongorongo at 1:19 AM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]


I Got Life (this version is from the movie Hair) starts with a list of non-physical assets such as charms and freedom, and then segues into a list of body parts.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:29 AM on December 5, 2021


Barbara Streisand's version of "Come To The Supermarket (In Old Peking)" fits a list of 34 items in less than 2 minutes. Not recommended for casual karaoke.
posted by rongorongo at 3:11 AM on December 5, 2021


> Green Grow the Rushes O
- along with The 12 Days of Christmas - there are whole category of list songs that grow incrementally like this. I like The Rattlin' Bog - Irish Rovers version - and Cos'è uno by Riccardo Tessi, for example.
posted by rongorongo at 3:37 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


I found this on the TV Tropes article listed above, but am going to give it a shout-out because I like it a lot - the cover of that campfire song "Boom-de-yada" ("I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills") that the Discovery Channel did for a couple ads once. (If for no other reason, go watch that link to get a look at Stephen Hawking rolling through a room and solemnly intoning "Boom-de-yada.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:58 AM on December 5, 2021


A bossa nova classic, Águas de Março. If I understand the interpretation, the song is about the little things of autumn arriving (in March in Brazil, when spring begins in the northern hemisphere).
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:17 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


The Nails: "88 Lines About 44 Women."
posted by spitbull at 5:23 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


All the Cash mentions reminded me of Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart.
posted by pepper bird at 5:23 AM on December 5, 2021


Tori Amos - Datura is mostly a list of plants.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 5:32 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


Me Gustas Tu by Manu Chao - a list of everything he likes in addition to "you".
Ramblin' Man by Lemon Jelly - includes a list of 67 place names - a sub-section of of which (From "Brixton" onwards ) have an initial letters which spell out the message "BAGPUSS SEES ALL THINGS" - (Bagpuss was the curator of a shop that contained lost things people had found).
posted by rongorongo at 6:12 AM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]


The verses in the Beatles’ Savoy Truffle are pretty good lists of desserts.
posted by kapers at 6:51 AM on December 5, 2021


Chemical calisthenics
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:24 AM on December 5, 2021


Cool Dry Place by the Traveling Wilburys
posted by chiefthe at 9:55 AM on December 5, 2021


Everything Must Go! by The Weakerthans definitely fits. It is a list of objects, and also feelings, a sort of emotional yard sale.
posted by esoterrica at 9:59 AM on December 5, 2021


I must belong somewhere -- Bright Eyes
posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 10:49 AM on December 5, 2021


Asleep at the Wheel - Last Meal
posted by Bron at 10:52 AM on December 5, 2021


I Love by Tom T. Hall.

Or if that's too sweet and earnest for you, there's always I Like by Heathen Dan.
posted by aws17576 at 11:56 AM on December 5, 2021


There's "Waters of March" by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

"Not" by Big Thief is a not a list of things so much as a list of things the subject of the song is not.
posted by ejs at 12:03 PM on December 5, 2021


La Vie Boheme, from Rent, has a mix of names and non-names but I think definitely belongs in any respectable playlist of "list songs".
posted by potrzebie at 12:26 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


Fun question! It may be a little more meta than you're looking for, but David Byrne's Knee Plays is arguably largely about thinking about objects. (Social Studies and I've Tried might count.)

It's not really music, but Joe Frank often goes off on long lists of things with a musical background. Eye in the Sky includes hundreds of Los Angeles streets. Iceland, He Hesitated, and Band Rehersal include long lists of household and industrial objects.

There's also the White Stripes' Rag and Bone. And possibly the B-52s Rock Lobster, if sea life counts as objects.
posted by eotvos at 1:29 PM on December 5, 2021


There's that one song that lists ironic things. You know the one.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2021


Left and Leaving by the Weakerthans (don’t know if it has too much not-list stuff)
Too High for the Supermarket by The Uninvited
posted by itsamermaid at 7:58 PM on December 5, 2021


Dumbledore, a parody of Hardware Store, so the list isn't "most" of the lyrics but it's certainly the standout part:


LyricsHe's got suits of armor, moving stairs, and ghosts who wander everywhere and
Talking pictures, headless knights, a trouble-making poltergeist and
Maps that know where people are, and fighting trees and flying cars and
Dinner plates that show up full, and cloaks that are invisible and

Magic mirrors, crystal balls, dead girls who live in toilet stalls and
Secret chambers down below where no one is allowed to go and
Giant spiders, unicorns, and chamber pots in every dorm and
Flying dragons, flying brooms, dementors when you're feeling doomed and

Potions that'll make you sneeze and vomit frogs incessantly
Exploding snap, cold butterbeer, Professor Snape's acidic sneer and
Snitches, quaffles, bludgers, wands, loose prisoners from Azkaban and
Hippogriffs and blast-end skrewts and magic frogs and cats and newts and

Every flavor jelly beans, gillyweed for human submarines and
Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, and animagus rats and dogs and
Dungeons, boggarts, broken rules, patronuses, and magic duels, and
Dirty rotten Slytherin cheaters, keepers, seekers, chasers, beaters

posted by one for the books at 10:39 PM on December 5, 2021


Allan Sherman has Shake Hands with your Uncle Max, which is mostly a list of relatives. I See Bones is also list-like. Holiday for States is a list in its simplest form, naming every single US state with minimal connecting words.
posted by one for the books at 10:48 PM on December 5, 2021


Jay Foreman's "Every Tube Station Song" - a mnemonic means of remembering all 270 stations on the London Underground.
"All the Words in the English Language" from Animaniacs - video is worth it for Yakko Warner's expression as he gets as far as "L".
The Booklovers by The Divine Comedy is a list of authors - a sort of "88 lines" for bibliophiles. Also from The Divine Comedy "Lost Property" - a list of all the stuff he has lost in life and his dream where he is re-united with it.
Pencil Full of Lead by Paolo Nuttini - another "Reasons to be Cheerful" type song.
The Slow Train by Flanders and Swann - list of obscure stations which were closed in the Beeching Cuts.
posted by rongorongo at 3:14 AM on December 6, 2021


Two Jacques Brel songs come to mind. "Vesoul" is mostly a list of places the narrator has been dragged to by the person they're addressing and some of the people and things they saw there. "Les prénoms de Paris" is a list of things the narrator will miss about the city until he's able to return.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:10 AM on December 6, 2021


Locations, not objects, but:

KLF - It's Grim Up North
posted by Spathe Cadet at 11:15 AM on December 6, 2021


Hurricane Harry's "Last Meal" (n.b.: I don't know anything about the hosting site/forum)
posted by kimota at 2:25 PM on December 6, 2021


The second verse of "Inside Out" by clipping.
posted by neushoorn at 5:41 PM on December 6, 2021


If I Had A Million Dollars by Barenaked Ladies is mostly a list of things the singer imagines buying, if he had a million dollars.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:02 PM on December 6, 2021 [2 favorites]


Mule Train!
posted by MrBobinski at 6:18 PM on December 21


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