Certain songs over the years were written to be joke but not exactly a novelty either. However too many people can’t see the jokes or the satire in those songs either because the audience eats it up and is into what the artists are mocking or even getting back at someone else or mocking a certain product or whatever. Regardless here a short list of classic songs that were meant to be jokes but were taken seriously enough to be hits in their own right.
1. Beastie Boys: “Fight For Your Right (To Party)”
Their breakthrough was meant to be a mockery of the popular Glam/Hair Metal bands of the day, especially Twisted Sister and Motley Crue. However, fans of those respected bands ate up this Glam Metal anthem from guys that did not really do the hair metal thing. They were more about a hybrid of Punk and Hip-Hop. Beastie Boys disowned the song and parted ways with producer with Rick Rubin and Def Jam and signed with Capitol Records. Good thing Capitol did not drop them like a rock either when the 1989 album “Paul’s Boutique” was not an instant smash. Today it’s one of their respect albums. In 1994 they released the single “Sabotage” which has a legacy of its own…including being one of Captain Kirk’s all time favorite rock tunes (i.e. featured in the 2009 and 2016 Star Trek movies).
2. Nirvana: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Believe it or not this song was written to be as a joke but it became Nirvana’s signature and they were proud of it. The story goes like this. Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna spray painted the statement “Kurt (Cobain) Smells Like Teen Spirit” on this bedroom wall. Kill’s drummer Tobi Vail (and one time dated Cobain) used a deodorant brand called Teen Spirit that was targeted towards teen girls and young women. Kurt Cobain did not make the connection with the deodorant product and saw the term “Teen Spirit” is a state of rebellion and archery. Eventually the term Teen Spirit was redefined as Nirvana broke out and the deodorant brand faded away.
3. Billy Joel: “Honestly”
Maybe the line should have been “such a funny word” instead of “such a lonely word.” The inspiration at least the chorus of the song was when Joel’s longtime drummer Liberty DeVitto sung the line “Sodomy” when trying to find a hook. Joel quickly changed it to Honestly and it was minor hit from his “52th Street” album which was basically a Jazz/Classical styled album. Overall the song’s message is about the lack of shame that the singer of the song has. Chuck Klosterman of the New York Times says; “the only way you can tell that someone really cares about you is if they tell you you’re bad.” Author Ken Bielen says; “‘Honesty’ is a plea for truth, not only in romantic relationships but also from the politicians who affect our lives.” This slow tempo 4/4 time song done at 80 bpm, would be covered by R&B singer Beyonce and her version would hit number two on the South Korea international chart.