Best and worst rhymes in songs

I just finished doing Oliver and I’m now doing Li’l Abner and some rhymes got my attention.

From “Reviewing the Situation” (Oliver)
And wave at all the duchesses
with friendliness as much as is
befitting of my new estate,
“Good morrow to you Magistrate!”

From “It’s a Typical Day” (Li’l Abner)
His heart is the tenderes’
But neuter-gender 's
Far 's young gals is concerned.

It’s a perfect rhyme in the hillbilly accent of the show.

In my opinion, these makes a good rhyme:
[li]Not obvious, like the cliched “unending love” with “heaven above”[/li][li]An actual rhyme. N and M, for example, are not the same letter. “Love” and “move” don’t rhyme, though they may have a few centuries ago.[/li][li]Before the end of the line, for example, “That we take good care of it, / that we get our share of it.” (“It’s a Fine Life,” Oliver)[/li][/ul]

What else makes a rhyme good or bad, and what are your favorite or least favorite rhymes in songs?

Been done to death:


These should never be used again by any songwriter, much less one with self-respect.

“Love/thinking of” is another overused rhyme.

Great rhymes:

Tom Lehrer:
“When you attend a funeral
It is sad to think that sooner’ll” (“We Will All Go Together When We Go”)

“An awful debility,
A lessened utility,
A loss of mobility
Is a strong possibility.
In all probability
I’ll lose my virility
And you your fertility
And desirability,
And this liability
Of total sterility
Will lead to hostility
And a sense of futility,
So let’s act with agility
While we still have facility,
For we’ll soon reach senility
And lose the ability.” (When You Are Old and Gray)

Cole Porter:'s

"Just declaim a few lines from Othella
And they’ll think you’re a hell of a fella…

If she says your behavior is heinous
Kick her right in the Coriolanus" (Brush Up Your Shakespeare)

“Or bring a jeroboam on
And write a drunken poem on
Astrology, mythology,
Geology, philology,
Pathology, psychology,
Spermology, phrenology,
I owe you an apology
But let’s not talk about love.”

My choice for current worst rhyme is the Counting Crows redo of “Big Yellow Taxi”. The original lines are:

Take all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
Make all the people pay a dollar and a half
Just to see 'em.

It’s currently renderecd as:

Make all the People pay a dollar and a half
Just to see them.

“see 'em” rhymes with “museum”. “See them” doesn’t.

My favorite Tom Lehrer rhyme is still his rhyming of “duck-billed platypus” with “Oedipus” in “Oedipus Rex”.

I don’t have any specific examples, but every time I hear the words ‘I called you on the phone’ in a song, little bits of my teeth wear away, for I know that the line will be followed by:
‘To see if you were home’
‘But now I’m all alone’
‘I’m living on my own’

Or variants thereof.

Way overused:

Magic/tragic and ramblin’/gamblin’

One of the classic bad rhymes:

Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas
You know he knows just exactly what the facts is
He’s not gonna let those two escape justice
He makes his living off of the people’s taxes.

Keeping the musical theatre world in mind:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat:

All these things you saw in your pyjamas
Are a long-range forecast for your farmers
… and…

Greatest man since Noah
Only goes to shoah
Wonder what Tim Rice was smoking the day he wrote those… :smiley: I think they are some of the most irritating rhymes ever. Honest.

Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore

Okay, so that’s not really G&S’ brightest moment, but you have to admit the rhyming in the following excerpt makes up for it! :smiley:

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
A dull, dark dock,
A life-long lock,
A short, sharp shock,
A big black block!
To sit in solemn silence
In a pestilential prison,
And awaiting the sensation
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

I agree on the second one, but I think the pyjamas/farmers one works quite well.

Both Sublight and Elenfair both nabbed ones I was thinking of. The juvenile lyrics of Joseph etc etc make me cringe most of the time.

My favorite Tom Lerher rhyme:

“He was the village idiot, and though it was a pity it was so…”

Sheer brilliance.
From the same song:

“The druggist on the corner he was never mean or ornery, he was swell…”

This is from a song by Eve 6 that I kept hearing on the radio, years ago:

*Suckin’ on my brain, you’re the teacher, I’m the student
Turning things around, your story’s not congruent *

I could just picture the songwriter going to a rhyming dictionary and trying to find something that rhymes with “student,” not finding a way to fit “prudent” into the next line, and finally settling on “congruent,” which doesn’t really rhyme, but whatever.

That line always makes me think of triangles.

A month and a half’s run, baby. A month and a half.


Gilbert and Sullivan aren’t exactly good examples, since they’re deliberately intended to be comical rhymes.

When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery,
You’ll say a better major-general has never sat agee

That’s qualitatively different, it seems to me, than a crummy rhyme that’s not supposed to be funny.

Perhaps that’s the difference; we only put it on for three nights (although there were a few months of rehearsals).

I couldn’t possible have a single favorite Tom Lehrer rhyme, however:

When they see us coming
the birdies all try’n’hide
But they still go for peanuts
When coated in cynaide

He was quite chuffed with this, but found that P.G.Wodehouse had actually come up with it before he did.

Which of course goes on:

And you may think it tragic
Not to mention other adject -tives

And another from the same song:

Go directly to your respective Valhallas
Go directly - do not pass go - do not collect two hundred. . . Dollars

Ouch! :slight_smile:
BTW the rhyming of (say) love with move is called a ‘sight rhyme’ and doesn’t mean that the words ever actually rhymed in the normal way. IIRC Hamlet uses one in a poem/note to Ophelia.

I nominate Pete Seeger’s version of
“Gimme that Old TIme Religion”

Let us pray like the Egyptians
Build pyramids to put our crypts in
Fill subways with inscriptions
It’s good enough for me

Let us pray to Zarathrusta
Pray just like we use ta
I’m a Zarathrusta booster*
It’s good enough for me

  • the beautiful thing about this rhyme is that is Boston, this becomes ‘boostah’, but still doesn’t rhyme because you’d pronounce the other word as ‘Zarathruster’. I suppose the same issue applies to this verse:

Let us pray to dear old Buddah
Because there is no one cuter
He comes in plaster, wood and pewter
It’s good enough for me

Probably my most hated rhyme, courtesy of The Police:

Our so-called leaders speak
With words they try to jail ya
They subjugate the meek
But it’s the rhetoric of failure