You really need to hear Marian Finucane recite pop lyrics

The broadcaster's weekend competition provides a surreal moment that proves most lyrics are not exactly poetry

As part of a competition on her RTÉ Radio One show, Marian Finucane reads lyrics from songs by Canadian band Arcade Fire. Audio: RTÉ

 

It’s the small things in life which keep us amused. Most Saturdays just after noon on RTÉ Radio One, Marian Finucane reaches for a piece of paper, clears her throat and proceeds to read out some pop lyrics.

There are many notable events in the Finucane career back-catalogue – from the feisty student protester occupying buildings near Dublin’s Stephens Green in 1970 to the iodine tablets brouhaha with Joe Jacob in 2001 – but the pop lyrics thing is a weekly bout of WTF gaiety for the nation.

It’s part of a weekly competition where tickets for an upcoming show are given away, and there’s usually a hotel stay thrown in as an extra enticement. But the lyrics are the nub of the slot, and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard the doyenne of Irish radio read out the lyrics to Arcade Fire’s No Cars Go to the nation.

It’s quite surreal on so many different levels

Just to be sure, she then reads out some more lyrics 20 minutes later for the craic, and once more again within the hour. It’s quite surreal on so many different levels. You hope someone has recorded these performances and is using them for table quizzes.

Hard rock fans
The live shows that get the competition treatment vary enormously, from Aerosmith, Iron Maiden and Red Hot Chili Peppers (they’re big fans of the aul’ hard rock on the Marian show) to Phil Collins and the aforementioned Arcade Fire at Malahide Castle. At least Guns N’ Roses at Slane sold out straight away so we’re spared any readings of November Rain or Paradise City.  

You may not think that all of these acts share a common audience, but those who pitch the tickets to the broadcaster to use in these competitions obviously think so, as they hope that these competitions help to push ticket sales.

They may also feel that if you’re in the market for one event gig, you could go the whole hog and head to another one while you’re at it. It’s the nudge theory in full effect.

Arcade Fire fans might be a bit sniffy about this casual and probably unscientific extrapolation of on-the-hoof marketing persuasion. However, it’s worth noting that it has been more than a decade since the band first appeared on the scene, so many of their early-adopter fans are now facing middle-age firmly in the face. The Marian Finucane Show is perfect Saturday-morning listening before heading out the door to do the chores at Ikea, Aldi and Woodie’s.

Rude awakening
Leaving aside the incongruous setting of a Saturday-morning chat show and the rude awakening in the last paragraph for Arcade Fire fans, it also points up on a weekly basis that pop lyrics are not exactly poetry.

Dissenters to this theory will argue that most lyrics were never really designed to work apart from the music in the first place. They might also make a case that they’re not making great lyricists like they used to, so you have to make do with what you’ve got.

You’re struck by the fact that what you’re hearing is bordering on gibberish

It’s a while since reviewers had to brush up on their literary references, as was the case when Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon were knocking ’em out of the park.

Yet we can surely do better when it comes to the rest. When you hear Finucane reading out a couple of lines from a pop lyric, you’re struck by the fact that what you’re hearing is bordering on gibberish and balderdash. You can blame the broadcaster for many things, but she certainly didn’t write those lyrics.

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