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June 30, 2010



I believe Led Zeppelin's "The Crunge" fits the bill. And hopefully that one earns me enough cred that I can now mention Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah?


James Brown's "Sex Machine" is clearly on the list (lyrics).

So is Murphy Lee's "Wat Da Hook Gon Be" (youtube).

I'm not sure if Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" truly fits the bill (I bet you think this song is about you . . . don't you?), given the focus on internal song mechanics, but it seems pretty close. Similarly, Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" is apparently self-referential (won't you help us sing these songs of freedom? . . .) but not concerned with its own mechanics.


This is the song that never ends...


"This is the theme to Garry's show, Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song..."


The last two lines of Belle & Sebastian's "This is Just a Modern Rock Song" are:

I count "three, four" and then we start to slow,
Because a song has got to stop somewhere.

Willie Nelson's "Sad Songs and Waltzes" is about itself, and also about how unpopular it's going to be.


Robbie Fulks: Fountains Of Wayne Hotline

Belle Waring

Sweet! also, Tribute by Tenacious D.

Belle Waring

Outkast's "Hey Ya". "Don't make me break this thing down for nothing."

Brock Landers

"Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice ("Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it")

Brock Landers

"Bust A Move" by Young M.C. ("This here's a jam for all the fellas")

"This Is A Song" by The Magic Numbers ("This is a song, and these are the words")

"A Song for a Son" by Smashing Pumpkins ("This is a song for a son, this is a song for a sailor")

"Song For The Lonely" by Cher ("This is a song for the lonely...)

I feel like there must be hundreds of these.

Andrew John

Andrew Ratshin (Uncle Bonsai) has a couple that definitely qualify:

Folk Song

Radio Song

Meanwhile, the old British comedy show Not the Nine O'Clock News had several self-referential parodies, such as the ABBA parody "Super Duper" and the Barry Manilow parody "Wet and Lonely", lyrics to both of which are here.

Brock Landers

"Bird on a Wire" by Johnny Cash ("But I swear by this song, by all I have done wrong, I'll make it all up to you")

Brock Landers

"Can't Fuck With Queen Bee" by Lil' Kim ("now take it to the bridge")

(I actually suspect you could make an entire mix just out of songs containing the phrase "take it to the bridge" (and similar variants), if you were so inclined. That's in a bunch of songs.)

Andrew John

And of course there is always this :-)

(Also, "Bird on a Wire" is originally a Leonard Cohen song.)

Brock Landers

(Also, "Bird on a Wire" is originally a Leonard Cohen song.)

You're right, of course. I had the Johnny Cash cover in my head when I wrote the comment.


The Mekons, "Empire of the Senseless"

this song promotes homosexuality
it's in a pretended family relationship with the others on this record
and on the charts and on the jukebox
and in the radio
and in the radio


Elton John "Your Song"

"My gift is my song and this one's for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross
But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song
It's for people like you that keep it turned on

Belle Waring

Free Design "A Hit Song" and the great Raspberries tune "Overnight Sensation"; theres a break where they make it sound as if their song is playing on an old radio and then swirl back to the actual song. Hilariously they say that "if the program director don't want it/he's gonna get back a bullet." Hardcore! The Raspberries are one of the least threatening bands ever...


Carly Simon "You're so vain"
Paulina Rubio "The Last Goodbye" (works better in Spanish, but still horrible)

Doc Hatter

"The dog ate my lyrics" by Slaphappy, a short-lived ska band of the mid-90s.

"Tennessee waltz" talks about itself in the third person, as it were.


"Number Three" by They Might Be Giants.

"There's only two songs in me and I just wrote the third
Don't know where I got the inspiration or how I wrote the words
Spent my whole life just digging up my music's shallow grave
For the two songs in me and the third one I just made"

Dave Maier

Surely the king of self-referential songs is Robert Wyatt's "Signed Curtain," from the self-titled Matching Mole disc:

This is the first verse
This is the first verse
This is the first verse
This is the first verse...
And this is the chorus
Or perhaps it's a bridge
Or just another part
of the song that I'm singing

This is the second verse
Or it may the last verse
This is the second verse
Or it may the last one
And this is the chorus
Or perhaps it's a bridge
Or just another key change
Never mind
It doesn't hurt
It only means that I
lost faith in this song
'Cause it won't help me reach you...

A White Bear

There's a song on Janelle Monae's new album called "Neon Valley Street" with lyrics about the song. I thought it was kind of cheesy at first, but it's becoming one of my favorites of hers.


Does "With a Little Help From My Friends" qualify?

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song,
And I'll try not to sing out of key.

Brock Landers

Does "With a Little Help From My Friends" qualify?

I think definitely not. If that qualified, we'd risk also sweeping in things like "Piano Man" by Billy Joel, and we can't have that.


Bowie's "Five Years" has that line "don’t think you knew you were in this song," though all of Ziggy Stardust is pretty meta really.

Sam C

Red House Painters, "song for a blue guitar": 'so I picked up my blue-painted silver guitar, and I ripped off the chords for Bron Yr Aur'.


No one has mentioned one of the best examples, The Way You Say Good-Night by the Magnetic Fields.

So faraway and so alone
how could I ever take you home

You're beautiful, beautiful
You've a got a devastating point of view
and everything you say is true
You're beautiful, beautiful

The nightbirds start to sing their favorite song:
"The Way You Say Good-Night"
The nightbirds start to sing their favorite song
and the moon begins to sing

I kiss you and the sun goes down
How come it's always dark when you're around
You're beautiful, beautiful
The nightbirds sing their favorite song
The moon begins to sing
You're beautiful, beautiful
The stars begin their Busby Berkeley dance:
"The Way You Say Good-Night"
and the night becomes a musical extravaganza:
"The Way You Say Good-Night"

The way you say good-night
I dream of all day long
Oh, I could write a song about the way you say good-night...


Oh, also Which Song by Max Tundra.

Henry Farrell

Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah

The Undertones - More Songs About Chocolates and Girls

Nick Cave - The Weeping Song

The Dead Kennedys - I Like Short Songs (my favorite of these)


"Stereo" would be another Pavement choice.

"Listen to me:
I'm on the stereo!"


"One Down" by Ben Folds is about being forced to write the song itself to fulfil his record company contract.


Another nice self reference is in Money Folder by Madvillain when Doom says

I don't think we can handle a style so rancid,
he flipped it like Madlib did an old jazz standard

and what follows is exactly that.


Nine Inch Nails' "Starfuckers, Inc." includes the "I bet you think this song is about you" also found in "You're So Vain".


I am also concerned that "Silly Love Songs" by Paul McCartney & Wings is on the cusp of eligibility.

bianca steele

1812 Overture ("you may think that this is the end, but it isn't, there's just one other chorus").

bianca steele

Except that it's "Stars and Stripes Forever"--I was misled by the Boston Pops image in my head.


I always liked the meta-moment in Eminem's "Lose Yourself" when he says, "There's no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life."


How can we forget Soft Machine's "Moon in June", with its Robert Wyatt-penned lines "Just before we go on to the next part of our song / Let's all make sure we've got the time"?

Matt McIrvin

If you want a Beatles song, "Only a Northern Song" definitely qualifies.

They Might Be Giants' early song "Number Three".

Also, very marginally TMBG's "Ana Ng," since it mentions "the one this was written for." Another one in that vein is Air Traffic Controller's "The One," currently getting some airplay around here.

Matt McIrvin

Spandau Ballet's "True": "Why do I find it hard to write the next line?"

Matt McIrvin

Speaking of They Might Be Giants, here's the Self-Reference page from This Might Be a Wiki; scroll down a bit for the songs that specifically reference themselves, as opposed to the band.

Belle Waring

Ditto on the Neon Valley Street thing, I'm warming to it.

Vance Maverick

Or how about Ron Padgett's haiku:

First: five syllables
Second: seven syllables
Third: five syllables
Andrew John

Paul Simon's Leaves That Are Green ("I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song") qualifies, and should immediately be followed by Billy Bragg's A New England which deliberately steals the same line.

Andrew John

Paul Simon's Leaves That Are Green ("I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song") qualifies, and should be immediately followed by Billy Bragg's A New England, which deliberately steals the same line.


This is Not a Love Song - Public Image Limited

kid bitzer

from spamalot:

Once in every show
There comes a song like this
It starts off soft and low
And ends up with a kiss
Oh where is the song
That goes like this?
Where is it? Where? Where?

A sentimental song
That casts a magic spell
They all will hum along
We'll overact like hell
For this is the song that goes like this
Yes it is! Yes it is!

Now we can go straight
Into the middle eight
A bridge that is too far for me

I'll sing it in your face
While we both embrace
And then
We change
The key

Now we're into E!
*hem* That's awfully high for me
But as everyone can see
We should have stayed in D
For this is our song that goes like this!

I'm feeling very proud
You're singing far too loud
That's the way that this song goes
You're standing on my toes
Singing our song that goes like this!

I can't believe there's more
It's far too long, I'm sure
That's the trouble with this song
It goes on and on and on
For this is our song that is too long!

We'll be singing this til dawn
You'll wish that you weren't born
Let's stop this damn refrain
Before we go insane
For this is our song that ends like this!

i suppose those are by eric idle.

Dave Maier

Oh, and "I Hate to Sing" by the Carla Bley Band.

rumer godden

Check out German band Die Ärzte's "Grotesksong" which (when translated) opens with the words "This is a protest song / against protest songs."

Doug Smith

Second verse, same as the first.


I'm way late to this, but here are two favorites:

Built to Spill, "Joyride"

this part of the song is called the second verse
sounds just like the first but with different words
it only has three chords and they are A and E and D
they are A and E and D

Carter Family, "Worried Man Blues"

If anyone should ask you who composed this song
Tell 'em 'twas I, and I sing it all day long

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