Great music isn’t always synonymous with great lyrics – early Beach Boys records dressed up Mike Love’s mundane teen dramas with genius harmonies and sophisticated chord changes. Yes adorned Jon Anderson’s cosmic nonsense with their amazing instrumental chops. Perhaps the most extreme example is New Order. Due to the untimely passing of Ian Curtis and the end of Joy Division, Barney Sumner was thrust into the role of lead singer and lyricist. The band’s early songs were often worked up from jams, and Sumner’s lyrics often feel like placeholders waiting for more polished words.
New Order are one of the best bands of their era, and usually Sumner’s sloppy writing only adds to their charm. Here are ten instances, however, where Sumner’s writing was outstandingly awful rather than endearingly ramshackle.
10 Worst New Order Lyrics
Every second countsfrom Every Second Counts, 1986
When I am with you
I think you are a pig
You should be in a zoo
Fly it in your plane and drive it in your carfrom Sugarcane, 2013
You’re a superstar, yes you are,
Tonight I should have stayed at homefrom The Perfect Kiss, 1985
Playing with my pleasure zone
I feel your presence everywherefrom Turn, 2005
In the corner over there
Your country is a wonderful placefrom Sooner Than You Think, 1985
It pales my England into disgrace
To buy a drink that is so much more reasonable
I think I’ll go there when it gets seasonable
Oh, love is found in the east and the westfrom Thieves Like Us, 1984
But when love is at home, it’s the best
Love is the cure for every evil
Love is the air that supports the eagle
In a manger like Christ I layfrom Times Change, 1993
Yellow fever, yellow hay
Feel the rhythm, sweetest sound
Making, breaking sacred ground
Here comes love, it’s like honeyfrom Crystal, 2001
You can’t buy it with money
It’s fun to make alternative rhymes for this couplet – like “Here comes love, it’s like lamb loin/you can’t buy it with bitcoin”.
They’ll always hit you and hurt youWorld in Motion, 1990
Defend and attack
There’s only one way to beat them
Get ’round the back
Catch me if you can
‘Cause I’m the England man
And what you’re looking at
Is the master plan
The afternoon was very clear
The sun was beating down on me
I got thirsty for a beer
That I had to go to sea
The sea was very roughfrom ‘Slow Jam’. 2001
It made me feel sick
But I like that kind of stuff
It beats arithmetic
Did I miss your least favourite lyrical moment from Mr. Sumner?
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Well, I defer to you about this amazing band. But I will say that when a group loses its lyricist, the soul goes out. When Pink Floyd recorded “tongue tied and twisted” they knew they would never be the band they were.
I think Joy Division had a pact where they would break up if someone left or died. Starting with a new name was a good idea – stuff like Ceremony might have fitted as Joy Division but after the early New Order stuff there’s way too much of a disconnect.
Hilarious idea for a post. I love these guys but they certainly have written some stinker lyrics.
Yup, I think there’s probably a Bernie Taupin list out there too, if I was going to do another for a specific lyricist.
Yes! – eighty one eighty two three eighty four (new gold dream) do not actually qualify as music lyrics in any known universe
Is that Simple Minds or am I confused?
yeah, it’s Simple Minds
I suppose they’re really not good song lyrics, but New Gold Dream is one of my favorite records ever. And the 81 82 83 84 part is really fun to sing along with too!!
Idk, I never really memorized most of their lyrics but I think some of those ones that you listed are kind of funny. The one that really sticks out for me is the song that he did with The Chemical Brothers called Out of Control, where he says “Maybe you think my mustache is too much”. I remember looking for a picture of him with a mustache to see if it was really too much or not. I can’t remember if I found the picture though.
He certainly had a beard in the Joy Division days but I’ve never seen a photo where he has a moustache.
He had a beard in Joy Division? Actually I don’t think I’d even recognize a picture of him unless it had a caption under it. I never remember what they look like for some reason. A while ago I saw a picture of Ian Curtis and I thought, “Is that what he looked like, I don’t remember”. Maybe because there’s not a whole lot of pictures of them.
Yup, Joy Division’s career happened pretty quickly – I assume there aren’t too many photos or videos.
Once I saw a movie about Ian Curtis so all I could ever picture in my head is the actor who played him and not the real guy. I also remember seeing video of Joy Division in a concert, but I remember it was filmed really badly and you could barely see their faces
Maybe he just aims for things that rhyme. And now that I think about it those are the things that stick in my head with New Order songs, Cuz I never was that into their actual music. Their one song that I especially like is Regret. It’s their only song that I always have in every playlist I ever made. Cuz I love the part where he says “I would like a place I could call my own, Have a conversation on the telephone”. I really don’t know if that’s a good lyric or bad lyric, but I love hearing it. And I even love the music on that song.
Regret feels much more like a song that Sumner wrote himself and brought in fully formed.
Don’t get me wrong. I love joy division/ new order. And also simple minds (lol- I got confused) who were never the same after the breakfast club song, which they didn’t compose and were miffed that it went to no1 on the US charts.
Alive and Kicking is the quintessential song of the era. It’s perfect.
I never liked them after that Breakfast Club song either, but I kind of like that one. What’s really weird is that new gold dream is like one of my top 100 albums, however I never really liked any of their other albums. But that one is just fantastic. And I too like Alive and Kicking though. That one was pretty good.
I don’t know this band much…but you could cover a lot of artists with this idea…and it would get funnier every time . My favorite would be Here comes love, it’s like honey
You can’t buy it with money
I hadn’t actually thought about making it a franchise. Sting, Macca, Billy Joel and Bernie Taupin would be my first instincts for another post.
I think you have a winner with this idea. I don’t know much about this band but I enjoyed it.
Those sound like great candidates…. I would be interested to see Bob Dylan’s bad lyrics.
That was funny, thanks for the laugh. I like New Order but had no idea their lyrics could be so amusing.
To be fair, a lot of lyrics probably don’t work very well on paper.
Awesome! Those are pretty horrible!!
Yup, nothing too profound here.
Great and entertaining topic . . . I adored early New Order, but I had one of those “Oh my God, this is so bad, that it makes me not want to listen to ANYTHING by this group” moments around the time that their “Technique” LP came out. (I’d already found the earlier “Confusion” single to be dire, but they did enough around and after that to keep me engaged, for awhile, anyway). The one early-ish New Order song that, for me, was always a complete WTF moment with regard to the lyrics was “1963,” the B-side to “True Faith,” from the “Substance” LP . . . it’s all just sort of really DUMB, with some story about a brother bringing a gun home for a birthday, or something. Not quite sure about what it all meant, but QUITE sure that it was deeply lame lyrical work, and deeply marred an otherwise fine instrumental performance by the band. I literally did not listen to NO for 20+ years after “Technique,” but in recent years I’ve gone back to the early stuff, and find it pleasing to my (much) older ears, awful lyrics notwithstanding. I mean, when you really get right down to it, even the epic “Blue Monday” is pretty freakin’ STOOPIT when you focus on its words . . .
I read that 1963 was about Sumner’s pet theory that JFK had Marilyn Monroe murdered. It seemed surprisingly deep for a Sumner lyric.
I think amateur singing and lyrics are part of the charm of New Order – Sumner has talent, but doesn’t seem to work that hard at those disciplines.
haha, good stuff. live new order but they have interesting lyrics. next up, Coldplay?
Coldplay- That’s a whole semesters topic! When he said “look at the stars…” Chris Martin said it was supposed to sound like Neil Young. (Which it actually does!).
Not quite as infamous as “ and in this ever changing world in which we’re living..” but up there.
I don’t know Coldplay very well, after their first three.
It’s good that Coldplay came out exactly when they did -with no competition from Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Oasis or any of the 90s bands – clean runway for them.
Is the 4 th album XYZ? It’s quite good.
Bottom line is that it’s good music, however people like to lampoon it (and yes there are some issues with the lyrics).
It’s human nature to try to find issues with the top dog. This happened (s) with U2 and The Beatles/Stones and so on.
Maybe it’s a badge if honour.
You are not really big until weird Al takes a run at you.
I find Coldplay a little lacking in personality – I like the song Spies on their debut, and wished they embraced more of that weirdness.
I really like the album X&Y cuz I like how it sounds all spacey and dreamy. But I haven’t heard most of their albums, so I don’t know about those ones. But I like that one.
That’s my favourite of the ones I know – I do like ‘Fix You’ a lot.
I don’t think he’s that great of a songwriter from the stuff I’ve heard so far. But the best ones I’ve heard so far are on that album. I’d probably like more of his songs if more of his tunes were better. The only really great ones I think are Speed of Sound and Talk, which would have to be great because it’s the awesome melody of Computer Love by Kraftwerk. And I love how the guitar keeps repeating that melody and he also sings it too. That is great. I really don’t have any problem with his singing either. I’m not sure why so many people seem to think they’re the worst thing in the world. I could think of a lot worse.
Great, and there’s also: ‘Every second counts when I am with you/I think you are a pig/You should be in a zoo’ from ‘Every Second Counts’. It might be a demo but so what…
I should add that one – I always notice the unusual vocals in that song more than the lyrics.
I’m not really familiar with any of those New Order songs, but I just listened to “Slow Jam”, and I actually like the lyrics you chose as their absolute worst. I guess lyrics, like music, are very subjective.
“It beats arithmetic” has always hit me as a particularly lazy lyric. The song used to get played in a car commercial – unsurprisingly, they used the chorus.
Looks like they needed to put words in a new order.
Here comes money like it’s honey
Can’t buy me love yeah yeah