Skillibeng has sought to explain the strategy behind his ongoing recording of Nonsense Songs, as opposed to more substantial songs such as Mr. Universe, pointing out that he was simply giving fans the music that they appear to crave more.
He told Ras Kwame of London’s Capital XTRA that he has been doing what he described as “good music”, but that people are gravitating more to his songs which have been injected with nonsense syllables and unintelligible phrases, like his latest release, Whap Whap featuring F.S.
However, even though Skilli has nothing to be ashamed of since Nonsense Songs make up some of the biggest-selling tracks in the history of music, among them Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog, The Police’s De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, and King Yellowman’s popular Zungguzungguguzungguzeng, he is still discomfited.
“I’ve been doing good music. I have so much good music that people stop embracing. Why you stop embracing the good music then? I have so much good music. Embrace the good music then. It is the exact point need to be made bro because why don’t you embrace the music? Why do I do Crocodile Teeth (its) at 35 million and Mr. Universe is like stuck at 10 million?” Skilli asked, in a pained manner.
“Missa Universe is so impactful bro. So powerful with so much knowledge and a man mean fi tell me seh, a dem song deh mi fi write everyday. A bet seh him nuh learn everything inna Missa Universe yet. Not even about learning the lyrics – understanding what I’m saying in that song. They don’t bro! But when man seh ‘whap whap whap’, today they say yow it’s rubbish. Tomorrow they hidin in the bathroom dancing bro,” he added.
Nonsense songs are a major part of English literature as well as Pop and many Dancehall songs. These songs generally have simple melodies and fairly quick tempos. Among Skilli’s other contemporaries are Rihanna’s Dancehall/Pop song Rude Boy and the Pop song Work, Alkaline’s Sell Off, Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, Pokerface and Alejandro.
Some of the biggest Dancehall songs from Jamaica’s “Dancehall Kings” have been Nonsense Rhymes, among them Yellow Man’s Mr. Chin, Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt, and This Old Man, an interpolation of a nursery rhyme written in 1906. Beenie Man too has also had his share of nonsense rhymes and verses including Who Am I (Sim Simma) and Romie.
After watching the snippet of Skilli’s interview, which was shared on Instagram, one of Skillibeng’s Jamaican musical compatriots, Bay-C of the Dancehall group TOK, come to his defense, pointing out that it was natural for people, generally, to gravitate to songs with uncomplicated lyrics and catchy hooks.
“I been saying this in his defence for over a year now. Artistes have to balance the deep, substantial records with some easy to catch songs and the easier to sing along ones gonna get more popular because of how simple they are. Doesnt mean the artiste has lost their talent to make “better” songs but it’s about balance and what the market wants. Big up #skillibeng. Rate da yute deh no lie,” Bay C explained.
One follower disagreed with Skilli’s explanation about opting for Nonsense Songs.
“I think your just downplaying the truth skelli you do a few cool songs yes but you keep feeding on the negative music thats just it don’t sit there an act like you don’t want to do those negative light songs its what you give to the people they will listen to so its your choice those songs your doing won’t last my friend,” he said.
Nonsense in songwriting “does have a place in society”, according to Tunedly.com, an Interactive Online Music Production and Publishing company, which has also pointed out that in the past, there have been “quite a bit of literature about pop artists turning to nonsense lyrics to make hits by injecting lyrics considered wacky or going against the laws of grammar, into their songwriting”.
It noted that many superstars, chief among them Elvis Presley have, from long ago, turned to nonsensical lyrics in attempts to entertain their fans.
The Hound Dog singer it says, hooked fans with not only his voice, but also “through using lyrics that defied comprehension at times”, relying heavily on “catchiness and gimmickry to deliver many of his hits”.
Presley they said, used nonsensical lyrics to such a tremendous effect, that they played a big part in elevating him to a music icon.
“Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit and you ain’t no friend of mine,” a line from Presley’s Hound Dog is among the nonsense lyrics referenced since catching a rabbit is not a requirement to be someone’s friend.
Among the reasons given for artists to write nonsense include: to generate interest in the song as people tend to spend a lot of time trying to figure out lyrics that seem meaningless, and to create a “cool” hook that gets stuck in listeners’ heads or to ‘create filler lyrics when the songwriter wants to place emphasis on existing lyrics, or is trying to create a dramatic bridge or ending to prevent the song from sounding monotonous’.