Well, Jay-Z and Beyoncé finally had their baby, which can only mean one thing: Here comes another baby song!
You know what I’m talking about, right? One of those intolerable, “Oh-my-precious-little-angel-it’s-a-miracle-that-you-were-born-unto-me” tunes that a songwriter is compelled to write every time he or she pops out another squirmer.
Whether you believe newborn babies are miraculous gifts from God or subterranean alien vampire-rats bent on draining your life force, can we at least agree that songs about babies tend to suck rusty buckets of contaminated amniotic fluid?
And this new tune by Jay-Z is especially abominable.
“You’re a child of destiny / You’re the child of my destiny / You’re my child with the child from Destiny’s Child / That’s a hell of recipe.”
OK. I want you to pause for a moment and marvel at the pure hideosity of that line: “You’re my child with the child from Destiny’s Child.” I want you to bask in the rays of its badness like a pale-skinned woman on an overpowered tanning bed; absorb the radiation of it on your face and neck—mind not the blisters and the hair loss— for a lyric as bad as this is a thing to behold.
Britney Spears’ “My Baby” is no less irradiated: “With no words at all / So tiny and small / In love I fall / My precious love / Sent from above / My baby boo / God I thank you.”
I want you to imagine that you’re Britney’s baby being spoon-fed in the kitchen, when suddenly mommy starts singing that song to you. Wouldn’t you eject the strained carrots onto her shirt and blurt, “Bitch, you better get your ass back in the rehearsal studio!”?
In Brit’s defense, “My Baby” sounds like a John Prine political ditty compared with Creed’s criminally negligent baby ballad, “With Arms Wide Open.” The worst part about that afterbirth is the video, which features singer Scott Stapp posing on a mountain top, his “arms wide open” toward the sky, his long, gorgeous Jesus-locks blowing in the wind and the fetor of a thousand soiled diapers blustering from his howl-hole.
Speaking of mucky diapers, Lauryn Hill’s baby song, “To Zion,” is a rash on the ass of all that is right and good. Lord knows Hill is full of herself, but how much of a messiah complex must you have in order to name your kid Zion?
And, look, I dig Stevie Wonder as much as the next guy, but “Isn’t She Lovely” isn’t. The melody is as mesmeric as a busted mobile, and all Stevie does is sing “Isn’t she lovely, isn’t she wonderful, isn’t she special” over and over again like a drill burrowing into the part of the brain that represses the urge to take sniper shots at random pedestrians.
I will concede that John Lennon’s song for Sean, “Beautiful Boy,” is lovely. But I often wonder how messed up it must be for Julian whenever he hears his dad gushing on the radio or jukebox, “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful… darling, darling, darling Sean”—given that Lennon neglected Julian as a child, which makes Lennon something of a parental dickweed, nullifying any fatherhood songs written by him.
The list goes on. The Dixie Chicks’ baby anthem “Godspeed” is in dire need of a spanking. “Prayer for You” by Usher should have been terminated in the first trimester. “Just the Two of Us” by Will Smith needs a circumcision—at the base. And it’s utterly impossible to keep your formula down should you happen to hear “In my Daughter’s Eyes” by Martina McBride.
And, yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Oh, Ed, you hate baby songs because you don’t have any children and don’t understand the miracle of new life.
You needn’t be a parent to understand the miracle of new life. Nor do you need to understand the miracle of life to scrutinize a song about the miracle of life, just as I don’t need to live in South Central L.A. to know “Straight Outta Compton” is a badass song about living in South Central L.A.
No, these baby songs suck for two simple reasons:
1. Childbirth is such an enormous, sentimental event in most of our lives that our emotions can be easily manipulated. You could write the lamest piece of cliché-addled garbage and everyone will blubber over it, leaving songwriters no incentive to compose something truly original and profound.
2. Baby songs never tell the whole story about parenting—no tunes about sleepless nights and bedraggled days; no odes about giving up your dreams, your friends, your drugs and your porn collection; no power ballads about how you’ll age an average of five years for every day you cohabitate with a toddler. There are no verses that mention that the only movies you’ll be permitted to watch for the next dozen years will feature talking cartoon animals and worse, a moral to the story, nor are there any refrains about how your sacrifices will go unappreciated—because they think it’s invisible elves who stock the refrigerator and replace the toilet paper—and the day will come when not only will they not appreciate you; in fact, they will hate you. Sure as the babysitter will raid the liquor cabinet and blow her boyfriend on your couch, your children are going to hate your guts.
This is the thanks you’ll get for giving them life, because they are cold, cruel tyrants, and you are but a peasant who mollycoddles them. Hmm, I like that: “Cold Cruel Tyrant.” Now, see, that’s a baby song that needs to be written!