Ask Billboard: Uncovering Potentially Uncoverable Songs, Reader Responses
Ask Billboard: Uncovering Potentially Uncoverable Songs, Reader Responses

Ask Billboard is updated every week. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

I enjoyed George G. Kitchens III' question in last week's "Ask Billboard": What songs feature now-outdated lyrics, perhaps making them "uncoverable" today?

I'd say contemporary hip-hop and R&B hits are the most prone to lyrical obsolescence, since so many of them name-check brand names. The very lyrics that make them seem cool and up-to-the-minute today will make them seem charmingly dated tomorrow.

You might remember, for instance, that in Destiny's Child's "Bug-a-Boo," Beyonce sings, "You make me wanna throw my pager out the window. Tell MCI to cut the phone pole." Later, she even says she wants to "tell AOL to make (her) e-mail stop." You'd pretty much need a historian to cover that song today.

Fondly remembering my AOL account,

Mark Blankenship
New York, New York

Hi Gary,

Try these on for size:

"Please Mr. Postman," Carpenters/Marvelettes ("Mr. E-mail Server"?)

"Half-Breed," Cher (What's the big deal about mixed races these days?)

"The Night Chicago Died," Paper Lace ("... and there was no sound at all, but the clock upon the wall - tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock." When was the last time you heard a clock go, "tick, tock"?)

"Jump," Van Halen ("Oh, can't you see me standin' here. I got my back against the record machine." Against the what, now?)

"Pinball Wizard," the Who/ Elton John (Pinball?)

David Fritz
Reseda, California


I loved "Brand New Key" by Melanie from the first time I heard it on the radio in 1971. The only thing was, I had no idea what a key had to do with roller skating. Roller skates were shoes with wheels on the bottom. You didn't need a key to turn them on.

Then, I heard a DJ talking about skate keys and how you used to buy metal skates that you would attach to the bottom of your street shoes, adjust and lock in place with a key.

How bizarre, especially when compared to today's roller blades. But you can't beat "Brand New Key"!

Mike "The Bear" Dittmer

Hi Gary,

Enjoyed the article.

One song that I find somewhat outdated is Prince's (and Tom Jones') "Kiss": "You don't have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude ..."

And, Elvis Presley's "Return to Sender" would probably be lost to those who no longer visit (or never have visited) a post office.

Fun stuff!

T. Scott Benefield, MD