20 Most Forced Rhymes In Pop Music History

Ariana Grande performs at the Wild Jam in San Jose, CA, December 15, 2013

Misha Vladimirskiy/Filterless

Ariana Grande's "Break Free" isn't the only offender: here are the 20 most awesomely awkward rhymes in popular music.

"I fought him on it the whole time...'I am not going to sing a grammatically incorrect lyric, help me God!' Max was like, 'It's funny — just do it!' I know it's funny and silly, but grammatically incorrect things make me cringe sometimes."

And so Ariana Grande attempts to defend the infamous "Now that I become who I really are" lyric from her current hit "Break Free," with the "Max" in question being pop ingenieur (and "Break Free" co-writer) Max Martin. The quote comes from a story on the song from Time.com, whose title proclaims "Ariana Grande Is Fully Aware That the Lyrics of 'Break Free' Make No Sense," with Grande appearing sheepishly contrite for bending the laws of the English language to force a rhyme with the song's previous line, "Never by the hands of a broken heart."

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She needn't have done so. A cursory glance over the history of pop music reveals dozens of similarly forced rhymes littering the lyrics of some of our greatest hits, misses and deep cuts. They tend to fall into one of five categories -- Awkward Syntax, Jarring Word Choice, Non-Sequitorial Thought Process, English Subversion or Not Quite a Rhyme in the First Place -- and the most ambitious of them can sometimes satisfy two categories at once. While these forced rhymes may be unpleasant to the ear and/or the stomach upon first listen, many of them come to be as endearing as any of the song's more conventionally poetic (or merely intelligible) lyrics. (Others remain permanently nauseating, but still.)

Anyway, here are the 20 most incredibly forced rhymes to ever come out of radio speakers and strike daggers through the hearts of unassuming Language Arts teachers nationwide. Ariana Grande can look left or look right on this list and see that there's no shame in spurning didactic grammar bylaws every now and then in the name of pop immortality.

20. "What can I do? / Honey, I feel like the color blue" (Aerosmith's "Crazy," 1993)

Rhyme Crime: Awkward Syntax

Really, the crime here is just "taking too many words to get to the rhyme in question." "What can I do? / I'm feeling blue" is a classic two-fer, feeling "like the color blue" sounds a little too literal to be evocative.

19. "Let me see them big titties / Don't act saddity you ain't pretty" (Timbaland's "Bounce," 2007)

Rhyme Crime: English Subversion (with a touch of Non-Sequitorial Thought Process)

"Saddity" isn't a word, and telling a girl she "ain't pretty" after demanding to see her "big titties" isn't a thing.

18. "I am, I said, to no one there / And no one heard it all, not even the chair" (Neil Diamond's "I Am, I Said," 1971)

Rhyme Crime: Non-Sequitorial Thought Process

This one actually inspired Dave Barry to write his infamous Book of Bad Songs, with Barry theorizing Diamond landed on the "chair" lyric after rejecting "So I ate a pear," "Like Smokey The Bear," and "There were nits in my hair."

17. "Moving like a tortoise / Full of rigor mortis" (N.W.A.'s "Express Yourself," 1988)

Rhyme Crime: Awkward Syntax / Jarring Word Choice

Tortoises may indeed move like creatures struck by rigor mortis (although if something's really full of rigor mortis, it shouldn't be moving at all), but saying anything is "full of rigor mortis" is kind of like saying something is "full of deathness," which is kind of weird.

16. "So happy together / And how is the weather?" (The Turtles' "Happy Together," 1967)

Rhyme Crime: Non-Sequitorial Thought Process

"And how is the weather?" is rhyming proof you can only sing the title phrase over again so many times in a song's outro before clinging onto any other potentially rhyming phrase to save you from the monotony.

15. "I don't like cities, but I like New York / Other places make me feel like a dork" (Madonna's "I Love New York," 2006)

Rhyme Crime: Jarring Word Choice

Somehow, we doubt Madonna is really dorking it up on her visits to Paris and Milan. We'd need to see the acne and the social awkwardness for proof, anyway.

14. "Don't fix your lips like collagen / And say something when you gon' end up apologin'" (Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," 2006)

Rhyme Crime: English Subversion

Kanye assumes carte blanche to invent a new word whenever he really needs a rhyming end-of-phrase, and as with so many other artistic permissions, we tend to grant it to him.

13. "I'm used to good ol' fashioned homestyle Spanish cooking / If I eat that, I'll be puking" (Gerardo's "Rico Suave," 1991)

Rhyme Crime: Not Quite a Rhyme in the First Place

The list of lyrical atrocities perpetrated by "Rico Suave" is not a short one, but attempting to rhyme "cooking" with "puking" is certainly near the top. Also, gross.

12. "So open up your morning light / Say a little prayer for I" (Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait," 1997)

Rhyme Crime: Jarring Word Choice

A kind of spiritual predecessor to "Break Free," Paula thought enough of her song's opening line to switch the appropriate "me" with "I" in the second line to open up the rhyming possibilities. Eh.

11. "You know I feel so dirty when they start talking cute / I wanna tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot" (Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl," 1981)

Rhyme Crime: Awkward Syntax

It's a strange trip to get there, but certainly no one has ever deployed the word "moot" with as much pathos as Rick Springfield in this No. 1 hit.

10. "We gonna pin this triple murder on him / He ain't no Gentleman Jim" (Bob Dylan's "Hurricane," 1976)

Rhyme Crime: Awkward Syntax / Jarring Word Choice

One of Dylan's best and biggest hits of the '70s, "Hurricane" might have simply had too many lyrics for a couple of them not to end up a little awkward -- none more than this considerable stretch for plausible criminal dialogue.

9. "The wild dogs cry out in the night, as they grow restless longing for some solitary company / I know that I must do what's right, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti" (Toto's "Africa," 1982)

Rhyme Crime: Jarring Word Choice / Non-Sequitorial Thought Process

Not terribly logical or fluid as a pop lyric, but great as part of a middle school geography lesson plan, perhaps.

8. "Mike my stromy, don't be so selfish / Just get on the mic, 'coz you know you eat shellfish" (Beastie Boys' "B-Boy Bouillabaisse," 1989)

Rhyme Crime: Non-Sequitorial Thought Process

Hard to argue the Beasties didn't know what they were doing here, but rhyming "selfish" with "shellfish" is just way too beautifully forced to possibly ignore.

7. "I laughed at all of your jokes / My love you didn't need to coax" (Rod Stewart's "Maggie May," 1971)

Rhyme Crime: Awkward Syntax

Are there really so few words out there that rhyme with "jokes" that you needed to flip around an already weird-sounding phrase just to shoehorn "coax" in there, Rod? Yikes if so.

6. "Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas / 'Well, Billie Joe never had a lick o' sense, pass the biscuits, please'" (Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe," 1967)

Rhyme Crime: Non-Sequitorial Thought Process

Maybe if everyone in this song wasn't so easily distracted by passing food around the dinner table, we would have figured out what Billie Joe McAllister was throwing off that damn Tallahatchie bridge by now.

5. "When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet / Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets" (LFO's "Summer Girls," 1999)

Rhyme Crime: Not Quite a Rhyme in the First Place / Non-Sequitorial Thought Process

At least one out of every two couplets from "Summer Girls" could have qualified for this list, which might explain why it was so popular for the first place. Nothing says "SUMMER WOOOO!!" like improper grammar and a short attention span.

4. "I only wanna die alive, never by the hands of a broken heart / Don't wanna hear you lie tonight, now that I've become who I really are" (Ariana Grande's "Break Free," 2014)

Rhyme Crime: Jarring Word Choice / English Subversion

Embrace it, young Ariana.

3. "He starts to shake, he starts to cough / Just like the old man in that famous book by Nabokov" (The Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me," 1980)

Rhyme Crime: Jarring Word Choice / Awkward Syntax

It may be an accurate character description for Humbert Humbert over the course of Lolita, but calling him the "old man in that famous book by Nabokov" isn't exactly the most efficient way to namecheck him. Also: not how you pronounced Nabokov, Sting.

2. "Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas / You know he knows exactly what the facts is" (Steve Miller Band's"Take the Money and Run," 1976)

Rhyme Crime: Not Quite a Rhyme / Awkward Syntax / English Subversion

Well-timed handclaps and an awesome drum intro distract from a lot of eye-widening lyrics in this song, none more so than this dandy that packs improper English, bad rhyming and ridiculous storytelling into one 17-word couplet.

1. "Her lips are devil red, and her skin's the color mocha / She will wear you out, livin' la vida loca" (Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca," 1999)

Rhyme Crime: Jarring Word Choice

Hard to imagine the word "mocha" will ever again be used so evocatively or unforgettably in pop, especially as a skin tone rather than a caffeinated drink. It'll never sound quite right, but it'll always feel perfect.