Narm Charm: Music
- Perhaps the only reason people listen to The Automatic is for their hilarious hyperactive shrieking keyboardist Alex Pennie. Without him, this song would just be another substandard "Gold Digger" cover, but thanks to Pennie, it becomes grade-A Narm. In fact, when Alex Pennie left the band before the band started recording their second album, the band almost immediately became another generic alternative band and was quickly forgotten. Aside from their first single without him, "Steve McQueen", the band has yet to have another song reach the Top 40 in the UK
- Anytime Daft Punk makes their own lyrics. Horrid English and painful rhymes? Yeah. Memorable, catchy, and awesome? Hell yeah.
- Rhapsody of Fire for sure.
- "Ride Forever," a song by Paul Gross of Due South and Slings and Arrows fame. The lyrics are undeniably cheesy, but the song manages to be genuinely stirring at the same time.
- Bollywood musicals.
- Anything by Manowar. ANYTHING.
- Megadeth. Dave Mustaine's lyrics can be really cheesy and silly ("Peace Sells" and "So Far, So Good", for example, or his Breakup Songs), and his nasal, Donald Duck vocals, but their music is so face-meltingly awesome and Epic Riff-laden (and epic solos!) it makes one think if they're using it to compensate for the words and vocals... People who criticise Mustaine's vocals tend to be the ones who say Megadeth's recent albums are the best of their career. There's a simple reason for this. His vocals on these albums are quite annoying, he probably provided his best vocals on Countdown To Extinction, Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings. Many Megadeth fans like his vocals as they aren't over the top or too aggressive, unlike many other metal singers.
- For some fans, Opera.
- And "Neapolitan songs" (canzone napoletana), most of them composed pop tunes which have become indigenous, similar to the songs of Irving Berlin or George M. Cohan. Italian singers can deliver "O Sole Mio" (My Sunshine), "Funiculì, Funiculà" and "Santa Lucia" with passionate sincerity.
- The storyline behind My Chemical Romance's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys as well as the music videos based on it seem to be intentionally going for this. And succeeding. Oh yes.
- King Diamond's "Welcome Home" when the lyrics are considered. It being King Diamond, he's either snarling or screaming his balls off, and then there's lines like "We're going to repaint the front door soon".
- Japanese remixer Hyadain's remix of Bubble Man's Theme from Mega Man 2 is made of this. Despite the grating use of Gratuitous English and the fact that it's about about Bubble Man's love for Mega Man, the song works anyway, because it's very well arranged, has nice vocal work and, well...it's not on the Tear Jerker page for nothing.
- All of his Robot Master remixes are about confessing love — More or less subtly — towards Mega Man.
- Heat Man's recent theme tops Bubble Man's in this. In it, Heat Man (very passionately) describes what it's like to spend a night making love with him. It has even more Gratuitous English as well.
- "Infection" by J Rock band D'espairsRay. This song should have been horrible: The imagery was cliched, the grammar was bad, some of the lyrics made no sense and the rest were drenched in Engrish — but somehow, it still worked and could be considered a tearjerker.
- "Death Point", which is made of Engrish (and Hizumi repeating over and over, "death point, death point, death point!"), yet still so catchy...
- Nightwish is made of this. They combine epic rocking with questionable English, cheesy themes, Truck Driver's Gear Change, and Word Salad Lyrics. Doesn't matter one bit.
- Radiohead: Thom Yorke's singing style is one of both the easiest and toughest things to make fun of at the same time. Especially after listening to "Idioteque".
- Dream Theater's "The Count of Tuscany" has some of the most ridiculous lyrics that the band has ever written, yet it's one of the most popular songs from Black Clouds and Silver Linings, probably because of the cheesiness. (Or because the rest of the lyrics on that album are even worse. Or because the music on that song is just that good.)
- Meat Loaf. Over the top enough that he probably ended up on the moon? Yes. Awesome'? Also yes. Combine it with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and the result might just implode the world from awesome.
- German band Welle: Erdball thrives on this, but they seem to invoke it intentionally. I mean, a recurring figure in their songs is called ''Commander Laserbeam''. The strange accent doesn't help much.
- William Shatner's duet with Joe Jackson on a cover of Pulp's "Common People". It's So Bad, It's Good taken Up to Eleven. Watch it here. Possibly the best thing about it is the way it seems that Shatner's distracted "singing" style can't handle the more emotive parts of the song, so Joe Jackson has to cover for him.
- The metal band Bal-Sagoth take many tropes Up to Eleven, including Grim Up North, Proud Warrior Race Guy, Cosmic Horror and Purple Prose. It is incredibly over the top, which is part of what makes it great.
- Heavy Metal fans can simultaneously celebrate Dio's "Holy Diver" as a great old-school Metal standard, while realizing that the lyrics make no sense and the music video is ridiculous in a So Bad, It's Good way.
- DragonForce, the hardest metal known to man, better known as Dragonfarce. "Heart of a Dragon" somehow manages to sound rather triumphant despite sharing a melody with the children's song "Three Little Speckled Frogs".
- Heino. Anything by Heino, especially if it refers to "letzten Abendrot," cowboys, or involves clapping. Heino is probably the king of this trope.
- The Muse single "Uprising" is, by itself, a really catchy Queen-style revolutionary anthem. That is, until you notice that the music video, the CD and the vinyl single artwork all seperately portray teddy bears rising up from a field in revolt. It might've been meant to symbolize the seemingly harmless and ubiquitous masses suddenly proving that they're not so harmless, but the image should still be pure narm. Except that listening to the song and hearing the lyrics as a call for downtrodden teddy bears to rise up in righteous rebellion against their human oppressors just adds a whole new, BLAMmy charm to it.
- From the same album, "Guiding Light". It's a full-on '80s Power Ballad, complete with seemingly endless drum reverb (which fits nicely with the jet engine segue at the beginning); a Queen-inspired guitar solo is the icing on the cake. For a band that's often accused of taking itself too seriously these days, it's a refreshingly clear-cut "just enjoy this" moment on the album.
- And while we're at it, "Knights of Cydonia" needs a mention, doubly so when you consider the music video. It combines an overt political Take That with overly sincere "fight for your right" chants, Wild West imagery, kung fu, unicorns, laser beams, and a heavy dose of Epic Rocking; and the end result is somehow legitimately chilling.
- "The Final Countdown" by Europe. Hugely stupid hair metal anthem that's firmly in Guilty Pleasure territory, but awesome.
- So awesome that Mega Man X6 had a stage song loosely based on it.
- Sarah Brightman. Dear god, she could sing the telephone book and make it sound profound. For example, we have "Fleurs de Mal" (Flowers of Evil), "A Question of Honor" and "How Can Heaven Love Me?" And the lyrics are even goofier than the titles...
- Michael Crawford was the original lead in the musical The Phantom of the Opera; Brightman was the original Christine, and he may be her male counterpart in terms of Narm Charm between that and his subsequent albums. His Large Ham delivery is effectively what every comic spoofing the delivery of stage musical actors post-1986 is making fun of, and he's often used it in the service of overblown ballads — he's done whole albums devoted to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Disney, and Christmas Songs — but he does it with an amazing tenderness and sincerity that cuts through the clutter.
- "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," by Iron Butterfly, is completely ridiculous. Yet awesome. Yet ridiculous. Oddly enough, the rest of its parent album, also titled In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, could also qualify. What else would you expect from an album that has a song called "Flowers And Beads"?
- "Du Hast" by Rammstein is so filled to the brim with ludicrous levels of Teutonic Badassery that it's impossible to take it seriously. It's wonderful.
- The two actual songs on famous stuntman Evel Knievel's record Evel Speaks To The Kids (the rest of the record consists of one press conference and one question and answer session with children). "Why?" is a poem written and recited by Knievel himself over music: The rhymes are often cliched or painful ("Success is a term that has broad use, for you and I to have none in life there's no excuse"), but the sincerity in his voice and schmaltzy backing music somehow do still make it oddly affecting. Meanwhile there's the country song "The Ballad Of Evel Knievel" by John Culliton Mahoney (which is on the record despite having nothing to do with Knievel beyond it being about him): the arrangement is just as melodramatic, the vocals waver all over the place, and the lyrics are oddly preoccupied with the idea that Knievel could die while attempting his stunts, but it's still kind of a tearjerker.
- The song "Last Kiss" is so earnest with its subject matter it gets by on this trope.
- "Tell Laura I Love Her" is another example, because there's no other way a Teenage Death Song could possibly be a straight-up hit with that inexplicably cheery bass line: "[Bum bum bum bum] Tell Laura I love her [bum bum bum bum] tell Laura I need her [bum bum bum bum]".
- Peter Cetera's "jaw singing", specially in the video for "Glory of Love". It makes what would've been just yet another of these Silly Love Songs if performed by anybody else but him, into condensed narm charm.
- YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! YOU GOT WHAT I NEEEEEEEEEE-EEEEEEEEEEEEED!! But you say he's just a friend/But you say he's just a friend OH, BABY, YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! Courtesy of The Clown Prince of Hip Hop himself, Biz Markie.
- Jewel has a lot of this, especially in her debut album.
- Vitamin String Quartet runs on this. They specialize in string quartet covers of popular songs, ranging from the predictable "My Immortal" to "Through the Fire and Flames" and "Animal I Have Become" (What?). This should be cheesy. And yet, due in part to amazing arrangements and great musicianship...it's not.
- The band Big Daddy is another example. Their shtick is that they were on a USO tour when their plane crashed on a desert island, and when they were finally rescued in the late 70s they tried to cover currently-popular songs but only knew the late 50s/early 60s styles. Imagine Superfreak as a slow love ballad, or Help Me Make It Through The Night to the tune of Yackity Sax (or, for that matter, Welcome to the Jungle with the background singers going "a-weem-a-wop-a-weem-a-way"). That's Big Daddy. Their cover of Dancin' in the Dark (to "Moody River") is arguably superior to Springsteen's original.
- "Mana" by Equilibrium (Part 1 Part 2). Most of their music is pretty straight folk metal, but this is a sixteen minute instrumental rock epic, complete with choirs, flute solos and a retro video game sound-effect breakdown. It sounds like something from a mid-90s JRPG, and revels so gleefully in it's own ridiculous grandeur that you can't help but love it. Found in two parts here and here.
- Two-Ton Paperweight is awesome precisely because it takes a subject like a crappy car and makes it worthy of suicide, murder, and obscene amounts of violence, all to a rockin' tune. It helps that anyone who's ever had a shitty car can relate. "My. Car. Is a PIECE OF SHIT!"
- Centipede by Rebbie Jackson (the relatively well-adjusted gracefully-aged eldest sister of Michael Jackson). It was her only real hit and is certainly memorable, but those lyrics... Fortunately, it was The '80s, and Rebbie's voice could deliver anything. The funniest part is that Michael wrote and produced the song.
"When the centipede is hot, you're bound to feel the fire."
- Ultravox's "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" is listed under Narm, but it and the rest of the band's output while Midge Ure was their leader (which could also be considered narm-y) still have fans with people who are in love with that overarching, melodramatic European synthpop element to this band's music. It does also put that era of the band's existence at odds with the John Foxx era, which was more detached and punk-oriented, but one can still hear elements of the older Ultravox in 1980's Vienna and it's not uncommon for one to be a fan of both the Foxx and Ure eras of Ultravox.
- "Vienna", with its long, drawn-out notes, should be just plain Narm, except that it is incredibly fun to sing and very easy to love.
- Kanye West spent the better part of a year alienating fans and non-fans alike with his Jerkass behaviour. We all agreed that Kanye's first step should be to apologize for the Taylor Swift incident and then get back to rapping. He's gone back to rapping, but we were fools to think he would apologize. And when he can spout lines like "Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it/I guess every superhero need his theme music" and "I don't need yo pussy, bitch, I'm on my own dick" with that much sincerity, well... more power to him.
- Lady Gaga. It's what she does and will continue to do. Marry The Night makes this certain.
- Kate Bush thrives on this trope. Highbrow art rock with lyrics about Victorian-era Gothic novels and biographies of Austrian psychoanalysts? Concept videos based on Alfred Hitchcock thrillers or featuring interpretive dance routines? Only someone who's completely genuine and uncynical as an artist could get away with that.
- The Queen song "Somebody to Love." It's a good song, despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that the other three guys sound like the background singers from the older Disney cartoons.
- From a certain point of view, Death's logo, particularly in its original, more elaborate version, looks a lot like something that would be on a homemade Halloween party invitation. Load up enough "evil" iconography into five letters and it starts becoming oddly adorable.
- Rock Sugar. One of their most famous songs is a cover of "Don't Stop Believing", which qualifies under its own merits, mashed up with "Enter Sandman". And it is awesome.
- Jeff Lynne has said this much of his music: "Some of these songs are so over the top it's amazing."
- Grim Reaper.
- Oh Warlock, you're so cheesy, but you put your hearts into it and that's why we love you.
- "Down With The Sickness" by Disturbed. That child-abuse segment is so over-the-top, crosses the line in so many ways, is so unabashedly screamy and raging and yet while it's going you may as well forget all that because in the context of the song, does it ever work.
- Van Canto. Their recreations of classic metal songs with nothing but a drummer and lots of vocal effects are both awe-inspiring and a bit silly. Singing the song titles as lyrics definitely tops the silliness: "bataree, baa — taree, bataree baa — taree..."
- By nature, a very large number of award bait songs epitomise narm charm — sparkly synth, Tastes Like Diabetes lyrics, over-the-top vocal histrionics — and yet, everyone comes back for more. And it's not like this only happened in the 80s and 90s. Case in point is "Love Lives", a solo effort by Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, for the Live-Action Adaptation of Space Battleship Yamato (2010).
I looked at you, you looked at me,
I knew it then, but you couldn't see it,
And now you've come around.
I walk away, you stay behind,
But I've got the memories to remind me,
Of how you used to...
Hold me so tight, be by my side,
And make it alright...
- "Celtic Rock" by Donovan. On paper, it borders on self-parody, as the guy tries to do hard rock in the style of a stereotypical Celtic tune. Nonetheless, you can't stop bobbing your head whenever it plays. Summed up best in another tune of his, "Roots Of Oak":
Let me not hear facts, figures and logic,
Fain would I hear lore, legend and magic!
- "Let's Get Rocked" by Def Leppard. Using "rock" as a radio-friendly substitute for "fuck" makes the song hilarious fun, resulting in lines like "LET'S GET THE ROCK OUT OF HERE!" Same goes for the gratuitous strings when the singer discovers that his girlfriend only likes classical music.
- Army Of Lovers (a Swedish dance group) made a brief career out of this. They were deliberately so over the top, baroque, hypersexual, kitsch and camp that it was something amazing to behold. Which was exactly what they wanted.
- The bulk of Linkin Park's first two albums. Their lyrics showed as much maturity and depth as a twelve-year old's LiveJournal, but damned if Chester's screams and Shinoda's awesome rapping didn't have you singing along.
- The band have said that the record company pushed them into angsty music to capitalise on the popularity of nu-metal, and that they were always more about the programming side of things. This is evident from their later albums where they regained artistic control, albeit not always as exciting.
- "Ice Ice Baby" is known for having some slightly goofy lyrics and an especially goofy music video, but it managed to become a big hit.
- "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence, the sound of overblown histrionic angst from the band that inspired the worst fanfic ever. But it's done with such bombastic, agonised gusto you have to love it. Go for broke, emo girl!
- Arthur Brown's peak period (1967 to 1973), with "Fire", where he dances around clad in face paint and donning a flaming helmet, his most triumphant example.
- "People Who Died" by Jim Carroll would probably not be even half as memorable if it weren't for Carroll's over-the-top performance and such lyrical gems as "But Tony couldn't fly! Tony died!"
- Love's album Forever Changes. Between the easy listening-style arrangements (heavy on the strings and Tijuana Brass-like horns) from a band that had been one of LA's hard rock pioneers, Arthur Lee's twee vocal stylings and his out-there lyrics (like opening a song with the line "Oh, the snot has caked against my pants"), the album simply should not work at all, and a lot of people have been underwhelmed by it. But it managed to capture the darker side of The Summer of Love and The California Dream better than any other album of its era, while its odd sound gave it a timeless feel that managed to appeal to future generations.
- The more dramatic works of Tim Minchin tend to do this on purpose - the metaphors and lyrics he uses tend to be so bad that they swing around into brilliant. You Grew On Me, in particular, would be a hilariously bad love song comparing the narrator's love with a tumor, if he didn't sing it with absolute conviction.
- "MacArthur Park" is infamous for some truly Narmy lyrics, but Richard Harris sings it so well and so beautifully accompanied that it more than crosses the line into this trope.
- "Killer" by Van Der Graaf Generator. You'd think a song where Peter Hammill expresses sympathy towards a shark while singing in an over the top manner would garner nothing but ridicule. And yet, it happens to be one of the band's most beloved tunes.
- How To Touch A Girl by Jojo is delightful cheesy in its honest literalness.
- Believe Again by Delta Goodrem falls into this to the fans who love the song.
- The Christmas Shoes is about two children who want to buy their mom a nice pair of shoes for their mom, who'll need something pretty to wear since she'll go to meet Jesus very soon. They can't afford the shoes, but a kind-hearted stranger gives them the money they need, and subsequently realizes that generosity is the True Spirit of Christmas. What makes the song so contrived is that everybody seems to be actively trying to make sure things are as sad as possible. It's a ridiculously sentimental song that lends itself to a thousand Imelda Marcos jokes, and the narrator realizing the true meaning of Christmas doesn't help the kids much, does it? Mom will still be dead. The song was featured in the book I Hate Myself And I Want To Die, which is about songs that try to be moving but are just stupid, and The Nostalgia Chick called it her most disturbing and inescapable Christmas song, and to top things off, the shoes don't matter a bit in the long run. All it's really about is that there were these kids, and their Christmas present this year was a dead mom. For once, a couple of consumers buying things didn't help. And wouldn't it be better if the kid was with his mom, instead of going to buy some shoes she'll never wear? When you listen to The Christmas Shoes, you're still going to cry like a baby during the chorus. You will.
- The "Ooka Chaka Ooka Ooka Ooka Chaka" from Blue Swede's Hooked on a Feeling. It sounds so strange, but so right. Apparently it's Swedish onomatopoeia for the sound an ape makes.
- "Warmness on the Soul" by Avenged Sevenfold. It's a silly love song and M. Shadows sounds like he's in downright pain while he's singing, and yet whether it's because it's cute or because it's one of the only happy songs the band has, you can't help but like it at least a little.
- The song "Burning" by Mia Martina is sooooo ridiculously silly and cheesy... And yet strangely it works. The cheesy sax and the generic lyrics (fill me up, fill me up, fill me up, your love is like a drug) are so ridiculous but you can't help but smile.
- Many of Live's songs, but "Waitress" takes the cake as an impassioned, howled plea to...be compassionate and leave a tip for a rude, but acceptable waitress.
- Iron Maiden can be considered this in a nutshell (Bruce Dickinson could sing the back label of a toilet bowl cleaner bottle and it would sound profound), as several of their songs are either cheesy or goofy but the emotion of the songs still work (and the songs are still so friggin' badass, it hurts) however, "Coming Home" from their 2010 album The Final Frontier is this in spades. The song is incredibly corny and the lyrics are cheesy, but painful and passionate playing from the band members and Bruce's powerful vocals, man. They make the lyrics bring a tear to your eye.
- "The Alchemist" which follows right after. The lyrics sound like they were ripped straight from a history book, but the song is still extremely badass.
- Their concert stages in spades. Only Iron Maiden can get away with a stage that is meant to resemble an ice cave...
- Guy Sebastian can have moments of these. For example, "Get Along" can easily be interpreted as a ham-fisted attempt to spread the aesop that we should forget our religious ties and just "get along". But Sebastian can sing, and his sincerity is hard to ignore. The production certainly helps in giving the narm its charm, too.
- Geri Halliwell's music video for "Lift Me Up". The plot is that she is nearly robbed by a group of aliens and instead she ends up having fun with them. The premise is ridiculous and full of potential Narm but yet the scenes with Geri and the aliens bonding are so friggin adorable. And you're bound to feel either a little sad or the WAFF at the end when the aliens say goodbye to her.
- The music of Flight of the Conchords generally involves invoking Narm for comedic effect. However, their Charity Motivation Song for Cure Kids, "Feel Inside (And Stuff Like That)", invokes this trope instead. The lyrics were produced from conversations with actual kids and has some wacky ideas about money that you would expect from children, like encouraging listeners to steal money from their fathers' wallets for donation and claiming that the economy works by the queen, the prime minister and the bank all getting money from each other ("the craziest financial system that I've ever seen"). But the song is still genuinely touching and quickly reached #1 on New Zealand's chart.
- Nine Inch Nails in general can get pretty narmy, with Trent's overly dramatic and angsty lyrics and over the top screaming...but that's what makes the band awesome.
- Hollywood Undead has this in spades - having started out as a MySpace band with a fanbase comprised mainly of scene kids, it comes as no surprise. Although many songs are comedic, the occassional Wangst bomb (be it in the form of laughable over-the-top screaming or a lyric so cliche it's hard to believe) almost sounds like enough to ruin the song, but it ends up working very well in most cases, like "Knife Called Lust", "Mother Murder", "Black Dahlia", "The Loss".
- Deliberately invoked by the Kursaal Flyers’ hit single “Little Does She Know,” a gloriously over-the-top spoof of 60s teenage pop-rock about seeing an old flame in a laundromat. They even throw in the Hallelujah Chorus over the ending fade!
- J-Rock band Guitar Wolf are noisy and not likely to impress you with their mastery of their instruments, but they can still make screaming "CYBORG KIDS! CYBORG KIDS!" sound insanely awesome and awesomely insane.
- "Summer Girls" by LFO has lyrics that are unbelievably bizarre, with Painful Rhyme aplenty (rhyming "hornet" with "sonnet" is probably the crowner.) That being said, the lyrics are so wonderfully silly you can't help but smile a little when you listen. The fact that it's a nostalgia song written by the lead singer as a way to deal with burnout from the music business by remembering his childhood (meaning warm fuzzy feelings was the point) probably helps.
- Thousand Foot Krutch has the line "P.S. Don't play me like a 3DS" in "Get Wicked". It not only dates the song as being circa early to mid 2010s but also sounds hilarious.. And still cool according to some.
- The Lawrence Welk Show was considered hopelessly kitschy and square even in The Fifties. Nonetheless, it held solid ratings for 30-odd years and still plays in reruns today.
- Italo-disco is already full of this trope, but KOTO's "Jabdah" is among the most egregious examples. It's a ridiculous Filk Song about Jabbah the Hut with cheesy triumphant synthesizer melodies and a Gratuitous English-speaking narrator going on about a "strong voice coming from the space". It's impossible to take seriously but also difficult not to smile at.
- Glenn Gould is an acclaimed classical pianist, but he also had the habit to audibly hum along to the tunes he played. Some critics hate him for that, some even take it as evidence for his alledged Asperger's Syndrome, while others are perfectly fine with it and consider it part of his appeal.