Barenaked Ladies, frequently abbreviated BnL (no, not that one), are a Canadian alternative rock band formed in 1988. When they hit it big, they did it with a quirky style that could convey alternatively humour or heartbreak at will. In doing so, they redefined what Canadian popular music could be, and showed that Canada never needed to copy any other culture.
They got their name when founding members Ed Robertson and Steven Page were discussing names for a band during a Bob Dylan concert; when they went to sign up for a music competition shortly thereafter and realised they needed to come up with a band name on the spot, they panicked, and the rest is history.
Although their first hit song was a dynamite cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," they soon began making considerable waves with their own creations with a cheap independently produced demo tape, called The Yellow Tape, that was rejected by all the music labels. With nothing else to do with it, the band started selling copies at their concerts and it caught on like wildfire until it hit national Platinum sales status (100,000), the first ever indie label to do so in Canada. They're mostly known for sometimes intelligently snarky, sometimes just plain goofy lyrics, a tendency to improvise, and a light-hearted stage show combining all of the above.
Once banned by city bureaucrats note from playing at a New Year's venue in their native Toronto due to their "obscene" name, they were later given the key to the city. There's a message in there somewhere.
The line-up has changed thrice, with Andy Creeggan leaving prior to the recording of Born On a Pirate Ship, Kevin Hearn arriving after said recording (but before the release), and Steven Page leaving the group for a solo career in 2009. The current band consists of:
- Ed Robertson: Guitar/Vocals
- Kevin Hearn: Keyboard/Vocals/Guitar/Other
- Tyler Stewart: Drums
- Jim Creeggan: Bass/Vocals
- Gordon (1992)
- Maybe You Should Drive (1994, last album with Andy Creeggan)
- Born On a Pirate Ship (1996)
- Rock Spectacle (1996) (First Live Album)
- Stunt (1998, first studio album with Kevin Hearn, also the album that has "One Week" on it)
- Maroon (2000)
- Everything to Everyone (2003)
- Barenaked for the Holidays (2004, holiday album, in that it has songs about Hanukkah as well as Christmas)
- Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006)
- Barenaked Ladies Are Men (2007)
- Talk To The Hand: Live In Michigan (2007) (Second Live Album)
- Snacktime! (2008 kids' album)
- All In Good Time (2010)
- Grinning Streak (2013)
- Silverball (2015)
- Fake Nudes (2017)
- Detour de Force (2021)
If I Had 1,000,000 Tropes (If I Had 1,000,000 Tropes):
- Actual Pacifist: The protagonist in "Take It Outside" makes it a point not to get involved in fights or arguments for fear of getting hurt, even at the expense of his own pride.Any other guy
would want to take it outside
but I'd never even try
Who wants to get their lights knocked out?
- Album Title Drop: While not a lyric, per se, the last word uttered on Gordon, in the outtakes tacked onto the end of "Crazy", is the title.Yes, Gordon. King Gordon.
- Alternate Album Cover: The original cover of Gordon featured a photo of the band making goofy faces, which they hated because they thought it made it look like an album of children's music. After the album's initial success they talked their label into replacing it with a pic of the red-white-and-blue ball that was their recurring motif at the time (including part of that original cover photo).
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Implied in "Call and Answer.""You think it's only fair to do what's best for you and you alone
You think it's only fair to do the same to me when I'm not home
I think it's time to make this something that is more than only fair"
- Ambiguous Syntax: In "Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel" the narrator muses that his lover is the last thing on his mind while on his way home. Normally, that'd mean he wasn't thinking about her at all, but in this case he's about to have a fatal car crash and the thought of her makes his death more bearable.
- Animated Music Video:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the song "Grade 9", the band members reminisce about embarrassing nicknames they were given in high school:Jim: "They called me chicken legs!"
Andy: "They called me four-eyes!"
Steve: "They called me fatso!"
Tyler: "They called me buckwheat!"
Ed: "They called me Eddie."
- Ed (and Steve) went to a school for the gifted, with Ed starting in the 3rd grade there. In the gifted school, he was one of the popular kids. Prior to that, he was as much an outcast as the other BNL members.
- Kevin Hearne has been known to add “they called me pork chop” in concert.
Bar brawlers and drifters
- "Jerome" has an example of this with actual crimes:
Gamblers and gun fighters
Ladies of the evening
...and copper miners
- Audience Participation: During concerts, people would throw Kraft Dinner during the line that mentions it in "If I Had $1000000."
- People in the know don't throw...
- For a while they didn't perform the song because they were tired of getting hit with boxes (on the live version, you can hear them complain about it after the line). These days, any boxes that do get thrown are donated to food pantries.
- They also have donation boxes at their concerts with signs requesting that your Kraft dinners go there instead of the stage.
- Similarly, people sometimes throw underwear on stage during "Pinch Me". Yes, for that lyric. See Heh Heh, You Said "X" below.
- People in the know don't throw...
- Bad Santa: His elves have a few grievances to discuss in "Elf's Lament".
- Bait-and-Switch: Their cover of "Jingle Bells," which begins as a sombre piano ballad before unexpectedly bursting into the much more up-tempo version we all know, only getting more and more ridiculous as it goes along.
I know your heart can not be bought and sold
- "Maybe Not" is full of these.
- Band of Relatives: Bassist Jim Creeggan and former pianist/percussionist Andy Creeggan are brothers.
- Based on a True Story: "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank" (see "Loony Fan" below) and, believe it or not, "Another Postcard".
- Bilingual Bonus: A line in "Maybe Not" has the Dutch curse "donder maar op". roughly translated to "Fuck off", so it's also a Precision F-Strike.
"Consider yourself told in Dutch"
- It also is Lampshaded by the next line:
- Boggles the Mind: In "Conventioneers", two co-workers hanging out in the same hotel room are playing Scrabble. One plays the word "LOVE". Despite their best attempts to awkwardly laugh it off, sex ensues.
- Bookends: Not counting hidden content, "Crazy", the last song on Gordon, ends with the riff from "Hello City", the first song on the album.
- Brick Joke:
- "I'd buy you a fur coat but not a real fur coat, that's cruel." In the next verse, they sing "I'd buy you a green dress, but not a real green dress, that's cruel."
- A possibly unintentional one: Track 9 on Barenaked Ladies Are Me is called "Maybe You're Right". Track 9 on the follow-up album Barenaked Ladies Are Men is called "Maybe Not".
- The Cameo: The song "Snacktime!!" features several friends of the band stating some of their favorite snacks via phone call, including Geddy Lee, Jason Priestly, and "Weird Al" Yankovic.
- And Gordon Lightfoot, who wrote the "Canadian Railroad Trilogy". ("Snacktime!" is part one of the "Canadian Snacktime Trilogy".)
- Their video for "Odds Are" had cameos from many people in Rooster Teeth, as well as Greg Miller from IGN, iJustine and Freddie Wong from Rocket Jump.
- The video for "Falling For The First Time" features Kevin Hearn's cousin, comedian Harland Williams, as a security guard.
- Canada, Eh?: They were born in Canada. They were popular in the US. They are GODS in Canada.
- Captain Obvious: "If I had $1000000...I'd be rich." Despite the obvious Canadian currency jokes in the 90s, one million in Canadian was still worth a lot. For a short time in the late Oughts/early Tens it was almost exactly as much as a million American dollars, and sometimes more than that, but the jokes became relevant again after the 2014 collapse of world energy prices kneecapped the loonie against the US buck. (The loonie hasn't gotten back to 85 US cents since then.)
- Careful with That Axe: The live version of "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank" takes a sudden nosedive in tone near the climax, with a few whispered lyrics immediately followed by Steven screaming the final lines. Considering what the song is about, it just makes it creepier.
- “Break Your Heart” has Steven, now singing from the woman’s point of view, scream in anger after the line “my heart will be fine, but please stop wasting my time! AWWW! NOOO!”
- Celebrity Is Overrated: "Celebrity"."Leave your heart
Lay down your art, you're here for the party
Smile and wave, try to behave
Be happy that they've made you a celebrity"
"I went down, to register for the draft
- New Kid on the Block from Gordon plays with this in re: boy bands generally and then-hot New Kids on the Block specifically.
So I got up to the counter and the lady there just laughed
She said you're a New Kid on the Block
Young girls scream & old boys mock
Well, you broke my youngest daughter's heart
Yeah, I knew you Kids were trouble from the start"
- Cerebus Syndrome: Before Maroon, the main BnL studio albums predominantly consisted of comical (or at least tongue-in-cheek) songs with one or two serious tracks thrown in for good measure. From Maroon onward, the amount of down-tempo Serious Business in each album has increased.
- Changing Chorus: "One Week" has a chorus where some lines change:
- First verse:It's been one week since you looked at me
Cocked your head to the side and said, "I'm angry"
Five days since you laughed at me
Saying, "Get that together, come back and see me"
Three days since the living room
I realized it's all my fault, but couldn't tell you
Yesterday, you'd forgiven me
But it'll still be two days 'til I say I'm sorry
- Second verse:It's been one week since you looked at me
Threw your arms in the air and said, "You're crazy"
Five days since you tackled me
I've still got the rug burns on both my knees
It's been three days since the afternoon
You realized it's not my fault not a moment too soon
Yesterday, you'd forgiven me
And now I sit back and wait 'til you say you're sorry
- Third verse:It's been one week since you looked at me
Dropped your arms to the sides and said, "I'm sorry"
Five days since I laughed at you and said
"You just did just what I thought you were gonna do"
Three days since the living room
We realized we're both to blame but what could we do?
Yesterday, you just smiled at me
'Cause it'll still be two days 'til we say we're sorry
- First verse:
- Christmas Songs: The album Barenaked For the Holidays, with both original and familiar Christmas songs, as well as a couple of Hanukkah songs, both to be inclusive and because Steve is Jewish.
- Clip Show: The music video for "Thanks That Was Fun" consists entirely of footage from previous BNL videos edited to make Ed and Steve look like they're actually singing along. This is thematically appropriate, because the track was the lead single from their greatest hits album.
- Conspiracy Theorist: "Get In Line" provides the page quote. The song was written specifically for the official King of the Hill soundtrack and is meant to serve as sort of an Image Song for Dale Gribble.
- Conversational Troping:
- "Box Set" seems to discuss just about every music trope that an aging musician past his prime will inevitably run into.
- "It's All Been Done" is basically a song about romantic clichés.
- Cover Version: In addition to "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" (see the summary above), they also recorded two different versions of Public Enemy's "Fight the Power"; one for The Yellow Tape, and one for the soundtrack to Coneheads.
- Creator Breakdown: Analysed in "Brian Wilson," with multiple shout outs to different major signposts in Wilson's actual Creator Breakdown. Later turned meta when Brian Wilson covered "Brian Wilson."
- Did I Say That Out Loud?: The band has a song titled just that.
- Duct Tape for Everything: According to "Duct Tape Heart", if your heart is broken, you can just make a new, more durable one out of duct tape! note
- Even Evil Has Standards: The song "Bank Job" was about a gang of bank robbers who call off a job when they enter the bank, only to find the bank was full of nuns.
- Executive Meddling: Discussed in "Box Set": "Disc Two, it was all brand new, an album's worth of songs/But we had to leave the whole disc blank 'cause some other label bought 'em."
- Fell Asleep Driving: Their song "Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel" is from the perspective of a man who, as the title of the song suggests, fell asleep driving and got in a serious car accident.
- First Day of School Episode: "Grade 9" from Gordon, about starting high school:I found my locker and I found my classes
I lost my lunch and I broke my glasses
That guy is huge, that girl is wailin'
First day of school and I'm already failing
- First Injury Reaction: "Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel" is pretty much entirely one from the lyrics' character's perspective, such as commenting on the Sickening "Crunch!" he heard as he hit the ground, as well as mentioning that he's never seen so much blood before.
- Fun with Acronyms: Barenaked Ladies are Me and Barenaked Ladies are Men are often shortened to BLAMe and BLAM, respectively.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The album title Born on a Pirate Ship is a direct reference to a schoolyard prank in which the victim is told to hold their tongue and say "I was born on a pirate ship." spoiler
- Gilligan Cut: An awkward moment of Unresolved Sexual Tension in "Conventioneers" leads to this:And we laugh... and we laugh... and we laugh
And we have to or we'll end up in the bath
(next verse) And now we're in the bath...
- The Grinch: "Green Christmas", written for, appropriately enough, the soundtrack to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.
- Hand-or-Object Underwear: On the cover of their live album for the Au Naturale tour, all five then-members of the band are fully naked and use their hands in this manner, in combination with Speech-Bubble Censoring (technically, it's the album title). On the poster that advertised the tour itself, the "object" covering BNL's nudity was co-headliner Alanis Morissette, who was also naked herself and using hand underwear.
- Hated Item Makeover: "The Old Apartment" is about a man who revisits/breaks into the old apartment he used to live in. He expresses displeasure at how the new tenants have renovated - such as by repainting the walls, paving the lawn, and plastering over the hole in the door - because he liked the wear and tear of the apartment's original appearance.
- Heh Heh, You Said "X": "Pinch Me": "I could hide out under there/I just made you say underwear." This usually causes audiences to throw underwear. Ed tends to lampshade the audience's reaction by changing the line to "I just made you throw underwear."
- Hurricane of Puns: "Adrift". It works because they're mostly Stealth Puns, and combine with the music to make a surreal effect on the whole.
- I Don't Know Mortal Kombat: Ed once got a very poor score when trying to perform "One Week" in public on Karaoke Revolution. His reaction? "Lousy? I wrote this song!"
- If I Were a Rich Man: "If I Had $1000000" is about what a guy might buy with that money, such as buying his girl a fake fur coat.
- Imagine the Audience Naked: Or, Imagine Everyone Naked. Early in their career, when the band had trouble getting the right vibe for a song on Gordon ("The King of Bedside Manor"), someone suggested that the band record the song in the nude. The resultant "over-the-top nervous energy" of the recording, as producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda described it, inspired the band to do this for one song per album until 2003.
- Immediate Self-Contradiction: "Falling for the First Time", in a manner reminiscent of "Come As You Are" by Nirvana or "Hand in my Pocket" by Alanis Morissette.I'm so cool, too bad I'm a loser
I'm so smart, too bad I can't get anything figured out
I'm so brave, too bad I'm a baby
I'm so fly, that's probably why
it feels just like I'm falling for the first time
- Improv: It's not uncommon during concerts to see them making up songs on the spot, or humorous interjections when the band is shooting the breeze on stage.
- Incredibly Lame Fun: One of the "ifs" in "If I Had $1000000" is to build a tree fort and put a little fridge in it, so they could go up and... open the fridge.
- Incredibly Long Note: "Break Your Heart"
- Also the opening syllable in "Eraser"
- Steven's "fat lady" in "Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel".
- There's a very subtle one at the end of "Helicopters".
- The Insomniac: "Who Needs Sleep?"
- Intercourse with You: A few rare depressing examples including "In the Car" (a song about two people having sex despite no emotional connection) and "Conventioneers" (about a man sleeping with a co-worker and regretting it afterward).
"Back and forth like a choo-choo train."
- Then there's "In The Drink".
- Ironic Echo: The line "You're the last thing on my mind" in the song "Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel" goes from meaning "I'm not thinking about you" to something completely different by the end of the song.
If I had a million dollars
- The titular line, 'It's all been done,' may be this as well, with the final repetitions of the phrase being literal if the subjects of the song are reminiscing at the end of time.
- From "If I Had $1000000":
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you a fur coat
(But not a real fur coat; that's cruel)
Well, I'd buy you a green dress
(But not a real green dress; that's cruel)
Anyone with half a heart would help me out
- The titular line to "Half a Heart" goes from "even someone who barely cares would help me" to "even someone who would normally help would leave me to my fate" in each chorus:
Before they ever let the other half find out
But if they could see how far I've let you down
Anyone with half a heart would let me drown
- From the song Jane... first verse: "Was dazzled by her smile while I shopped there"; last verse: "Still dazzled by her smile while I shoplift there".
- Ironic Fear: "When I Fall" is sung from the perspective of a window washer with a crippling fear of heights.
- Irony: "One Week" remained at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for, you guessed it, one week.
- It's Been Done: "It's All Been Done", obviously.
- It's Fake Fur, It's Fine: The narrator of "If I Had $1000000" would buy you a fur coat... but not a real fur coat, that's cruel.
- Karma Houdini Warranty: The cheating husband/boyfriend in "Off The Hook" cheats on his partner, gaslights them into treating it as a minor offense, then, after keeping up appearances for some time, blows his second chance when he's caught on the phone with his paramour.
- Least Rhymable Word: "Four Seconds" manages to rhyme the word "orange" three times (with "door hinge", "four-inch", and the amusingly strained "store in Germany", respectively).
- Location Song: "Hello City" from Gordon is a Take That! aimed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Which became a problem when they went out on tour for the album, and had to repeatedly reassure other Maritime concert audiences that they didn't mean this "seaside beer hall should sink into the bay", or anything. Of course, mentioning a major Halifax street by name in the bridge narrows things down a bit.Maybe I caught you at a bad time
Maybe I should call you back next week
Maybe half the fault is mine
That the sun didn't shine on Barrington Street
- Long-Runner Line-up: The time between their first roster change and the second was 14 years.
- Loony Fan/Stalker with a Crush/Yandere: The song "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank" is written from the perspective of a male one of these. By the end of the song, he's gone off the deep end and has murdered the object of his affections.
- The object of said affections is Anne Murray.
- The song is based on the real-life story of Robert Kieling, a farmer from Saskatchewan who was obsessed with Murray. Fortunately, the tragic and dark ending when the farmer shows up at Murray's door with a gun never happened in real life, and never will because Kieling died in 2002. Anne Murray is still alive.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "I Know", "Break Your Heart", "Have You Seen My Love?", "One and Only", "Jerome", "The Love We're In", "Enid", several tracks on Snacktime!, and most famously, "One Week" and the theme song to The Big Bang Theory.
- Lyrical Dissonance: All too common. One example that springs to mind is "Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel," an upbeat, cheery song reminiscent of carnival music - sung from the perspective of a guy bleeding out in the street. It actually features a calliope.
"I'll be that girl and you would be right over
- "In the Drink". An easy-going, jazzy little song in which Jim Creeggan declares, "I want to drink your blood".
- The king of this must be "I'll Be That Girl", a rather bouncy song about pining over an overly self-absorbed person, and what he'd do if he were her.
And if I were a field, you would be in clover
And if I were the sun, you would be in shadow
And If I had a gun, there'd be no tomorrow"
There's a shopping cart in the ravine
- "Alcohol" is an upbeat little ditty about alcohol. It's also an upbeat little ditty about alcoholism.
- "Light Up My Room" from Stunt comes across as a generically poignant, soulful paean to the singer's hometown... unless you're listening closely.
Foam on the creek is like pop and ice cream
Field full of tires that is always on fire
To light my way home...
The day they found me asleep on the floor
- "Fun and Games" fits the bill, considering it's a happy little ditty that includes the line "We knew your sons and daughters would be blown in half."
- "Angry People" is a happy-sounding song (complete with tap-dance segment in the bridge) about...well, the title says it, really.
- "I Live With It Every Day" sounds like their typically silly song, and then you listen to the lyrics...
Engine running, closed garage door
Was the day the 'For Sale' sign arrived on the lawn
Two weeks later, and we were gone
- Male Frontal Nudity: While not seen by the public, there was formerly plenty of this in the studio. From 1992 until 2003, the band had a tradition to record one song per album completely naked, a rule that applied to anyone else in the studio as well. See if you can listen to the following "naked tracks" in the same way knowing how they were recorded:
- Gordon: "The King of Bedside Manor" (see Imagine Everyone Naked, above)
- Maybe You Should Drive: "Intermittently"
- Born on a Pirate Ship: "Back" (left off the final album, but released a year later as a B-side to "Brian Wilson (2000)")
- Stunt: "Alcohol" (the only naked track to be released as a single)
- Maroon: "Humour of the Situation"
- Everything to Everyone: "Sign Me Up" (left off the final album, and remains unreleased; described by the band as "basically us swearing our heads off for six minutes")
- In interviews for Barenaked Ladies Are Me, the band confirmed they had abandoned the tradition, saying it had gotten old. However, the first album to not include a naked track was, perhaps ironically, 2004's Barenaked for the Holidays.
- Medley: In the 1990s, the band would close their shows with a medley of cover versions of popular songs at the time, known as the "Barenaked Rap"; this medley would feature differing songs as time passed. The "Barenaked Rap" was retired in 2002, but the band began performing it again in 2009 after Steven Page left the band.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Little Tiny Song", appropriately enough.
- Mondegreen Gag: In "Testing 1-2-3" in the second verse:She got a new apartment
It's out on the escarpment
And in her glove compartment
Are my songs
She hasn't even heard them
Since she found out what the words meant
She decided she preferred them
- Motor Mouth: "One Week" — apparently, even they have trouble getting the lyrics right.
- "Pinch Me", "Another Postcard", "The History of Everything", "Four Seconds", and "Odds Are" also qualify. "Testing 1, 2, 3" even lampshades this, possibly expressing some frustration at the fact that their songs without "a bunch of really fast rhymes" don't seem to get as much attention.
- Non-Appearing Title: They completely averted the Album Title Drop up until Snacktime. All in Good Time still manages to avert it because the title track was ultimately left off of the album.
- Their best-of collection, Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits, notably lacks "Box Set", the very song that inspired its title.
- Finally averted with Silverball, which was even given its own video.
- Nonindicative Name: The band is actually composed entirely of fully-clothed men. Then again, see Once per Episode.
- Ode to Intoxication: "Alcohol" is a deconstructed version.
- Once per Episode: From Gordon to Everything For Everyone, the band would record one song for the album while everyone in the studio (including the people in the control room) completely naked. See Male Frontal Nudity for a complete list of the "naked tracks."
- One-Hit Wonder: Discussed in "Box Set".
- Only Sane Man: "Get in Line" wavers back and forth between this and total Paranoia Fuel.Dictate a memo to myself, try to find if I'm the only one in complete health.
- Overly Long Name: Ed's full name is Lloyd Edward Elwyn Robertson. He claims that he came by this name as the result of a bet his father made.
- The Perfectionist: "Falling For The First Time" is written from the perspective of one who's getting his first taste of failure and realizing it's not so bad.
- Perverse Sexual Lust: Surprisingly in One Week:Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon, 'cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes, That make me think the wrong thing.
- Poverty Food: If I Had a Million Dollars states that they'd still eat Kraft Dinner (Mac 'n' Cheese for our American friends) despite no longer having to. They'd just eat more of it, and with fancier ketchup. Personal taste doesn't change with one's financial situation, after all.
- Power of Love: According to 'Odds Are', you have a much better chance of falling in love by the time the track ends, than you would die in a multitude of horrible ways... Which the bulk of the song, sans-chorus, spends detailing. In other words, the statistical power of love!
- Precision F-Strike: A group strike at the end of "Go Home".
- Product Placement: "If I Had $1000000" includes references to Chrysler K-Car automobiles and Kraft Dinner. Taken more literally when Steven Page appeared in an advertisement for Kraft Dinner in 2020.
- Protest Song: Several on Everything For Everyone (see Take That! below). Discussed in "Helicopters".
It's hard to keep your mouth shut
- Sarcastically Justified on numerous tracks from The "Are Me/Men" double album, including, but not limited to: "Angry People", "Maybe You're Right", and especially "Take It Back".
Harder still to make noise
But we can't have the perfect 20/20 hindsight
That our fate enjoys.
- Rockumentary: Barenaked In America.
"His fontanelle pulses with lives that he's lived, with memories he'll learn to ignore
- One interpretation of "It's All Been Done". That, Time Travel or really boring immortality.
- "When You Dream" is specifically about this.
And when it is closed, he already knows, he's forgotten all he knew before"
- Relationship Upgrade: Deconstructed in "Conventioneers." The first three verses describe a man having a romantic passionate evening with a woman he's had a crush on for a long time, musing about how he wants to marry and grow old with her the whole time. Immediately after they have sex, he decides that it wasn't worth it and leaves while she's sleeping, secretly hoping that they never see each other again (which is really awkward, as it's revealed that they're co-workers).
- Relieved Failure: "Falling For the First Time" is about someone who succeeds at everything. When the song takes place, he's actually failed at something. However, he was so bored with success that he's actually "thrilled to be finally be failing" (his words).
- Santa's Sweatshop: "Elf's Lament" is sung from the perspective of an elf that's sick of his working conditions and goes on to rally his co-workers to unionize and demand better treatment under the threat of a strike.
- Sentimental Shabbiness: In the song "The Old Apartment", the singer returns to the old apartment he used to share with his girlfriend, and laments that it's been fixed up since he moved out.
- Silly Simian: "Another Postcard" involves the narrator of the song being bombarded with postcards depicting chimpanzees in humorous situations.
- Shout-Out: Soooo very many, especially on their earlier albums.
- Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and "The Spirit of Radio", and Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy" are interpolated and references are made to Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and "Stairway to Heaven" during "Grade 9".
- The Housemartins' "Happy Hour" is referenced in "Hello City", as is Halifax, NS's (the city in question) iconic Barrington Street.
- The band repeats the phrase "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" several times in "The King of Bedside Manor".
- Not to mention the fact that they do so immediately after yelling "STYX!"
- "Blame It On Me" references Milli Vanilli's "Blame It On the Rain".
- "If I Had $1000000" namedrops K-Carsnote , John Merrick, Kraft Dinner, Pablo Picasso and Art Garfunkel.
- "One Week" has references to Vertigo, Frantic, Match Game, The X-Files, Sailor Moon, Aquaman, Akira Kurosawa, Harrison Ford, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Sting, and LeAnn Rimes, among other things.
- "Odds Are" features the lyrics "twenty-three or four to one" which is a reference to Chicago's song "25 or 6 to 4".
- "Jane" has the phrase "No Juliana next to my Evan", which is a nod to Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando of the Lemonheads, who received a lot of media speculation over whether or not they were a couple.
- The video of "One Week" starts with a homage to the "Doll on a Music Box" scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- "Brian Wilson".
- Not only is "Silverball" a thinly-veiled shout-out to Pinball, but the lyrics also include shout-outs to the Lord of the Rings game and the original pinball rock opera, Tommy.
- "Pollywog in a Bog" contains a reggae breakdown in the style of Prince Fleeswallow from Parappa The Rapper, complete with his famous "Ribbit, ribbit!" chant.
- "Four Seconds" gives a subtle nod to Canadian band Blue Rodeo.
- "You + Me vs The World" references: MacGyver, Westley and Buttercup.
- Sleeping Dummy: In the video for "Shoe Box", the girl leaves one of these in her bed when she sneaks out of her room to meet her older lover. It doesn't fool her mom for a moment. (And it's All Just a Dream anyway.)
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: When Steven Page was with the band, it was much closer to cynical (by way of Lyrical Dissonance, of course), mostly owing to Page drawing on his depression for inspiration. After he left, most of their music has become exclusively idealistic.
- Snow Means Love:
- The holiday song "Footprints" is basically all about this trope.
- As is the "Winter Wonderland" song.
- Speech-Bubble Censoring: The cover of the live album Au Naturale Live features this (even if it was technically the album title) combined with Hand-or-Object Underwear.
- Spell My Name with an S: "If I Had $1000000" is the proper way of writing one of their hit's titles, not "If I Had a Million Dollars" or "If I Had $1,000,000".
- Stalker with a Crush:
- "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank" is a song from the viewpoint of one of these. Inspired by… a farmer who was arrested for stalking Anne Murray.
- Also a common (but inaccurate) interpretation of "The Old Apartment".
- Stealth Pun: Basically the entirety of Adrift:"The onion rings, the phone makes me cry."
"The water falls, the fire flies
"You're an abacus and my heart was counting on us"
"The birches bark, the willows weep
But I lie awake
I'm adrift without a snowflake"
- Status Quo Is God: "Upside Down" from Everything to Everyone is all about the singer's dramatic insistence that nothing exciting ever, ever happen to disturb his boring existence.Though I appreciate the aim
Tell Andy Warhol's ghost that he can keep his fame
I'd only use it to make everything the same again, so don't applaud till the end
I'm not around
Cos I will not turn my whole life upside down!
- Stepford Smiler: The gaslighting victim being sung to in "Off The Hook" is implied to be one."And so it seems your saving grace is only saving face."note
- Step Up to the Microphone: As well as usual lead vocalists Steven Page and Ed Robertson, every other band member has been the lead vocalist on at least one song. These songs are often Out-Of-Genre Experiences, if not downright Big Lipped Alligator Moments.
- On Gordon, Both Creeggan brothers share the lead with Page on "I Love You".
- On Maybe You Should Drive, Andy sings lead on "Little Tiny Song".
- On Born on a Pirate Ship, Jim sings lead on "Spider in My Room" and "In the Drink".
- On Maroon, Kevin sings lead on the Hidden Track "Hidden Sun", which is about his recovery from leukemia.
- On Barenaked Ladies Are Me, Jim sings lead on "Peterborough and the Kawarthas", and Kevin on "Vanishing".
- On Barenaked Ladies Are Men, Kevin sings lead on "Serendipity" and "Another Spin".
- Barenaked For the Holidays and Snacktime! both had a number of songs not led by Ed or Steven. Drummer Tyler Stewart even briefly steps up to the mic on these albums.
- On All in Good Time, their first album after Page's departure, Kevin sings lead on "Another Heartbreak", "Jerome", and "Watching the Northern Lights", while Jim takes the mic on "On the Lookout" and "I Saw It".
- On Grinning Streak, Kevin sings lead on "Daydreamin'".
- Tyler has also assumed lead vocals in live performances of at least one of Page's former songs ("Alcohol"), as has Kevin ("Sound of Your Voice", which Kevin wrote but Steven sang until he left).
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: "The Old Apartment". A guy breaks into an apartment where he and his girl used to live, because he wants some of his old stuff back. In the process, he revisits some old memories and realizes life isn't quite the same now that they've moved away.
- Suddenly Shouting: Though he does ramp up to it a little, the iconic moment in "Break Your Heart" is at the very end of the bridge leading into the final chorus, where the band stops and Steve screams four of the words at the top of his lungs:"Just stop wasting my TIME!! AND!! NOW!! IIIIII know that you will be okay..."
- Take That!: The track "Shopping" from "Everything for Everyone" seems to have been inspired by Bush's reaction to 9/11, particularly his near immediate insistence that people "support the American economy" so "the terrorists" don't win.
- "Fun and Games" from "Barenaked Ladies are Men" is a fairly explicit condemnation of the War on Terror.
- Also "Maybe You're Right", "Take It Back", and "Rule the World with Love" off "Barenaked Ladies are Me"
- "Next Time" and "Second Best" also off Everything To Everyone both directly call out George W. Bush.
- The opening track on Gordon, "Hello City", is a Take That to Halifax, Nova Scotia, which according to commenters on SongMeanings gave the band a raucous and rude reception when they played there before becoming famous.
- At least two of the tracks on All In Good Time deal with Ed's frustration with Steve's departure; in an interview, he said that the group owed it to their fans to produce good music because they effing care.
- A number of songs on the Are Me/Men double album express their annoyance with fans who were upset about the political nature of "Everything To Everyone".
- "Fun and Games" from "Barenaked Ladies are Men" is a fairly explicit condemnation of the War on Terror.
- Technician Versus Performer: Steven was the performer to Ed's technician. As detailed in Barenaked In America, Ed has the guitar skills and a decent singing voice while Steven has the pipes but limited guitar skills.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Lampshaded in "It's All Been Done".
- Trespassing to Talk: "The Old Apartment." Despite common fan interpretation that the song is about the narrator stalking an ex-girlfriend, it's actually just about the narrator breaking into his old place and pestering the new tenants.
- Turn Your Head and Cough: Lyrics in the chorus of the song "Get In Line" are very reflective of things heard during physical exams, including the phrase "turn and cough."
- Visual Pun: In the video for "Alternative Girlfriend", there's a scene where they smash a whole bunch of pumpkins.
- Vocal Evolution: Ed's voice has become more Neil Young-esque with age.
- Vocal Tag Team, before Steven Page left the band. Still done in concert, with Kevin filling in for Steven on some of the older songs.
- Maroon is a notable exception to this rule. Steven dominates the album, with Ed singing lead on only two tracks ("Pinch Me" and "Falling For the First Time") and sharing the lead on "Go Home".
- Grinning Streak is also an exception, being entirely dominated by Ed except for Kevin's "Daydreamin'".
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: As the narrator in "Conventioneers" learns the hard way, a Relationship Upgrade is meaningless when all of the conversations you had with the other person beforehand were just flirtatious comments to one another. The implication is that both of them just liked the idea of having sex with a co-worker.
- Wham Line: From "Conventioneers," after three verses describing a night of passion between a man and the woman he's been pining for..."And I guess I'll see you Monday, like before."
- White Void Room: The music video for "Falling For The First Time."
- Word Salad Lyrics: The verses for "One Week," which were really only meant to showcase Ed's rapping skills.
- Wretched Hive: "Jerome" is about a Ghost Town in Arizona that used to be one of these in real life, back in the Wild West days.
- Yoko Oh No: Discussed and inverted in "Be My Yoko Ono", which not only includes a verse indicating the narrator's preference for true love over "musical genius", but also openly criticizes people who blame Yoko Ono for the breakup of The Beatles.