Barenaked Ladies

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
/wiki/Barenaked Ladiescreator
Wait A Minute. This isn't what I came here for.
"At the height of the grunge revolution, we were strumming on our old banjos and singing about macaroni. It felt like we were the ones being daring."
Barenaked Ladies, on their song "Alternative Girlfriend"

Barenaked Ladies, frequently abbreviated BnL, are a Canadian alternative rock band formed in 1988. The band got their name when founding members Ed Robertson and Steven Page were discussing good names for a band during a Bob Dylan concert. They're mostly known for humorous lyrics, a tendency to improvise, and a light-hearted stage show.

Once banned by the mayor from playing at a 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 had changed only twice in their time, with Andy Creeggan leaving prior to the release of Born On a Pirate Ship (replaced by Kevin Hearn) and Steven Page leaving the group in 2009. The current line-up is as follows:

  • Ed Robertson: Guitar/Vocals
  • Kevin Hearn: Keyboard/Vocals/Guitar/Other various instruments
  • Tyler Stewart: Drums
  • Jim Creeggan: Bass/Vocals
  • Gordon (1992)
  • Maybe You Should Drive (1994)
  • Born On a Pirate Ship (1996)
  • Stunt (1998, first 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 actually has songs about Hannukah as well as Christmas)
  • Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006)
  • Barenaked Ladies Are Men (2007)
  • Snacktime! (2008 Kid's Album)
  • All In Good Time (2010)

Barenaked Ladies provides examples of the following tropes:
  • 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.
      • Which makes one wonder whether the line "Throw your mobile phone" in "Wind It Up" is a Shout-Out or simply Tempting Fate.
  • Ascended Fan: Steven Page is an avid fan of The Mountain Goats and has performed with them during the Ships and Dip cruise.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Steven.
  • Band of Relatives: Bassist Jim Creeggan and former pianist/percussionist Andy Creeggan are brothers.
  • Beyond the Impossible: "Four Seconds" manages to rhyme the word "orange" three times (with "door hinge", "four-inch", and the amusingly strained "store in Germany", respectively).
  • Bilingual Bonus: A line in "Maybe Not" has the Dutch curse "donder maar op". roughly translated to "Fuck off", so it triples as both a Precision F-Strike and Getting Crap Past the Radar.

"Consider yourself told in Dutch"

  • Brick Joke: If I Had $1000000: "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."
  • Calling the Old Man Out: "Great Provider".
  • 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.
  • 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. Since then, it's been worth almost exactly as much as a million American dollars, more than that in the years since the 2009 recession, and now (early-2016) it's back down to 4/5ths of a US million.
  • 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"

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Creator Breakdown: Analyzed 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."
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: One possible interpretation of "It's Only Me (The Wizard of Magicland)."
  • 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.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The one line in "If I Had $1000000": "Haven't you always wanted a monkey?"
    • Also, the entire point of "Another Postcard."
  • 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."
    • Fittingly, the two new songs on Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits were susceptible to this: "It's Only Me (The Wizard of Magicland)" had its original title in parenthesis because the label didn't want to market a single with a Non-Appearing Title, and "Thanks That Was Fun" was originally called "One Weaker" before the label vetoed it.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Born On A Pirate Ship is named after a childhood attempt at this; try saying the album name while sticking your tongue out and pinching it.
  • Granola Girl: "Alternative Girlfriend" has shades of this.
  • 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."
  • 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!"
  • 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 Long Note: "Break Your Heart"
  • 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).
    • Then there's "In The Drink".

"Back and forth like a choo-choo train."

  • Ironic Echo/Meaningful 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.
    • The titular line of "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.
    • If I had a million dollars

(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you a fur coat
(But not a real fur coat that's cruel)

    • The titular line to "Half a Heart" goes from "even someone who barely cares would help me" to "even someone who doesn't care would hurt me" in each chorus.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": It's pronounced "Rock Spec-tac". The "le" is silent.
  • It's Been Done: "It's All Been Done", obviously.
  • Long Runner Lineup: 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
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "I Know", "Break Your Heart", "Have You Seen My Love?", "One and Only", "Jerome", "The Love We're In", 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.
    • "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.

"I'll be that girl and you would be right over
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"

    • Alcohol is an upbeat little ditty about alcohol. It's also an upbeat little ditty about alcoholism.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Little Tiny Song", appropriately enough.
  • Mondegreen: "Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel" makes deliberate reference to one of the more famous ones, "Slow-motion Walter, the fire engine guy."
  • Motor Mouth: "One Week"—apparently, even they have trouble getting the lyrics right.
    • "Pinch Me", "Another Postcard", "The History of Everything", and "Four Seconds" 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.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The band is actually composed entirely of fully-clothed men.
    • Although on each of their albums from Gordon (1992; their first major label release) to Everything to Everyone (2003), they did record one song per album completely naked. (On a couple of occasions, however, the "naked track" ended up coincidentally being left off the final album.) The concept was abandoned while recording 2006's Barenaked Ladies Are Me; the band said it had gotten old.
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Alcohol"
  • 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.
  • 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.

"His fontanelle pulses with lives that he's lived, with memories he'll learn to ignore
And when it is closed, he already knows, he's forgotten all he knew before"

  • Protest Song: Discussed in "Helicopters".
    • Also all of the War On Terror songs noted under Take That below.
  • Shout-Out: Soooo very many, especially on their earlier albums.
  • Signature Song: "One Week".
    • In their native Canada, where "One Week" was not as popular as in the US, their Signature Song is far and away "If I Had $1000000".
  • 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".
  • Stealth Pun: "The onion rings, the phone makes me cry." ("Adrift").
    • "The water falls, the fire flies" (same song).
  • Step Up to the Microphone: As well as usual lead vocalists Steven Page and Ed Robertson, Jim Creeggan and Kevin Hearn have been the lead vocalists on a few songs. They seem to be singing lead more often after Page's departure. Even drummer Tyler Stewart contributed vocals on the most recent album, and has assumed lead vocals on live performances on at least one of Page's former songs ("Alcohol").
  • 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.
  • Take That: The track "Shopping" from "Everything for Everyone" seems to have been inspired by Bush's reaction to 9/11.
    • "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"
      • Not to mention "Next Time", "Second Best" and especially "Shopping" off Everything To Everyone, all direct Take That's at 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.
    • Some of the tracks on the latest album 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.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Lampshaded.
  • 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 Tag Team, before Steven Page left the band. Still done in concert, with Kevin filling in for Steven on some of the older songs.
  • Yoko Oh No: Discussed and justified in their first song, "Be My Yoko Ono."