Artist Exploration

I Listen to Yoko Ono: Oh No!

How many of you listen to Yoko Ono? My guess is….not too many. Sure, we all know Yoko Ono. We all know she married John Lennon, and we all assume she broke up The Beatles (even though she was far from the only contributing factor). We also know about Yoko Ono’s infamous Yoko Yodels. Perhaps you also know that one Barenaked Ladies song. With all that said, and with all I know about Yoko, I have to say I have never sat down to listen to Yoko Ono.

So, in the spirit of other “I listen to” articles, I spent a few hours with the music of Yoko Ono. Will I find Yoko’s music as transcendent as the music of Mastodon? Will I listen to Yoko Ono’s music and find it only so so, like Muse? Or will I see the music of Yoko Ono worse than Nickelback? Join me on this journey, and we’ll all see if you, too should listen to Yoko Ono.

Kiss Kiss Kiss

This is the only song by Yoko which I’ve heard before – but I have never really dissected Kiss Kiss Kiss before today. While Kiss Kiss Kiss certainly has an odd melody, the song is kind of catchy. Sometimes Yoko’s vocals sound off key, or perhaps just not quite right – even uncanny. Still, at times, Yoko’s vocals sound beautiful. Oh, but what about that mumbling in Japanese all throughout the song?

When we get to the ending of the song, Yoko literally simulates an orgasm. While this “I’ll have what she’s having” moment certainly comes as a surprise, the simulated orgasm actually ties in the aforementioned mumbling. We realize Yoko has been simulating sex all throughout the song.

Grade: B+

True, Kiss Kiss Kiss is not for everyone. With that being said, Kiss Kiss Kiss really showcases the best of Yoko’s talents. Again, Kiss Kiss Kiss is downright catchy. While Kiss Kiss Kiss is certainly experimental, the experiment works.

Sleepless Nights

Sleepless Nights repeats the same lyrics, instrumentation, and melody all throughout the song. In between the verses, Yoko mumbles a few words – something different every time. This gives us an almost surreal feeling. Yoko’s vocals are pretty subdued (no Yoko yodels on Sleepless Nights). Just the same sounds, over, over and over.

Grade B-

Sleepless Night is not a song you want to listen to over and over again – but every so often Sleepless Nights sounds like a bit of ear candy. Besides, Sleepless Nights has a funky little groove going on. I can dig that. In small doses.

Yes I’m A Witch

Yes I’m A Witch (at least the version found on the album of the same name) starts out promising with a decent guitar rift and a fast tempo. The Brother Brothers give us all the background noise. A few seconds in, we year Yoko talk/speak “I’m a witch, I’m a bitch, I don’t care what you say.” And there we have the thesis. I’m A Witch tells us that Yoko just does not care about what we say. Any negative words I write here…she does not give a crud. I can respect that.

Some of the lyrics seem intentionally profane to prove a point. The line “Don’t try to make cock people out of us” provides a feminist stance – insisting society needs to do better at treating Yoko (and all women) as women, sure, but also as equals.

Grade: B

The message alone makes me want to rate the song as an A. And again…those guitars. However, the song drags on a little too long. I honestly get a little tired of Yes I’m A Witch after a couple minutes. Again, I don’t think Yoko really cares, and again, I can respect that.

Yes I’m Your Angel

In Yes I’m Your Angel, we get a side of Yoko I never expected to see. Yes I’m Your Angel sounds like Yoko trying to be a lounge act singer. Once more – Yoko does a pretty damned good job. Sure, Yoko’s vocals get a little shrill from time to time, that’s how her natural voice sounds. Still, Yoko does a really good job singing in her range on Yes I’m Your Angel.

Grade: B

Again, Yoko’s vocals can sound shrill, but it’s clear that she really tried to keep the beautiful lounge act spirit of Yes I’m Your Angel.

You’re The One

The first thing we hear is an atomic blast. Throughout the song we hear Yoko’s vocals repeated on a synth. Sometimes the lyrics do not quite fit the lines. Yes, You’re The One has many faults. You’re The One also has a lot going for the song. Through the chaos of some rather annoying sounds and questionable melodies, we hear a longing and a yearning for the singer’s lover.

In fact, some of the faults turn out to be tools to convey emotion. Again, some of the lyrics just don’t fit. Specifically the lines “In the world’s eye / We were Laurel and Hardy / In our minds / We were Heathcliff and Cathy / In a moment of wisdom.” This shows the unrefined and rawness of the situation – the singer has lost her filters, and thus her mouth becomes a faucet for every word in her heart – regardless if the word fits the melody.

Grade: B+

Emotion in the face of annoying sounds and structures. That’s what we get with You’re The One.

No, No, No

The first thing we year on No, No, No are gunshots and Yoko Ono screaming “Nooooo.” I felt seriously scared upon my first listen. The opening of No, No, No really disturbs me. Even more disturbing, No, No, No was recorded less than six months after John Lennon’s murder….by gunshot.

The verses of No, No, No follows a format of let me take my (article of clothing) off,” symbolizing the fact that part of Yoko was forever gone. This symbolism is especially cemented in the last stanza, where the article of clothing is Yoko’s ring. Yoko was unexpectedly not married to John Lennon.

The last sounds we hear are a synthesizer mimicking the siren of the squad car that carried Lennon to the hospital. All in all, the song serves as an emotional piece, trying to make sense of the violent end of Ono’s husband.

Grade: A

Holy crap, what an emotional rollercoaster of a song. I can’t do anything but give No, No, No a high grade. Granted, I really don’t want to listen to No, No No ever again – it’s just so disturbing. No, No, No takes its place as one of the most heart wrenching songs ever recorded.

Open Your Box

What can I say about Open Your Box? It’s….interesting. Open Your Box might be the most Yoko Ono song ever recorded. She curls her vocals, and sings at high octaves, while not quite making the notes she strives for. Ono repeats the same phrases over and over again “Open your box, open your box.” Sometimes she says mouth or mind instead of box. At times Ono sounds like she’s almost crying. Oh, and I swear that guitar sounds more like a chainsaw.

Grade: D+

Ok, so I get Yoko Ono experiments with Open Your Box. With that said, the experiment fails pretty hard.

Death of Samantha

Death of Samantha might be one of the most accessible songs Yoko Ono has ever recorded. Lennon lent his guitar stylings to the song, and the results are a bluesy grove of a song. That’s really all there is to say about Death of Samantha – simple, yet lovely. Perhaps Yoko’s best song.

Grade: A-

Death of Samantha gives us a rare thing in a Yoko Ono song – the desire to listen to the song several times in a row.

Walking On Thin Ice

Walking On Thin Ice was recorded hours before John Lennon’s death. In fact, John and Yoko were returning home from said recording session when Lennon was shot. That might be the most interesting thing about Walking On Thin Ice, as the song just bores me. Yoko takes no chances. We just hear a bleh song.

Grade: D-

Boring is the one word I can use to describe Walking On Thin Ice. The world could have done without Walking on Thin Ice. In fact, if John and Yoko had thrashed the song….nevermind. No one can predict what might have been…

Touch Me

Touch Me sounds like a bunch of sounds layered on top of each other. This includes drums, some type of keyboards, guitars, and Yoko screaming unintelligible words. About a minute in, the wall of noise breaks down, but we still hear Yoko saying…whatever it is she’s saying. Yoko’s trademark yodeling makes me wonder if she’s just filling space on the album.

Granted, the experiment at least sounds interesting the first time around. And yes, during the last third of the song, we hear some fantastic drumming. But then we hear Yoko yodeling yet again. Yet another one of Yoko’s experiments I guess.

Grade: D+

Like I said, the song sounds interesting at times, but also annoys the hell out of me.

Should you listen to Yoko Ono?

Let’s state one undeniable fact….Yoko Ono is different. Ono’s music sounds very, very strange at times. Yoko uses some very unconventional songwriting techniques, and some might say she needs to take music theory 101. Even if Yoko composed normal pop tunes, her voice is a bit odd and not something everyone can appreciate. In short, not everyone should listen to Yoko Ono.

With that said, I found myself feeling very connected to Yoko at times. The weird, experimental widow of John Lennon really knows how to show her listeners what it means to be her. I enjoy songs like Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, and I felt heart broken with No No No.

So the choice is yours. If you don’t like experimental pop, you should probably pass on Yoko’s music. With all that said, Yoko gets way too much hate for her music. Again – Yoko is not for everyone, but everyone should at least try to listen to Yoko Ono a couple times. The depth of emotions is worth it.

I Listen to Yoko Ono - John and Yoko.