Bo Burnham’s second album Words Words Words is an impressive example of his lyrical genius. Recorded at Carolines on Broadway, the album features live performances as well as two studio-recorded singles, ‘Words, Words, Words’ and ‘Oh Bo’.
The title comes from Hamlet (Hamlet tells Polonius that he reads “words, words, words”), and it seems that Burnham is suggesting that he is a wordsmith just like Shakespeare. From the opening track alone, it is arguable that this is true; Burnham’s skill with a pen is indisputable. ‘Words, words, words’ is saturated with clever wordplay, and combined with his fast delivery means that you’ll be noticing new jokes every time you listen. Some lines are more obvious, like “I walk by the clock and I pass the time” or the slightly more crude “Oedipus was the first motherfucker”. Others might take some time to hit you, like “prostate cancer, semi-colon”. I’ll let you work that one out.
Another thing that makes Words Words Words so morbidly fantastic is Burnham’s sense of dark humour, where he often self-deprecates and makes fun of sad situations. For instance in ‘Ironic’, where he talks about ironic situations like taking his child, who he adopted in order to rescue him from child factories, to a Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Burnham creates further similarities between himself and Shakespeare in ‘haikus/sonnet/shakespeare’. Here, he satirises Shakespeare’s sonnets into sexually poetic euphemisms; “My pole gives cause to storms and earthy quakes, but ’tis not massive, I am no Othello”.
Despite the excess of explicit jokes, towards the end of the album, Burnham throws in one of the most surprising songs in his discography – ‘Art Is Dead’. A self-proclaimed unfunny song, ‘Art Is Dead’ explores the commercialization of art in the modern world and the changes in the entertainment industry which have lead it to discourage self-expression and instead encourage profit. The song is underlined with Burnahm’s guilt towards his own career, which he believes to be a sort of self-obsessed addiction. However jarring the change in tone may seem in this song, it is one of the most introspective and powerful songs on the album and poses many questions for both entertainers and the entertainment industry.
Words Words Words is a shockingly hilarious album to listen to which reveals itself more and more with each listen.
You can watch the video for ‘words, words, words’ below: