Many a vocal hook has been used to great effect since rock and pop crawled from music’s primordial ooze, but few have been as catchy as the “yeah yeah yeah” and the “nah nah nah”. So, we reckon it’s time to determine which one rules – ladies and gentlemen, we present 11 cases for the positive, and 11 for the negative.
‘She Loves You’ – The Beatles
Sample lyric: “She loves you, yeah yeah, yeah…”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know it’s low-hanging fruit, but as far as we’re concerned – and as far as we’ve been able to research – this is ground zero for the classic hook, which was allegedly inspired by the “yeah” usage in Elvis’ ‘All Shook Up’. As ‘She Loves You’ was the biggest selling single of the 1960s, it represents a pretty good case for the positive in our little playoff. Your move, “Nah nah nah”…
‘Hey Jude’ – The Beatles
Sample lyric: “Nah, nah, nah, nah-nah-nah nah, nah-nah-nah nah, hey Jude…”
Bam! The nah-nah-nahs hit back with the very same group that gave birth to the yeah-yeah-yeahs (no, smartypants, not the band), with one of the most memorable refrains ever (partly because the song repeated it so many bloody times). So, as The Beatles had a bet each way, it’s now up to the other 10 songs that we’ve selected from each side to make their claims for hook supremacy…
‘Lithium’ – Nirvana
Sample lyric: “Yeah-yeah-yeah, yeah yeah…”
The Beatles had an influence on Kurt Cobain, and what better example than this? OK, so we’re not being totally serious, but this is another great example of the power – and reach – of the yeah.
‘All the Small Things’ – Blink 182
Sample lyric: “Nah-nah, nah-nah, nah-nah, nah-nah nah nah…”
Catchy-as – it just wouldn’t have worked with yeahs. Chalk one up for the negs.
‘I’m Still Standing’ – Elton John
Sample lyric: “I’m still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah…”
Elton uses the ‘y’ word in it’s tripled form to accentuate his resolutely erect status in 1983, despite the barrage that was new wave and punk.
‘Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)’ – Steam/Bananarama
Sample lyric: “Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye.”
Dismiss the ‘nanies at your peril, as you don’t become the Guinness World Records entrant for the all-female group with the most chart entries in the world without reason. One very good reason for that is the pop goddesses’ understanding of the power of “nah”, even if they did nab it from some 1970s mob called Steam that we’d never heard of until researching this.
‘Man on the Moon’ – REM
Sample lyrics: “Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)…”
Trust those nerdy REM guys to stick all sorts of clever words around repeated blasé utterances of the three yeahs. But Lenny Bruce was not afraid…
‘Centerfold’ – The J Geils Band
Sample lyric: “Nah nah nah-nah nah nah, nah-nah nah nah, nah-nah nah nah nah…”
A pervy tale that we’d rather not get all analytical on in these PC times, you can’t deny the power of its nahs.
‘Alphabet Street’ – Prince
Sample lyric: “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”
Another legend goes the “yeah, yeah, yeah” route to devastating effect, even adding an exclamation mark because, well, Prince dug symbols!
‘So What?’ Pink
Sample lyric: “Nah-nah nah nah nah-nah nah, nah-nah nah nah nah-nah…”
Superb use of our ‘n’ word as a mere entrée, as its the insanely catchy chorus drop that keeps your ears glued to this pop gem.
‘Dani California’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sample lyric: “She’s my priestess, I’m your priest – yeah, yeah…”
Hmm… read the lyric sheet and it’s a triple yeah, listen to the actual song and to our ears it’s a double. Either way, more power to the yeah.
‘Na Na Na Na Na’ – Kaiser Chiefs
Sample lyric: “Nah nah nah nah nah…”
Why beat around the bush with pretence at deeper meaning? The nahs have it in the catchy stakes, and the Chiefs totally nailed it here.
‘Vertigo’ – U2
Sample lyric: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…”
Way to go out… Reports that the repeated yeahs at the end of this giddy smash were a recording of Bono and the boys checking their bank balances was never able to be confirmed.
‘Crash’ – The Primitives
Sample lyric: “Nah nah-nah nah-nah, nah nah-nah nah-nah, slow down you’re gonna crash…”
One of the most perfectly classic pop nah moments ever, this under-loved classic took ’60s girlie pop and wrapped it up in a sweet indie package, fronted by Aussie ‘Tracy Tracy’.
‘Mony Mony’ – Tommy James and the Shondells/Billy Idol
Sample lyric: “I said yeah (yeah!), yeah (yeah!), yeah (yeah!), yeah (yeah!), yeah (yeah!), yeah (yeah!)…”
If you want bombast in your yeahs then leave it to Billy with his ace take on the classic pop stormer, complete with bracketed examples.
‘Na Na Na’ – My Chemical Romance
Sample lyric: “Nah, nah-nah nah, nah-nah nah, nah, nah, nah, nah-nah nah, nah, nah-nah nah, nah-nah nah, nah, nah, nah, nah-nah nah, nah, nah-nah nah, nah-nah nah, nah-nah, nah, nah-nah nah nah-nah nah nah…”
‘What’s Up?’ – 4 Non Blondes
Sample lyric: “And I say, ‘Hey yeah yeah, hey yeah yeah,’ I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?'”
The song that would probably have sold truckloads more than the truckloads that it did if they’d had enough neurons to call it ‘What’s Goin’ On’? (unless they were afraid of Marvin Gaye’s lawyers circling), combining the yeahs with the heys was genius (and made them sound somewhat akin to The Simpsons‘ Professor Frink, who predated this track by 12 months).
‘Heart of Glass’ – Blondie
Sample lyric: “Nah-nah-nah, nah-nah nah-nah nah-nah nah, nah, nah, nah-nah-nah…”
Need to accentuate your middle eight? Then get the blokes behind you to pull some vocal weight for a change.
‘Self Esteem’ – The Offspring
Sample lyric: “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah, yeah…”
A sublime example of applying the KISS principle – keep it simple stupid (so nothing to do with Gene and his crew) – American punk and “yeah” were a match made in, erm, agreement.
‘Good Vibrations’ – The Beach Boys
Sample lyric: “Nah nah-nah nah-nah, nah nah nah…”
Find any Aussie who has been battered with TV ads over the years who doesn’t know this bit straight off the bat and we’d be very surprised. This genuine classic carries some considerable weight in the argument for ‘nah’ camp supremacy.
‘Tick Tick Boom’ – The Hives
Sample lyric: “Yeah (Yeah! Yeah!) I was right all along…”
Whether you say it, sing it or – like here – scream it (ever so gloriously), “Yeah!” often says it all. Considering the band that comes next, this also introduces a sub-battle into proceedings, that for Swedish yeah/nah victory.
‘The Look’ – Roxette
Sample lyric: “Nah-nah nah nah-nah, nah nah nah nah, nah-nah nah-nah nah nah, nah-nah nah nah, nah-nah nah-nah nah nah nah nah, she’s got the look…”
Utter Swedish nonsense – and it’s brilliant! (As well as a bit of a challenge to transcribe…)
So, who do you think wins the battle? Do the yeahs have it, or do the nahs reign supreme? Let us know your thoughts on our STACK socials.