Incongruous songs

by Harry on July 21, 2014

I guess that few of our readers have seen The Lego Movie. Luckily, I have, so was very surprised to hear my boy’s cohort singing “Everything is Awesome” at the camp’s late night show. The Lego Movie is about the evils of corporate power—a kind of kid’s version of They Live—and “Everything if Awesome” is the song which all the people are supposed to sing to keep them mindless and satisfied. Not something I’d have chosen for a 7-year-olds’ camp song.

Everyone knows that “Born in the USA” was used by the Reagan campaign; evidence either of Al Stewart’s thesis that nobody listens to lyrics, or that political operators believe that nobody listens to lyrics (My “Everything is Awesome” story is evidence that nobody even looks at song titles: how could a song with that title and refrain be anything other than satire?). Fair enough, given the similarly odd use of “Jerusalem” by English conservatives, and the fact that”This Land is Your Land” is an entirely kosher song for American public schoolkids. Slightly orthoganally, I just learned the heartwarming story that as soon as Benny and Bjorn learned that Danish People’s Party was using “Mama Mia” as a rally song they sued (and if you really want to feel good about your guilty pleasures, read down the page to see which party Benny made a 70k pound donation to).

Other, incongruous, uses of songs?

{ 152 comments }

1

Theophylact 07.21.14 at 1:13 pm

For a not incongruous use of a song, here’s Nina Paley’s “This Land is Mine“.

(Once again, pleeeease enable preview!)

2

Greg 07.21.14 at 1:21 pm

Every breath you take as a wedding song. (Get out, get out now!)
Of course Born in the USA is a great sing along and sounded really good with audience participation here in Melbourne Australia. I guess that happens in other countries as well.

3

dfphil 07.21.14 at 1:30 pm

The levels of satire and incongruity in the lyrics of “I Love L.A.” and its use by L.A. boosters left me scratching my head. But that might have been the point.

4

Matt 07.21.14 at 1:39 pm

the fact that”This Land is Your Land” is an entirely kosher song for American public schoolkids.

I have no idea about whether this is common or not, but my grade school music teacher had us singing lots of “hippy” songs- “One Tin Soldier”, “Seasons in the Sun”, and many more than I’m forgetting now. In retrospect, I think at least some of us did get that these were songs that were for peace, kindness, etc., but it’s not hard for little kids to think those are good ideas, even growing up in Idaho in the early 80’s. (What I’m not sure of is whether the music teacher was doing this on purpose, or these were just songs she knew and liked from her own teenager/college days. Other than the songs, my only real memory of her was her persistent disappointment with our intense lack of musical ability.)

As for incongruous songs, one that always stands out for me is people using the Pixies “hear comes your man” as a song about waiting hopefully for a boyfriend or a husband, or people using The Police’s song about obsessive stalking, “Every Breath you Take” as a slow dance song at weddings.

5

MPAVictoria 07.21.14 at 1:48 pm

” have no idea about whether this is common or not, but my grade school music teacher had us singing lots of “hippy” songs- “One Tin Soldier”, “Seasons in the Sun”, and many more than I’m forgetting now.”

Mine did the same. I think at least part of it is the songs were written to be song by amateurs. Same with most of Pete Seeger’s stuff. They were made to be easy to sing along too.
/Plus they have a great message. I love singing along to those sort of songs. I wish public singing happened more often these days.

6

Dave Maier 07.21.14 at 1:50 pm

Similar to the “Born in the USA” case, here in NJ there was a brief (i.e. until someone did indeed read the lyrics, which are about getting the hell out of NJ (“a death trap”, etc) at the first possible opportunity, preferably on a motorcycle) movement in the legislature to make “Born to Run” into the NJ state song.

I also find the Japanese use of the Beethoven/Schiller “Ode to Joy” as a Christmas song a bit odd. Not sure what Al Stewart would think of that one.

7

Kiwanda 07.21.14 at 1:55 pm

Is it possible that they sang in the same spirit as they would singing about eating Itsy Bitsy Fuzzy-Wuzzy Worms, or celebrating someone’s birthday with a song about People Dying Everywhere?

8

Phil 07.21.14 at 2:09 pm

“We’ve come a long, long way together/Through the bad times and the good/I have to celebrate you, baby/I have to praise you like I should” – the (complete)* lyrics of Fat Boy Slim’s “Praise You”, which soundtracked the Labour Party Conference one year when Tony Blair was feeling particularly praiseworthy.

The Conservative Party’s appropriation of “Bohemian Like You” was fairly baffling (did they listen to any of it?), but it was worth it for Courtney Taylor’s response: “Why don’t these assholes have right-wing bands make them some right-wing music for their right-wing jerkoff politics? Oh, because right wing people aren’t creative, visionary or any fun to be around.”

*It’s a sample from a song called (I think) “Take yo’ praise”, which has a lot more lyrics – but that’s the only bit used by FBS and hence by Labour.

9

Gabriel 07.21.14 at 2:15 pm

I have a very clear memory of a ‘Suicide is Painless’ sing-along in an elementary school music class, age eight. Chances that teacher would keep her job nowadays?

10

dn 07.21.14 at 2:18 pm

Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus – a piece about the Resurrection, with lyrics borrowed from the Book of Revelation – used as a Christmas piece.

11

DavidtheK 07.21.14 at 2:22 pm

“This Land Is Your Land” was sanitized for public use by having its lyrics changed and dropping objectionable verses. The original version was sung at Pres. Obama’s first inaugural by Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen. The MP3s from that concert used to be available for free download. I don’t know if they still are. I have the song in All playlist.

12

MPAVictoria 07.21.14 at 2:24 pm

“I have a very clear memory of a ‘Suicide is Painless’ sing-along in an elementary school music class, age eight. Chances that teacher would keep her job nowadays?”

maybe she was a big MASH fan?

13

Sebastian H 07.21.14 at 2:25 pm

Sting–I’ll be watching you. At a wedding. Ummm yikes.

14

Gabriel 07.21.14 at 2:28 pm

I imagine she was, MPA, but a gaggle of bright-eyed children singing those lyrics was deliciously incongruous and macabre.

15

bianca steele 07.21.14 at 2:31 pm

Pete Seeger released a lot of kids’ records–if there’s a political message in “Mr. Rabbit,” I haven’t been able to find it.

16

lemmy caution 07.21.14 at 2:35 pm

I have seen people sing the song “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt ” when they were not actually named “John” or “Schmidt”. Don’t know about the middle names.

17

bianca steele 07.21.14 at 2:36 pm

Also–though Vietnam was never mentioned (well, it was 1972 or 1973 by that point)–my friends’ favorite pop songs in first grade were “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” and “Delta Dawn.” “Seasons in the Sun” probably sounded cheerful in comparison.

18

DavidtheK 07.21.14 at 2:38 pm

19

MPAVictoria 07.21.14 at 2:39 pm

“I imagine she was, MPA, but a gaggle of bright-eyed children singing those lyrics was deliciously incongruous and macabre.”

I am sure. Sorry I was trying to make a joke.

20

Joshua W. Burton 07.21.14 at 2:42 pm

Does Haydn’s Streichquartett Op. 76/3 count?

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Dominic Muldowney’s splendid “Oceania, ‘Tis For Thee” used unironically as inspirational mood music.

21

bianca steele 07.21.14 at 2:43 pm

@48 Yes, if you went to Columbia (http://www.wikicu.com/School_songs#Stand.2C_Columbia).

22

Bloix 07.21.14 at 2:45 pm

10,000 Maniacs (with Natalie Merchant) and Michael Stipe gave a spectacular performance of Candy Everybody Wants at the 1993 Clinton inauguration party. What the hell was that all about?

O Mio Babbino Caro, from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, is the most famous soprano aria in all opera – any competent singer can bring an audience to tears with it. It was on the soundtrack of A Room with a View. And it’s always sung straight – a heartbroken young woman begging her father to consent to her marriage to her beloved. But in context it’s completely cynical – the daughter is asking her father for help in breaking her lover’s uncle’s will, so that he will inherit and they can be rich.

The Who licensed I Can See For Miles to Honda for a commercial. That was peculiar.

23

Watson Ladd 07.21.14 at 2:45 pm

The Ride of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now. Hava Nagila is a rather unusual national anthem, but then again the Dutch national anthem is about the loyalty of the Prince of Orange to Spain.

24

Joshua W. Burton 07.21.14 at 2:45 pm

Also, this. But “incongruous” is surely not the right word, here.

25

Pascal Leduc 07.21.14 at 2:46 pm

Lincoln ran a few ads set to major tom, a song about a man who dies due to a mechanical failure.

26

bianca steele 07.21.14 at 2:47 pm

@22 All the guys in busbies need is to be marching around in circles like in The Wizard of Oz.

27

Joshua W. Burton 07.21.14 at 2:49 pm

Hava Nagila is a rather unusual national anthem

Indeed it is. Long Island’s distant ally, Israel, also has an unusual anthem, also in Hebrew but in a minor key.

28

Quite Likely 07.21.14 at 2:52 pm

Okay, so

a) It says something bad about your readers if they haven’t seen the Lego Movie, which was amazing. Go see it!

b) I think the point of Everything is Awesome was that it sort of transitioned from mindless pop idiocy designed to keep people working at the start of the movie, to something different by the end. Remember, the message wasn’t that Lord Business / The Man Upstairs was pure evil and had no value, it’s that his order and conformity had gone too far, and had to be combined with Finn / the master builders’ creativity and wackiness to make something even better.

29

bob mcmanus 07.21.14 at 2:54 pm

Lakme Flower Duet …take your pick, although I don’t know if an ironic use would be incongruous.

And this list doesn’t include one my favorites, in Five Corners

30

Joshua W. Burton 07.21.14 at 3:04 pm

@19: Columbia

With both the name and the pedigree to support their claim, Columbia should have taken the anthem we dropped on the floor for their own, and left “German Overalls” where they found it.

31

bianca steele 07.21.14 at 3:05 pm

Relatedly: Probably few CT readers have read Philip Roth’s Nemesis. Not his best, but towards the end there’s a camp show complete with fake “Indian” rituals and songs that gets quite well at the incongruity of mid-twentieth century city kids, whose parents or grandparents were born in Eastern Europe, learning made-up Joseph Campbell-y mumbo-jumbo.

32

John Garrett 07.21.14 at 3:07 pm

Some years ago I went to the funeral of an old friend, a cynical athiest, whose only request, no church service, was overriden by his wife. The program listed the last hymn, at the deceased’s request, as “Stick to the Sunny Side of Life.” I assumed it was a hymn I didn’t know, but in fact the congregation sang the Python song from Life of Brian. Afterwards several people told me how much they liked the message of the song, and especially the “Do di do di do di do” chorus. But the minister made them eliminate “Life’s a piece of shit” — at which point my friend’s ten year old grandson shouted out, “What happened to shit!”

Great moment.
JG

33

MPAVictoria 07.21.14 at 3:10 pm

That sounds amazing John.

34

Barry 07.21.14 at 3:15 pm

Watson Ladd 07.21.14 at 2:45 pm

” The Ride of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now.”

Why?

35

bianca steele 07.21.14 at 3:17 pm

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard films use the first section of Chopin’s Prelude No. 15 used unironically, without the ominous second section. The whole thing is used so frequently (and it’s so well-known to emotional teenage pianists) that the incongruity is extremely distracting.

36

Nick Brooke 07.21.14 at 3:21 pm

John Lennon’s “Imagine” was sung at one of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party Conferences in 1987. Wembley, UK. The extreme right-wing Tory delegates sang and/or dozed along to his uncontroversial lyrics, with no cognitive dissonance:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man…

37

Charles 07.21.14 at 3:25 pm

I’ve heard John Lennon’s “Imagine” sung in church–seems a bit odd if you listen to the lyrics. “Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion, too.” Seems to fit into a church service about as well as the Communist Manifesto.

38

Ben Waltmann 07.21.14 at 3:27 pm

The Merkel campaign used “Angie” as a campaign song in 2005

39

DBW 07.21.14 at 3:31 pm

“London Calling” was used repeatedly to advertise the London Olympics in the US. I think they had to leave out all of the actual lyrics beyond the title.

40

mdc 07.21.14 at 4:05 pm

“Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me” in an actual Mercedes-Benz commercial. Hard to believe that really happened, but it did.

41

Harold 07.21.14 at 4:33 pm

Yankee Doodle.

42

Joshua W. Burton 07.21.14 at 4:49 pm

I’m waiting for a Republican national event to pick up one of Roy Zimmerman’s anthems and use it straight. There are several good candidates: Everyman for Himself, especially, but also My Conservative Girlfriend, Privateers, Send ‘Em Back, or especially Ain’t No Liberal.

George W. Bush, famously, used the Liberty Bell March at his inauguration instead of one of Sousa’s less pythonic works.

43

engels 07.21.14 at 5:47 pm

Everyone knows that “Born in the USA” was used by the Reagan campaign; evidence either of Al Stewart’s thesis that nobody listens to lyrics

I don’t think it really matters what the lyrics are, it still sounds like it was written as a soundtrack for raining down bombs on South Asian peasants

44

Mr Punch 07.21.14 at 5:53 pm

Yeah, nobody listens to lyrics. The American Legion, I believe, tried to ban the Beatles’ anti-revolutionary, or at least quietist, “Revolution.” And I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “I Will Always Love You,” a breakup song, at wedding receptions. (Also, the Boston Pops plays the 1812 Overture on the Fourth of July, but no lyrics there.)

45

novakant 07.21.14 at 6:17 pm

Dancable songs with a political message in general – I remember feeking rather awkward dancing (or pretending to) to songs like:

The Lebanon – The Human League
Nineteen – Paul Hardcastle
Hiroshima – Wishful Thinking / and, ahem, Sandra:

46

Anonymous 07.21.14 at 6:21 pm

When I was three or four, I distinctly recall attending gymnastics lessons at a YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina. At least once, a session began with the instructor leading us in a dance to the Village People song.

47

novakant 07.21.14 at 6:22 pm

drat: “Danceable” and “feeling”

48

Mercy 07.21.14 at 6:24 pm

I’m not sure whether the Manics were more bemused or angry about the BNP attempting to appropriate “If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next”. Even if you miss the allusions to the Spanish Civil War “if I can shoot rabbits then I can shoot fascists” is pretty unambiguous right?

That said nothing’s going to top GE using Sixteen Tons in an advert.

49

godoggo 07.21.14 at 6:24 pm

I thought I Love LA was the theme to the LA Olympics, but Google tells me that it was used in a Nike commercial during the Olympics. Anyway I was out of town.

50

Wrye 07.21.14 at 6:37 pm

Not being that up on Al Stewart, (and lacking time for a deep dive into all things Stewart) did he say that in a song, or in an interview somewhere?

51

novakant 07.21.14 at 6:51 pm

And two incredibly catchy songs about serious subjects where the form defies the content:

Toy Soldiers – Martika (Drugs)
My Name is Luka – Suzanne Vega (Child Abuse)

52

stevenjohnson 07.21.14 at 6:52 pm

“All Along the Watchtower” was the Cylon theme song in BattleStar Galactica (which was still an inadvertent high point!)

53

Shatterface 07.21.14 at 7:18 pm

There’s a bloody hilarious song by Henry Gibson in Robert Altman’s Nashville (out now on Blu-ray) called ‘200 Years’.

You can find it on YouTube but I’m not sure whoever put the video together got the irony.

54

Shatterface 07.21.14 at 7:24 pm

Some years ago I went to the funeral of an old friend, a cynical athiest, whose only request, no church service, was overriden by his wife. The program listed the last hymn, at the deceased’s request, as “Stick to the Sunny Side of Life.” I assumed it was a hymn I didn’t know, but in fact the congregation sang the Python song from Life of Brian. Afterwards several people told me how much they liked the message of the song, and especially the “Do di do di do di do” chorus. But the minister made them eliminate “Life’s a piece of shit” — at which point my friend’s ten year old grandson shouted out, “What happened to shit!”

There are two Python songs on my funeral CD (yes, I have a funeral CD: wouldn’t want anyone sneaking a hymn into my funeral!): ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ from The Life of Brian and ‘The Galaxy Song’ from The Meaning of Life

55

Tom Hurka 07.21.14 at 7:25 pm

When the American hostages returned from Iran the TV stations all played “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” which despite being an awful song was way less appropriate to the situation than Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA.” (Oh Lord, oh Lord I feel so good today/I just touched down on an international runway/Jet-propelled back home from overseas to the USA.) And the Tony Orlando song had the unfortunate feature that the singer had been in jail for a crime he did commit.

56

Sasha Clarkson 07.21.14 at 7:28 pm

@18 Joshua – Ah yes, you beat me to it ! :) “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” Kaiser of the Austro-Hungarian empire that is: written by a man in the employ of the Magyar Esterhazys.

57

Shatterface 07.21.14 at 7:31 pm

“All Along the Watchtower” was the Cylon theme song in BattleStar Galactica (which was still an inadvertent high point!)

Its in the Watchmen movie. The line ‘There are those among us who think life is but a joke’ ties in neatly with the character of Comedian.

58

William Berry 07.21.14 at 7:42 pm

Barry @32: “Why?”

I wondered the same thing. It is a very martial piece, after all.

Only thing I can figure is: the dead heroes are being carried away to Valhalla and, presumably, the “heroes” in AN aren’t planning on dying. But that seems a little subtle for a piece whose style is certainly appropriate.

But then, Watson can be a subtle fellow when he tries hard.

Corny example of incongruity: “Oh, For the Love of Sunshine” in the tank attack in “Kelly’s Heroes”*.

Completely congruous: “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, in the same film.

*Goofy old “comfort” movie I used to watch about once every ten years or so. Notable for a young Donald Sutherland playing an anachronistic beatnik tank officer.

59

Shatterface 07.21.14 at 7:45 pm

Not a baffling music choice but a film one.

According to the booklet accompanying Lindsay Anderson’s If… that’s David Cameron’s favourite movie.

Either he has no sense of irony or he has a massive sense of irony, I’m not sure which.

60

willf 07.21.14 at 7:47 pm

Alongside Reagan misusing of Springsteen one must also mention George H. W. Bush’s misappropriation of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

61

Shatterface 07.21.14 at 7:52 pm

Incongruity is probably the point, but I can’t listen to Roy Orbinson’s ‘In Dreams’ without thinking of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet.

You can’t unwatch that movie.

62

Shatterface 07.21.14 at 7:55 pm

Vincent Price warbling ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ in Dr Phibes Rises Again

63

harry b 07.21.14 at 7:59 pm

Oh, I remember hearing that “Band of Gold” is a favourite at weddings.

64

Olle J. 07.21.14 at 8:02 pm

I don’t know if this fits with the theme but I do have a fond memory of school teachers singing along to Another Brick in the Wall.

I was in a Pub in the town I grew up in, on a short visit. Standing at the bar, ordering myself a pint of Guinness, I noticed that a bunch of teachers from my old school (years 7-9) where sitting at a table across the room. The music changes (Swedish so called pubs in small towns usually have music on really loud so you can’t do anything but drink really, as you can’t hear anyone speak) an the Pink Floyd -song comes on. All of a sudden all the teachers (the youngest one in her mid 40s) rushes from the table, on to the dancefloor and starts jumping around like crazy, screaming “Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone!”.

65

Sasha Clarkson 07.21.14 at 8:02 pm

Haydn’s Kaiserhymne is often sung in English churches too, as the music to the 18th-century English hymn by John Newton: Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God … I remember singing this at school in the 1960s, when WWII was still very much in everyone’s mind.

66

harry b 07.21.14 at 8:12 pm

Wrye — he says it once in a while when introducing On the Border, which got a lot of radio play despite being about gun running in what was then Southern Rhodesia, and the Basque country… I’m sure I’ve seen it in an interview too. (I’m… a fan).

67

Harold 07.21.14 at 8:12 pm

Re: “nobody listens to lyrics” — nobody listens to much of anything beyond the first few words or syllables — they then fill it in with their brains. It’s been proved by science. Makes things faster and easier for the listener but hard on anyone who wants to communicate anything significant or novel.

68

Bloix 07.21.14 at 8:21 pm

Apocalypse Now and some of the other movie-sound track references aren’t quite the same thing – these are examples of intentional alienation by juxtaposition – I’m sure there’s a technical rhetorical name for that sort of thing. It’s become almost the background sound of our ironical age – the signature sound of This American Life is this sort of ironical use of inappropriate music.

A TV series (and then movie) whose whole reason for existing is this sort of irony is Pennies from Heaven. The Steve Martin/Bernadette Peters film version does a pretty good job of it, but the original Dennis Potter BBC series (with Bob Hoskins) is just devastating.

69

godoggo 07.21.14 at 8:34 pm

70

JakeB 07.21.14 at 8:37 pm

@Gabriel #7 –

You didn’t grow up in the California east bay area, did you? My music class, when I was in elementary school, rehearsed that song for the christmas show but didn’t perform it because one of the parents complained when he or she heard what we were going to be singing. (I don’t remember what it was replaced with, but I hope it was ‘I gave my love a cherry’ or something like.)

71

CaptFamous 07.21.14 at 8:40 pm

“Fortunate Son” by CCR has been used a few times in ways similar to Born in the USA (“Some folks are born, made to raise the flag…”).

The song lyric “The Future’s So Bright, I’ve Gotta Wear Shades” makes you wonder why so many high school seniors were focused on impending nuclear war when they filled out their yearbook profile.

I think I saw a commercial for either a camera, or a photo-quality printer, that used The Cure’s “Pictures of You” in the background.

72

Sasha Clarkson 07.21.14 at 8:41 pm

It would be difficult to be more incongruous than Lili Marleen which became so popular with Allied troops in WWII that it was described as “The Theme Song of the Eighth Army and the 6th Armoured Division”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lili_Marleen

73

MPAVictoria 07.21.14 at 8:46 pm

“It’s been proved by science.”

Science!

74

godoggo 07.21.14 at 8:49 pm

Presumably everybody remembers this, but what the hell.

75

Dan Ryan 07.21.14 at 9:17 pm

@11. Sting has talked a few times about how often random couples will come up to him and they’ll tell him that “I’ll be watching you” is their favorite song. Completely creeps him out.

76

godoggo 07.21.14 at 9:25 pm

When I saw Richard Thompson a few weeks ago I thought it was a bit odd that a couple got up and started slow-dancing to Wall of Death.

77

ZM 07.21.14 at 9:44 pm

In Primary School we learned songs like If I Had A Hammer too, we also quite often did bush dancing for physical education. Australia almost had an unusual anthem – although, finally, Walzing Matilda lost to Advance Australia Fair. When big or international sporting events occur sometimes I like to think of how it might have been if the anthem being sung was about a ghostly swagman who had been driven to drown himself by the landowning squatter and the troopers (police.).

Greenpeace recently pointed to the incongruity of Lego partnering with Shell using Everything is Awesome too

78

Collin Street 07.21.14 at 10:10 pm

Sixteen Tons. used in an ad for GE coal. With sexy lady coalminers and all.

79

harry b 07.21.14 at 10:34 pm

Lilli Marleen — maybe because Marlene Dietrich sang it, and was known to be despised by the Nazis and a full–hearted supporter of the allies?

80

Moz in Oz 07.21.14 at 10:44 pm

Two that I see all too often are people in pubs dancing to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”, a song about the stupidity of going out and getting drunk. That and homophobes getting into Right Said Fred’s “I’m too sexy”. Yes, boys, get right into those sexy, sexy, men.

I see that Bronski Beat “Smalltown Boy” was apparently used by Boots in a Christmas advertisement. I can’t imagine any context in which that would be appropriate Christmas music except as a fundraiser for a GLTB youth shelter.

I don’t see enough TV to spot incongruous use of music, but Peter Garrett (ex Midnight Oil and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Party) being part of an Australian Labor government was something to see. And yes, people did play his own music back at him.

81

Harold 07.21.14 at 11:17 pm

@73 re (67) Was being semi-facetious — but: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automaticity#Using automaticity to influence

82

Jonathan Mahew 07.21.14 at 11:24 pm

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was used by Bush campaign, to Bobby McFerrin’s chagrin. (Bush I).

83

dn 07.21.14 at 11:35 pm

If I recall correctly, John McCain also got in some hot water for using John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” as a campaign song. (Mellencamp, like Springsteen, is a very vocal Democrat and made sure McCain knew it.)

84

UserGoogol 07.21.14 at 11:41 pm

I’d say “Everything is Awesome” is in a different category from “Born in the USA.” Born in the USA is explicitly about a Vietnam veteran dealing with some shit, it’s just that you have to be able to understand the lyrics to pick up on that. Everything is Awesome is very simply about how everything is awesome, it’s only in the broader context of the movie where the song has that implication. Of course, the part of the song rapped by The Lonely Island is more directly sarcastic, but even then it’s not necessarily to be interpreted as above, it’s just sort of like “well, I suppose it’s a bit silly to actually say that everything is awesome.”

And even in the context of the movie I think you could argue there’s more to it than it just being propaganda. The good guys in the movie very enthusiastically embrace the idea of things being “awesome.” Their enthusiasm too is taken with an attitude of “okay but now you’re just being silly about it,” but precisely because of that I think it makes the song more about a sort of dialectic of awesomeness rather than just being propaganda to be ignored. Plus they end the movie with the song.

85

Sasha Clarkson 07.21.14 at 11:55 pm

Harry B @79

The original version of Lili Marleen which was so popular with the troops was NOT sung by Marlene Dietrich, but by Lale Andersen. :)

Dietrich’s version was darker and more downbeat, and indeed, released as part of the Muzak project, designed as psychological warfare against Axis troops.

Dietrich was a much more accomplished of course: I have to confess I have a particular affection for this one – which is incongruousness incarnate!

86

engels 07.21.14 at 11:58 pm

you have to be able to understand the lyrics to pick up on that

You have to be able to willfully ignore the music…

87

Nemo 07.22.14 at 12:15 am

Speaking of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”: Former extreme righwing Congressman Robert (“B-1 Bob”) Dornan used it in one of his last campaigns until he was asked to stop.

Also, Robert Palmer’s song and video for “Simply Irresistable” was used in a commercial for a car. I no longer remember which one, but I noted at the time the commercial avoided the lyrics “She compromised my principles” and “There’s no telling where the money went”.

88

Sara 07.22.14 at 12:21 am

Excellent post – I’ve thought it so many times about so many situations (“They can’t play THAT for THIS!”) and to see it in print ensures I know I’m not the only one it bothered ;)

Sara @ simpleNewz

89

john c. halasz 07.22.14 at 12:24 am

@85:

Lale Andersen was a comparative innocent here. (She was from Bremen and her name suggests Danish origins). She was a young cabaret singer and was recruited into the song by its composer, (who himself was evading Nazi strictures), whom she’d known before. The Nazi authorities hated the song and tried to suppress it, and Ms. Andersen spent much of the early war years in Zurich. But then it became unexpectedly a hit and she was brought out of oblivion to perform the song. It crossed the combat lines and became a hit with the British too. (I’d thought that Vera Lynn recorded the war-time version, but that might be wrong). It’s basically the same song, in terms of lyrics, as “Katyusha”. a young woman pining after her soldier boyfriend after he’s gone into the army, done up in the different national musical idioms. That song too, written just before the war, was also hated and suppressed by the authorities, but, for obvious reasons, became subsequently a hit amongst the troops. Of course, the rockets, which had a secret K mark on them, were named after the song.

90

PatrickinIowa 07.22.14 at 12:39 am

If not incongruous, certainly creepy: Viagra used “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” in a tv ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w10luaTO8o.

91

Alan White 07.22.14 at 12:45 am

Harry–comparing The Lego Movie to They Live just by itself made this post!

I think you’d have to agree with me that “On Wisconsin!” is something of an incongruity in the state these days. Maybe “Troglodyte”?

92

Moz in Oz 07.22.14 at 12:58 am

Nemo, that’s gold. You gotta love those far right wing anarcho-syndicalist congress-members. With Chumbawamba you just know that they’re going to come right and and teabag you at the worst possible moment[1]. At least Right Said Fred are blatantly all about the money.

[1] speaking of inconguous things, down here teabagging is something crude involving scrotums which makes the US “teabagger movement” kind of inappropriate and funny.

93

bjk 07.22.14 at 1:11 am

Romney playing James Brown “Livin’ in America” is incongruous . . . except James Brown was a Republican!

94

godoggo 07.22.14 at 1:23 am

They don’t actually call themselves teabaggers…

Anyways, Queen and Gary Glitter songs at sporting events.

95

Charles 07.22.14 at 1:50 am

During George W. Bush’s first campaign for the presidency, at one appearance they played “Cat’s in the Cradle,” the Harry Chapin song about a distant dad who never has time for his son, who grows up like him. Hmmm . . . don’t think they used that one for too long.

96

MPAVictoria 07.22.14 at 2:58 am

“They don’t actually call themselves teabaggers…”

Actually I think they did at first…

97

godoggo 07.22.14 at 3:00 am

I’m pretty sure it was never anything but a joke.

98

godoggo 07.22.14 at 3:04 am

Meanwhile no-one has objected my equating Queen with Gary Glitter, and thus, by implication, bisexuality with pedophilia, or to the idea that the former is incongruous with professional sports, which is good because I really don’t want to deal with it.

99

William Berry 07.22.14 at 3:11 am

@Moz in Oz:

Seconding godoggo, the tea-baggers only ever referred to themselves as the “Tea Party”. They pretended that TEA was an acronym that stood for Taxed Enough Already.

It was us dirty-minded left/ liberal types who started calling them tea-baggers (they did often have actual tea bags hanging off hats and the like), being fully cognizant of the vulgar meaning you refer to.

It took the tea-baggers a while to catch on.

100

Plarry 07.22.14 at 3:18 am

I think that Quite Likely at 28 has it correct. The interpretation of “Everything is Awesome” has changed by the ending of the moving. Without giving the ending away, the lyrics show the answer to what the problem was, and singing it as a celebration isn’t an incongruous use of it.

101

Joshua W. Burton 07.22.14 at 3:22 am

Pick Yourself Up, in the warm Nat King Cole version, was the perfect brutally incongruous soundtrack to an appalling multiple murder in Breaking Bad. I won’t link to the two-minute scene, because I don’t think it’s nearly as chilling without the whole arc that sets it up, but it’s on YouTube if you insist.

102

derrida derider 07.22.14 at 3:37 am

My nomination is Cohen’s deliberately blasphemous “Hallelujah” sung as a hymn.

103

bianca steele 07.22.14 at 3:39 am

You can’t unwatch that movie.

I wish I could unwatch “Jersey Girl,” but I always think of the scene with the little girl doing Sweeney Todd, with effects, when topics like this one come up.

104

Moz in Oz 07.22.14 at 4:18 am

I’m keen on “Everything is Awesome” being a positive song to go with a positive message. I’m even sympathetic to the idea that it starts as propaganda and gets repurposed/ subverted into a genuine anthem. Either way, I like the first 30 seconds of it (typical of my response to Tegan and Sara songs, FWIW).

godoggo: I thought you were equating them separately with professional sports, which each work in their own way. Queen + sports is incongruous regardless, unless we’re talking about bicycle racing.

I’m not sure the haka counts as music, but the “lyrics” to the Haka of Te Rauparaha is just a bizarre choice for any sporting team, especially one that expects to win. Seeing the All Blacks chant about running away and hiding from their enemies before a match is incongruous to say the least. (story here: http://www.haka.co.nz/haka.php)

105

James 07.22.14 at 4:18 am

Hundreds dying in Gaza, civilians shot out of the sky over Ukraine, and Crooked Timber gives us the Lego Movie and meerkats. Over the past 11+ years I have been coming here for a thoughtful left/ progressive view on current events, but there seems to have been a slow withdrawal of interest in addressing yourselves to whatever crisis is occupying the headlines. If nothing else perhaps you could choose more appropriate timing for the fluffy posts?

106

Joshua W. Burton 07.22.14 at 4:50 am

My nomination is Cohen’s deliberately blasphemous “Hallelujah” sung as a hymn.

Oh, please. Leonard Cohen’s song isn’t blasphemous, it’s midrashic. Deliberately allusive/transgressive use of Biblical tropes may be treif in other traditions, perhaps, but that’s not where Cohen is coming from. Everyone from Jewish summer camps to Yeshiva University’s a cappella group incorporates Hallelujah into the Kabbalat Shabbat now and then; the erotic tension echoes back and forth between the psalmist’s audible Hebrew and the songwriter’s implied English. Psalm 147 in Psukei D’zimra fits, too.

107

Joshua W. Burton 07.22.14 at 4:56 am

Sorry, Psalm 146. (Prior comment in moderation because of hyperlinks; I’ll repeat it here without.)

My nomination is Cohen’s deliberately blasphemous “Hallelujah” sung as a hymn.

Oh, please. Leonard Cohen’s song isn’t blasphemous, it’s midrashic. Deliberately allusive/transgressive use of Biblical tropes may be treif in other traditions, perhaps, but that’s not where Cohen is coming from; in Jewish terms it’s quite pious. Everyone from Jewish summer camps to Yeshiva University’s a cappella group incorporates Hallelujah into the Kabbalat Shabbat now and then; the erotic tension echoes back and forth between the psalmist’s audible Hebrew and the songwriter’s implied English. Psalm 147 146 in Psukei D’zimra fits, too.

108

Joshua W. Burton 07.22.14 at 5:11 am

Just to underline the point . . . . verses 5 & 6, which are missing from the Buckley cover.

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Blasphemous? Seriously?

109

Gabriel 07.22.14 at 5:27 am

@Jake #70:

A small farming community in northern Ohio, I’m afraid. Interesting that it was not an isolated incident.

110

Roy 07.22.14 at 5:53 am

Back in 2004 at the Republican convention Dick Cheney came out on stage to Nick Lowe’s “I love the sound of breaking glass”. Knowing the sort of eager beaver Young Republicans around him I think it was completely intentional.

111

Bloix 07.22.14 at 6:09 am

Another peculiar one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLYkIxDX4LA

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy
(Look at me I am happy)

112

Chris Bertram 07.22.14 at 6:21 am

“Va, pensierio” or “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from Verdi’s Nabucco has been put to use by both the French Front National and the Lega Nord in Italy.

113

roy belmont 07.22.14 at 7:33 am

A Christmas Carol:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home

114

Phil 07.22.14 at 8:26 am

Roy – that’s an Advent carol, and it’s about the coming (advent) of the Messiah. I suppose there’s a kind of irony there inasmuch as (from a Xtian perspective) the one who came didn’t (just) set the Jews free, but it’s not “the Mercedes Benz song in an advert” ironic.

115

godoggo 07.22.14 at 8:28 am

116

Shatterface 07.22.14 at 9:06 am

Nothing incongruous with this Queen song used at sport events:

We are the champions, my friends,
And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end.
We are the champions.
We are the champions.
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions.

117

Mtrost 07.22.14 at 9:30 am

@23: wikipedia says the Dutch anthem is about the fight against Spain. The lyrics seem to corroborate this.

118

Aulus Gellius 07.22.14 at 11:27 am

It’s surprising that no one else has mentioned this one, but my wife and I were really irritated when the DJ at our wedding played “Hey Ya.” Of course, Andre 3000 knew what he was doing with that one: “Y’all don’t want to hear me, you just want to dance.”

119

Niall McAuley 07.22.14 at 11:47 am

Microsoft launched Windows 95 using the Rolling Stones “Start me up”:

If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop

False advertising.

I’ve been running hot
You got me ticking gonna blow my top

That’s more accurate, but then they cut just before the most relevant lyric:

You make a grown man cry

120

Barry 07.22.14 at 12:34 pm

godoggo 07.22.14 at 3:00 am

” I’m pretty sure it was never anything but a joke.”

Google ‘tea bag them before they tea bag you’. It was a serious statement which was scrubbed from the approved Tea Party histories.

121

mjfgates 07.22.14 at 12:52 pm

Niall McAuley@118: The joke going ’round the Windows development group after Win95 released was that they needed T-shirts with “MICROSOFT- We make a dead man come” printed on them.

122

Nabakov 07.22.14 at 1:07 pm

Peter Sellars arranged to have Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” played at his funeral. His best joke in years.

123

harry b 07.22.14 at 1:48 pm

Shatterface — I assumed the problem with Queen at sporting events is Freddie Mercury singing to a bunch of homophobes. But, nowadays, is that true? Young people these days, I ask you!

Fascinating about Lili Marlene. A lovely song.

Thanks Alan!

124

Harry 07.22.14 at 2:24 pm

James, its pretty easy to skip what you’re not interested in. If I had interesting/useful things to say about Gaza and the Ukraine I would do so. Trouble is, we have hundreds, possibly thousands, of readers who are better informed than I am about each topic, and anything I said would not even be interesting/informative to the readers who are not better informed than I am. I tend to stick to what I know about, which I think is a good rule, and my colleagues share that tendency, which is one reason reading CT is better than reading a lot of other blogs/magazines/newspapers.

125

engels 07.22.14 at 3:28 pm

So pubic speech in a democracy only has value if it is either ‘interesting/useful’ (useful for what and to whom)?

Back on topic, I propose Pete Seeger at Obama’s inauguration.

126

Harry 07.22.14 at 3:37 pm

yes, I thought about Pete Seeger at the Obama inauguration. But it is so typical…

To have value surely it has to be interesting and/or useful for at least something or someone. Its valuable that people can say things that are neither interesting or useful, but utterances that are neither interesting nor useful aren’t valuable, no. (Some utterances are interesting, and many are useful, to the people making them, so they have value, but what I have to say about Gaza and the Ukraine are not even useful or interesting to me, and if they were only useful or interesting to me I wouldn’t want to waste CT space with them. Of course, maybe lots of what I do write on CT is only interesting/useful to me, but I don’t know it — in these cases I do know it).

127

godoggo 07.22.14 at 3:39 pm

You could always have an Gaza open thread. That will give everyone a chance to say all the things they have to say that have never ever been said before ever.

128

Harry 07.22.14 at 3:40 pm

ha! Is that an offer to moderate?

129

engels 07.22.14 at 4:17 pm

I suppose you can use ‘useful’ as a synonym for valuable, in which case the claim will be trivially true, but I’d have thought that statements of support or censure, for example, or public demands for action, have an important function in a democracy to which their interest or use (if any) is incidental. But I dunno.

130

gianni 07.22.14 at 4:29 pm

having an open thread seems like an interesting idea, has CT ever done this before? the moderating problem seems tough – especially given the type of topics that open thread lends itself to.

more on point- once in university i heard Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ playing from the frat house run by the proto-typical Old Southern Gentility types. Not much of a party song, but then i never understood that Southern pride thing anyways.

also – this thread could use more analysis of the Lego movie. I think Q. Likely is right @28 in noting that there was a kernel of honest truth beneath the satire in “Everything is Awesome”. the song advocates for an ethos of teamwork and harmony, and that ends up being the crucial element that the protagonist teaches the other master builders. they are all brilliant, but unable to cooperate or put their unique creative style aside in the name of the larger group objective. and the notion that mundane and/or traditionally bad things should be seen in a positive light jives well with the movies overarching message of creative optimism.

131

David 07.22.14 at 4:55 pm

Shatterface @59 on David Cameron and irony – saw Echo and the Bunnymen at Cornbury last year, and Ian M mentioned that last time they’d played there “David Cameron was over there at the side, singing along with all the words. Obviously a man of taste … And wealth.”

132

engels 07.22.14 at 5:45 pm

133

harry b 07.22.14 at 5:55 pm

Talking of Southern Man, has anyone mentioned Sweet Home Alabama yet? Maybe the most bitingly ironic song in rock, and yet….

134

Jim Buck 07.22.14 at 7:12 pm

examples of intentional alienation by juxtaposition

Carl Foreman (1963) :

135

Jim Buck 07.22.14 at 7:17 pm

Flipping the topic, but is this not a wee bit congruent with Hallelujah:

136

MPAVictoria 07.22.14 at 8:09 pm

Collin Street that GE commercial is the craziest thing I have seen in a long time. Just wow.

137

harry b 07.22.14 at 9:18 pm

Collin Street wins. And Al Stewart is vindicated.

138

novakant 07.22.14 at 9:29 pm

They have open threads over at Obsidian Wings, but the place is a bit like “Cheers” (CT is more like a biker bar).

139

MPAVictoria 07.22.14 at 10:24 pm

Atrios and Balloon Juice both have open threads as well but they tend to be a little less academic….

Still might be fun.

140

Joshua W. Burton 07.22.14 at 10:28 pm

novakant @138: CT is more like a biker bar

Excellent! Can I be the animal rights protester who, scorning sexist vandalism of mink coats, comes in to throw red paint on the leather jackets?

141

Ronan(rf) 07.23.14 at 12:17 am

Problem with Israel/palestine threads is “upper class American Jew” doesn’t correlate as identity politics.( before i get barred, I joke

142

godoggo 07.23.14 at 4:25 am

The biker bar I’m most familiar with is Walker’s Cafe in Pedro, although the XHeathens who hang there are pretty unthreatening.

I do see a lot of Mongols in Montebello and thereabouts, but no idea where they hang, and don’t particularly care to know.

143

godoggo 07.23.14 at 4:43 am

I found the Bullshitting post enlightening, the comments… well, some of them. But there are lots of good blogs covering the topic, of course.

144

roy belmont 07.23.14 at 4:57 am

gianni at 4:29 pm:
Not sure from your comment if you’re working with the condemnatory heart of Neil Young’s song there. Some irony, intended or not, in that Young’s Canadian, so the whole US male pop. is “Southern Man” to him, technically.
-
Phil:
Yes Advent, I know. But the song was sung throughout my childhood at Christmas “time”.
Layers of irony in the lyrics, and in the straightforward singing of them, by people, lots of them children, who had no idea what the larger implications were. Are.
-
Harry of CT:

“Trouble is, we have hundreds, possibly thousands, of readers who are better informed than I am about each topic”
Just guessing of course, but isn’t it likely that many of those better informed readers actively disagree with each other?
Which would make for, it seems to a non-academic reader, at least some of those better informed readers being essentially wrong? And vulnerable to the exposure of their being wrong?
Aren’t we side-stepping rather forcefully there?
What I’m seeing from Gaza doesn’t require a PhD in anything to fix squarely as obscene, an immoral outrage. Couple that with a Congress on its knees to the aggressor, an executive on its knees to that same aggressor, and a media with the majority of US opinion in its pocket itself in the pocket of that same aggressor.

So under those circumstances it could be seriously helpful, to the truth, to the victims of dishonest power, and to your readership, to open a discussion up.
Tighten the rules of moderation if you feel you have to.
Hard to say from here, but you may have the chance to do a great service by that, to more than the already convinced and partisan, to the world really.
Which is shifting around in its slumber, and may actually be waking up.

145

Patrick 07.23.14 at 4:30 pm

I have a dim memory of The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ being used to advertise Hovis bread. Possibly not the golden brown substance they had in mind…

146

TheSophist 07.24.14 at 2:06 am

I went to see The Diamondbacks-Tigers game today (not quite cricket, but there was a 3-run Miggy blast to cheer) and just before the teams took the field they played part of Karn Evil 9 – not sure how I feel about “There behind the glass is a single blade of grass” being plade inside a dome, but maybe I’m being overly picky.

147

dax 07.25.14 at 9:15 am

For dancable music with inappropriate subject matter, there’s Enola Gay by OMD. Easily one of the most dancable tunes of the 80s.

148

Katherine 07.25.14 at 10:27 am

At least when Chris Hadfield sang Space Oddity he changed the lyrics.

149

Corey Robin 07.26.14 at 12:50 am

I’m surprised only one person in this thread brought up the Village People. Not just YMCA, which became a hit in every suburb of the US, but also “In the Navy.” Which, according to this article that Rick Perlstein just posted on FB, almost became a recruitment song!

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19790329&id=DWhQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8FgDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1847%2C3698840

150

Matt McKeon 07.26.14 at 9:52 pm

In “Little Big Man” the cavalry massacre an Indian village to the sprightly Irish tune “Garryowen.” Apparently that actually happened(the massacre and the music).

The British redcoats marching to Lexington and Concord played “Yankee Doodle.” But not on the way back.

151

Artibeus 07.26.14 at 11:04 pm

I will survive at weddings.

152

The Temporary Name 07.27.14 at 3:11 am

Bouncy and optimistic chorus, grim verses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7avJBkLGWg

Lyrics.

Comments on this entry are closed.