2014 / october / 04

Girls and Boys: the story behind a re-arrangement

For Three MDB I made an vocal arrangement of Girls & Boys by Blur that's moved on quite far from the original. People have asked me: nice tune, but what the hell is it you're trying to tell? So here's the story behind the arrangement and what it means.
I've long been a fan of Blur. When Britpop happened I was firmly in their camp, Wonderwall not withstanding. I Saw them live in Paradiso, and followed their journey post-britpop with interest. Damon Albarn proved himself a gifted, quirky songwriter (as did Graham Cox!). Tender, Coffee and TV are timeless classics.
Girls and Boys is not a song in the same vein. Not unlike Song 2, it's a tune that started as a joke, but was just too good to be just that. Too fucking catchy. Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls, over an octave jumping bass and flanger kicking in halfway... Gotta love it.

So a while ago, I got this idea that it would work really well as a jazz song and I knew instantly what it should sound like. I let the idea ripen for a bit, and it persisted, so I got to work. The beginning wrote itself, and it felt true. But then, what to do with the rest? I got into thinking about what this song means, what it stands for. And I realized that I could not simply transcribe and arrange the original from its time. 1994 is twenty years ago by now. The song is a comment on its time, and we've all grown older. Those nineties are gone, and so are my twenties. Yet it's still relevant. And still damn catchy. What to do, how to adapt this song?

So I decided to write new lyrics to replace the second verse:

Love in the nineties, the irony
and gender-bending's fine with me
but now that we're older, those days long gone
that ironic punchline's now the heart of the song
always should be someone you really love.

The original lyrics, as I understand them, are a comment on an seemingly tolerant society. People can experiment with gender roles. But there are always subtle rules and dangers. It seems free but there's still hypocrisy (as well as herpes, but I chalk that one up to the more whimsy part of the song). You cannot experiment for the sake of it and dive into the confusion of finding out who you really are, difficult enough for any early twentysomething, no it should be someone you really love.
And now I look back at this time which seemed so carefree. Part of Fukuyama's nineties, that ended with the dotcom crash and nine-eleven. The dust of the experimenting has settled as I've grown older. A little sadder and wiser, but on the other hand happier being what I am. And that line at the end of that wonderful disco Girls/Boys/Boys/Girls chorus, now seems to be the deepest message embedded in the song.
We're in an age where gay marriage is widely accepted and where website signup forms more often than not have a non-binary gender choice, with at least the option 'other'. It's no big deal. That's putting it too rosy, yes, but still.
It is about love in the end. My ironic twentythree year old me would have cringed at that, but as I see it in 2014, nothing wrong with that now.

The arrangement can be found on my sheetmusic page, enjoy - it's cc licensed. Here's a recent performance of Three MDB having lots of fun with it (so much fun, we're singing it slightly too fast :) :

exciting music news, and lots of it! | main | Note on OSX Yosemite mail smtp setting





links & reads