Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Baby on Board" is a Genuine Song

There's this joke from an old episode of The Simpsons, where someone (perhaps Kent Brockman, but I can't exactly remember) was giving a retrospective on "The Itchy & Scratchy Show," which is a cartoon within the cartoon.  He goes on to point out how beloved this fictional (sort of) cartoon is, and that even cynical members of Generation X love it.  The episode then cuts to a shot of a stereotypical Gen Xer scoffing at the notion saying, "Yeah, 'groovy'" while making air quotes.  The thing is, I think that attitude tended to describe shows like The Simpsons, at least back then, pretty well.  Before Fox TV, which aired The Simpsons, I'm pretty sure most TV parodies and satires were fairly soft, coming across with an attitude of "just kidding."  After Fox, I recall this changed with shows like Married with Children, In Living Color, and The Simpsons, where the satire and parody had a sharper, meaner edge to it.  Instead of "just kidding," it was often more like, "you're stupid if you like what we're making fun of."  For example, consider the sketch from In Living Color where they showed a music video satirizing Crystal Waters using lyrics like, "You'll keep buying my music because you're mindless" and "I should be homeless."

These shows pretty much laid the groundwork for even sharper, meaner shows, like Family Guy and South Park.  My point is that for its then too-cool-for-school irony, when it came time for The Simpsons to lampoon barber shop quartet music, they kind of went in the other direction.  Instead of outright slamming a musical style that many would have considered to be antiquated by the 1990s, they actually went and wrote and produced a genuine and genuinely nice song called "Baby on Board" (based on the popular sign).  This didn't really occur to me until recently, which I guess points out how clueless I am.  I was in my car, noticing someone else's "Baby on Board" sign, and I remembered that song.  It struck me: a song that I thought for years I enjoyed ironically turned out to simply be a pleasant song I actually enjoyed.  As Brockman once put it, "How about that, folks?"

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