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September 21, 2012

Manly Songs: Now You're a Man

You know, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a songwriter.

I’ve entertained the thought a couple of times.  I used to play the violin, and my mom taught me how to play the piano (and by “taught” I mean “gave me a lesson and I never bothered to ask for another one”), so I know a little bit about music.  And as a writer, I’d say I’d fare a bit better than if I were the one singing.  What is a song but a poem set to music -- an assembly of lyrics with meaning, rhythm, and a catchy chorus that’ll likely be the only part of a song somebody remembers?  In theory, it seems entirely possible.

In practice?  Who’s to say, really?  Lyrics and music are a package deal, I’d wager.  Give me a tune, and I can probably put lyrics to it (I’ve done it before, back in the days of Cross-Up’s infancy), but a full-on song?  Well…maybe I could swing a couple of tunes, but they’d likely be pretty cheesy.  And while I have some MIDI software, it has gone untouched on the grounds that it’s “really hard” and/or “too much work.”  And if you asked me to make a song out of the blue with zero preparation beforehand, I guarantee you a song so clumsy and atonal that it’d make Urkel sound like an angelic chorus.

Which brings me to the latest addition to The Manly Song Repository.  Because you see, I’ve learned something today:


A real man can make his own song, no matter what it takes.

Now You’re a Man
Band: DVDA
Artists: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Bruce Howell, D.A. Young, Nels Dielman
Year: 1997

Song recommended by: Konstantine Paradias of shapescapes

Two words: prepare yourself.


I’d expect no less from the minds behind South Park -- though I have to admit, I’m surprised they actually have a band to their productions’ name.  Guess you learn something new every day.

Anyway, the song.   The last two songs to appear on this segment were different, but held certain characteristics in mind: they were inspiring.  They asked listeners to take the words to heart, and become hardier, fiercer warriors in pursuit of their dreams.   They were both tied to Disney movies.  But with this song, things are a whole lot different.  It’s comedic; at a glance -- or listen, as it were -- it’s not so much about inspiring people as satirizing the concept of those songs.  You know the type -- the kind of song you’d hear from an eighties movie, rousing the hero so he can face his greatest challenge.  (Incidentally, it’s a topic the South Park masterminds have tackled before with their song “Montage.”)

But here’s the thing about their satire -- the song, and South Park as a whole.  Parker and Stone and all their cohorts know what they’re doing, otherwise the show wouldn’t have lasted for as long as it has.  It may poke fun, and it may satirize, and it may parody, and it may wear a poop- and swear-laden veneer, but writing comedy requires a certain refinement of intelligence.  There’s logic to it.  There’s a rhythm, and flow.  It’s unpredictable, but no joke or setup or payoff is without purpose.  There are principles learned through comedy that can carry over into other realms of creativity -- and as such, Parker and Stone are the dynamic duo they are today.


So at a base level, “Now You’re a Man” sounds utterly ridiculous -- a gag song, and nothing more.  But give it another listen, and you start to understand the quiet genius, the true intention behind the song.  The underlying theme of the song is “primal force”; it’s very direct in its attempts to entertain and satirize, as you’d expect from lyrics emphasizing the importance of female secondary sexual characteristics.  But think carefully about what’s being said here: a number of questions that asks what it means to be a man.  While the first verse gives you the drive to strike out and make your way in the world, the song actually doesn’t offer much in the way of answers.  Why?  The obvious answer would be that “Now You’re a Man” doesn’t want to give you -- a man in the making -- the answers you want.  Because really, how manly can you be if someone gives you the answer on a diamond-laced platter with a side of Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits?

In exchange for the answers, you have more than two dozen repetitions of the word “man”…at least, in some capacity.  I can think of a number of reasons why they’d go that route:

1) They’re making fun of you.  “Oh, so you want us to tell you how to be a man?” the song asks, waving a finger at you.  “Figure it out on your own, you ‘manly man’ you!”

2) They’re showing off that “primal force” I mentioned earlier.  Nothing is more important than being a man, and as such they’re eager to drill it into your head as forcefully as possible.  Likewise, the eventual breakdown of “man” into permutations like “manny manny man” and “ma-YON” suggests that the power has overwhelmed the singers -- a testament that reveals even speaking of manliness for too long can overwhelm one’s sensibilities.  And yet, that’s something to aspire to.


3) They’re purposefully breaking down the lyrics to create that rough-and-tumble sense for the song.  Remember in the intro when I mentioned that I’d crash and burn if I had to make a song on the spot?  Well, this sounds like the kind of song I’d make if need be -- rather than go for meaning and depth, I’d opt for humor and a few quick laughs.  DVDA creates the same effect, and because of it show that it’s fine to act without days of preparation beforehand; after all, sometimes a man has to leap before he looks.  Sometimes that wild, unexpected nature is more potent than a calculated attack; it certainly helps put on a show.

4) They’re just trying to make you laugh -- and there’s nothing wrong with that.  After all, what is a man if not a multitude of powerful emotions?  Surely any person alive enjoys a multitude of emotions; surely they WANT to experience those emotions whenever and however they can.  And “Now You’re a Man” is there to provide -- to put a smile on your face, and teach you that laughter can be as mighty a tool as Gungnir, the spear that never misses.  To unleash one’s primal force, and use it as propulsion to the highest echelons of human potential…that’s what it means to be a man -- and precisely what this song wants to teach. 

And to that end, I have this to say about “Now You’re a Man”:


It's a bit redundant, I know, but such is the way of a manny-manny-man. 

That’ll do it for now, gang.  See you around, same man-time, same man-channel.  And be sure to check out shapescapes for more brilliant manly analysis of everything you love (i.e. comic books and theoretical battles between super-beings).

Do you have a manly song to recommend?  Then you, too, can have your suggestion turned into a full-fledged post!  Just leave a comment naming a song (limit one song per comment), and your song will be analyzed -- and if you have a blog or other net-haven, you’ll be suitably honored.  So get to it; feel the rush of testosterone, and help make THE MANLIEST PLAYLIST IN THE UNIVERSE!

10 comments:

  1. Since I am a bit of a rocker, the song definitely caught my attention but I suppose you must be a MAN or at least a BOY to be really touched by the message. I am sure you are on the verge of becoming a great man...am I wrong?

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  2. Heh heh...well, I do what I can. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go uppercut a volcano and catch a thunderbolt with my teeth.

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  3. Does that song, Macho Macho Man by the Village People cunt as a manly song???
    Haha

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  4. Probably. If I can find (or at least pretend to find) hidden meaning in a song by the guys who made Team America: World Police, I can probably find something in Macho Macho Man. The name alone merits a look.

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  5. No, not really. As long as you can laugh at how the song is aiming to make fun of the supposedly manly characteristics of 80's pop culture, you can be touched by its message.

    Rhamy did a pretty darn good job at presenting it. I honestly wasn;t expecting to read such a well-placed analysis on the song in this article.

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  6. Well, I did my interpreting with a bit of bias; I imagined that Parker and Stone played the song straight, so I thought I might give it a shot. How manly this song is or isn't depends on how much you're willing to buy into both the song and my little write-up...though looking back, I might have put up a pretty good argument. *puts on sunglasses*


    Unfortunately, now I can't get the song out of my head. OH, WHAT A MISERABLE FATE I HAVE BROUGHT UPON MYSELF!

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  7. On another note, here are two more suggestions toward achieving your dream:

    Johnny Cash-A Boy named Sue (because growing up a man with a girl's name takes some serious balls)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-hYLL7Gpos

    Boonie Tyler-I need a hero (manly song by proxy)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBwS66EBUcY&feature=BFa&list=FL5gZQ41RhS3IVFdzJl0Rk_A

    Django Reinhardt's Minor Swing (because a man is hardly a man if he isn't suave as shit)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTlo809EIlo

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  8. Th-th-three at once? I'm about to overload with manliness!


    Well, I'll be sure to add it to my list. I've still got a few I need to get through before I can tackle these, but...well, I'd wager I'll whip something together eventually. Thanks for sharing, my man.


    (Cripes, the word "man" is going to have NO MEANING when this is all over...)

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  9. S' cool, dawg. (Nope, not a proper substitute in any way)

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  10. Hello! I just saw that your Rss feed of this portal is functioning without any mistakes, did you complete all the options on your own or you just left the original settings of this widget?

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