A song can be generally defined as being a voice composition which is performed by the act of singing, the song words tend to have a rhythm or are poetic in nature. The two songs that I have chosen are; ‘Your Racist Friend’ by the group known as They Must Be Giants and ‘When Fredric Was A Little Lad’ by Gilbert and Sullivan. The song genre of the song ‘your racist friend’ can be classified as modern rock while the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ can be classified as a comic opera which typically is a comic play which usually incorporates songs that are set to major popular tunes. These two songs are interesting to listen to and also in their historical development in the music industry.
The song ‘Your Racist Friend’ by TMBG is generally a combination of varied experiences, and also entails the relativistic and back-peddling individuals who tend to go through, attempting to manage getting through our ‘creepy’ world (powers, 2005, p. 76). ‘Your Racist Friend’ song is majorly enveloped up in the quandary of implied agreement this can be evidenced depicted from the line stating 'Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding'. Qualities of a paranoid style are heavily applied in the song such as ‘I'll just sit here wondering how you can stand by your racist friend.’ This style of paranoia application is distinct to the TMBG group and their songs but is not seen in the other song by Sullivan and Gilbert.
The two particular songs differ in their time period in that the song your racist friend was done in 1988 while ‘When Fredric Was A Little Lad’ song was done in the year 1879. Clearly that is a distinctive generation gap which makes the two songs contrast largely. This is established in the type of music done, TMBG song can be depicted as using an experimental and unconventional style of modern alternative music while the song by Sullivan and Gilbert is a type of comic opera that express both pathos and humor. Their most popular song in musical theatres, entails acting, dramatization and singing require both the visual and audio effects (Weed, 2005, p. 5). However, TMBG song can be with or free from dramatization.
The TMBG song gives political views and connotations in its theme specifically in the line “I know politics bore you”, and with its paranoid writing style, it tends to build a kind of broken musical partisanship which tends to be very striking. On the other hand the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ by Gilbert and Sullivan in a way have political views and connotations in the way the King and Fred feel about their profession and civilization. Songs denoting political views may be delicately controversial. However, both of these songs brought it out nicely without any controversy. Political views are important in knowing the viewpoint of the writer and what they really feel about a certain subject (Gardner, 1994, p. 68).
Gilbert and Sullivan song have a unique and distinctive "topsy-turvy" song writing style, whereby humor is derived and shown by having a ridiculous basis and effectively working out in details its logical effects, however absurd in nature (MacPhail, 1995, p. 287). The song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ is characterized by humor as opposed to the song ‘Your Racist Friend’ which lacks humor and this is because the song's mood can be said to be sober. The song your racist friend lacks the comic ingredient and tends to be really serious in nature.
With immense freedom and fluidity the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ was written. This is because it tends to challenge our usual natural expectations and has a twist. The song tells an absolutely outrageous story effectively, in an entirely deadpan way. On the other hand, TMBG song can be seen to lack fluidity in nature and is rigid because it lacks comical humor and elements of fantasy.
The use of clichés and idioms and irony are seen in both of the songs however, the song of ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ by Gilbert and Sullivan is seen to use good grammatical English but the song by TMBG ‘your racist friend' does not regard much grammatically correct English in song writing. This is an observation may be due to the growth and development in styles of song writing. Effects of modern slang and the need to belong have made this kind of song style very popular in this generation especially.
Another contrast in the two songs can be seen in the negativism reflected in the song of TMBG- ‘Your Racist Friend.’ The song is outlining egoism which is a vice, and promoting drinking habits that can be detrimental to naive youths and children. The difference either caused by the generation gap or modernization has led the embarrassment of such songs. On the contrary, ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ song by Gilbert does not preach egoism and drug use. In fact it preaches peace, morality and forgiveness, a case seen when Fredric pardons Ruth for taking him to the pirates. This difference is clearly and consciously outlined in the theme of the songs whereby one stands for morality while the other does not really considers the virtues.
Fantasy is largely used in the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ while real life situation is applied in the song by TMBG- ‘Your Racist Friend.’ Real- life situations can be told to the world by many ways including songs (Garner, 1994, p. 119). This makes it very effective in reaching the populace and fans too. Songs based on fantasies can be a great deal of entertainment and informative especially to children. Gilbert song is based on a story that eventually gives a moral teaching but the TMBG song just states on the feeling of the writer and not necessarily having any moral teaching.
Another similarity is that they are both entertaining in nature. Whether some people’s expectation is humor or any other thing, the bottom line is that the both songs serve their main role of entertaining people in their own way. Comic Opera songs in particular ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ song is a happy and sad song bringing out mixed emotions and greatly entertaining the people. In the TMBG song a feeling of realism dawns on the listeners and they are entertained in their way according to their expectations. Both the songs were really loved by many people and this proves beyond doubt that they entertained despite little criticism that was faked.
In order for the songs being well performed, an inclusion of instruments and vocals are needed in the performance of the song ‘your racist friend’ while in the case of the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad,’ it gets more complicated with costumes, vocals, instruments, and dramatization of the whole song. So in terms of performance, the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad,’ is more complex and demands a lot of things to be done perfectly as compared to the song ‘your racist friend’ which is more simplistic in performance. Also in terms of the length of the songs, it is possible to know about the complexities encountered during performance.
Spoof and mockery are depicted in the song by Gilbert-‘when Fredric was a little lad,’ while in the song by TMBG- ‘your racist friend’ non- tolerance towards the racial friend is seen clearly. Although in both cases mockery is outlined, by Gilbert and Sullivan it is mainly meant for humor purposefully while on the other hand, the song by TMBG uses mockery not trying to bring out humor but rather to show the depths of emotions and particularly the dislike and hatred possessed by the writer in the subject of racism. The spoof is not seen in the song by TMBG because it is mainly relied on for its comic and humorous effect.
The song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ by Gilbert and Sullivan has its major themes on a sense of obligation, family responsibility, the admiration of civilization and the significance of a noninterventionist education (Weed, 2008, p. 93). It also depicts the theme of unqualified individuals in authority positions. The themes that are seen to be in the song by TMBG- ‘Your Racist Friend’ are; bad English, drinking, egoism and pretentiousness, friendship, heads, oblique clichés or idiom, politics and religion. Except from that differing account, a similarity observed is on the theme of friendship. Both songs are talking about friends and responsibilities and disappointments that they have caused and also talks about politics and the views they have.
Although the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ which is a musical theatre tends to overlap with varied other theatrical styles such as dance and opera, it could be differentiated by the equivalent significance that is given to especially music, movement, dialogue and other differentiated work elements. On the other hand the song by TMBG- ‘your racist friend’ can be classified as modern rock and entails more dance than the other Gilbert song. However, both of the songs comprise of dances but the difference is that in that of TMBG the song is even danceable and used particularly to entertain and make the fans dance along to it (Powers, 2005, p. 155).
Both songs despite their enormous success rates have been seen to enormously be facing a challenge in property rights whereby a lot of piracy takes place and causing major troubles in the music industry. In the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad’ especially, it was really pirated and redone in other numerous versions. This trend of piracy is dangerous to the creativity of writers because the motivation is badly hurt when a writer’s work is not regarded and preserved. Economic losses are detrimental to the progress of the singer and also it has negative impacts to upcoming artists who have tremendous talent and sadly is wasted as they fear their music that they probably would have invested in.
Racism is majorly addressed in the song by TMBG- ‘Your Racist Friend,’ Meaning that social evil is addressed and also backward and ignorance is uncovered by the songwriter. This song based in the critical years of democracy and human rights observance, tends to greatly (Gardner, 1994, p. 56) emphasis on how shallow minded racist people are. This is in accord to social justice and modern societal views. However, in the song ‘when Fredric was a little lad,’ no such cases are depicted and actual race is not a matter of concern according to Gilbert song. The similarity they share according to that context is that both don’t tolerate any form of discrimination and racism in particular.
In conclusion, both songs are written by innovative, creative and experimental individuals whose explorative nature to invent or venture into music not known to many, have led to the evolution of music to what it is nowadays. It is very important to appreciate music because it carries culture along with it. The new age Song writers having learnt from both of the song writers used above can gain useful insights in music development. Since songs pass the message effectively, singers should be rational and more sensible in what they sing to promote moral values and not promiscuity and vices. The songs are gaining popularity every day and this is an opportunity avenue to new talent generation.
Garner, J. F., & French, D. (1994). Politically correct bedtime stories. New York: Macmillan.
Weed, L. (2008, November). GILBERT & SULLIVAN. In Annual Meeting and Sing- Along pp (Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 5).
MacPhail Jr, R. (1995). Gilbert & Sullivan. English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 38(2), 252-255.
Powers, T. (2005). Engaging students with humor. Association for Psychological Science Observer, 18, 12. www.theymightbegiants.com,www.dialasong.com