Musical Musings… Breakdown Of “Party In The U.S.A.”

How this song is a hit is beyond me.

When I first heard Miley Cyrus’ Party in the U.S.A. amidst her infamous stripper pole ice cream cart incident at the Teen Choice Awards (the TripleDoubleU was all a-Twitter), it did not make an impression in the least.  In fact, had the song not gotten so much radio play, I would not have backtracked to find out that it was this song she writhed to.

Fast-forward to today.  Damn, does that song get stuck in your head.  It’s a classic earworm cocktail: lift a few themes from other songs, drop in a couple famous names, mention “partying” in a patriotic manner, and sprinkle with auto-tuning.  Voila!   A hit!

Before getting into the full monty with this song, I’d like to present a testimony to the ditty’s power over lyrics.  Here in Detroit, we have an excellent alternative (Canadian) rock station called 89x.  Everyday at 7pm, they have two songs battle it out for The People’s Choice.  The current and reigning winner:

"The Fold" is from Chicago... "the bends" is from surfacing too fast.

Wanna hear their song?

That’s a tasty synth track.

So onto the lyrics…

I hopped off the plane at L.A.X.
With a dream and my cardigan
Welcome to the land of fame excess,
Am I gonna fit in?

Jumped in the cab,
Here I am for the first time
Look to the right and I see the Hollywood sign
This is all so crazy
Everybody seems so famous

My tummy’s turnin’ and I’m feelin’ kinda home sick
Too much pressure and I’m nervous,
That’s when the taxi man turned on the radio
And a Jay Z song was on

Remind you of anyone else?

Well, the plane landed and when I came out
There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
I ain’t trying to get arrested
I just got here
I sprang with the quickness like lightning, disappeared

I whistled for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror
If anything I can say this cab is rare
But I thought ‘Now forget it’ – ‘Yo homes to Bel Air’

It’s not exactly the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but it’s certainly reminiscent.  Oh.  And about that Jay Z song?  Miley’s never heard any song by HOVA, because she did not write the song.  Jessica “Jessie” Cornish did, and BONUS!  She’s British (and can sing circles around Miley, btw).

Back to the chorus:

So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
I’m noddin’ my head like yeah
I’m movin’ my hips like yeah

Mya, do you have anything you’d like to say… oh, I don’t know… how about, your love is like… wo?  The remainder is a repetition of the first part, just with different words.

I guess the biggest problem I have with the song is the cloying patriotism.  When Bruce Springsteen sang about how he was Born in the U.S.A., I believed him.  Okay, it’s probably not fair to compare the Boss‘ song about disenfranchised American soldiers to Hannah Montana’s tune about not wearing stilettos because she “never got the memo.”  But his heart was in his throat when he sang that song.  Dollar signs were in Billy Ray’s eyes when she sang hers.

(SIDENOTE: Try on Kesha’s Tick Tock – I’m sorry – Ke$ha’s Tik Tok as an alternative to Party in the U.S.A. Most of the same earworm ingredients are there:

  • lift a few themes from other songs (“Don’t stop…” hook = Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” hook, also repetitive last word in phrase, à la Black Eyed Peas’ Meet Me Halfway)
  • drop in a couple famous names (Diddy, Mick Jagger)
  • mention “partying” in a patriotic manner (“…but the party don’t stop…”)
  • sprinkle with auto-tuning

Voila!  A hit!)

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