Monday, November 5, 2012

Open Letter: Why Eduard Khil’s “Trololo” Should Be the Christmas #1

Every so often, a wondrous Internet meme of a non-lexical, nonsense song becomes earworm. A prime example is Adriano Celentano’s “Prisencolinensinainciusol”, a gibberish tune that topped the Italian charts in 1972 and has garnered millions of views on YouTube. That was my nonsensical pop music obsession of 2011. For 2012, there is no better candidate than Russian crooner Eduard Khil’s “Trololo”.

Initially titled “Я очень рад, ведь я, наконец, возвращаюсь домой”, the late Khil’s non-lexical Soviet pop sensation gained notoriety when it became an Internet meme in 2009. The title translated into English means “I Am Glad, ‘Cause I’m Finally Going Home”. How it came to become known as “Trololo” was because of the way it sounds. Here’s what the original sounds like:

Note that the song has, at the time of this writing, fifteen million views to date.

It garnered a minor cult following, including a joke on Family Guy:

There’s even a continuous ten-hour – yes, ten hour – loop of the song in a single YouTube clip, which you can see here:

It is in fact the only song by Khil available for purchase at the (non-Russian / Eastern European) iTunes store, where for 99 cents once can have the pleasure of listening to this musical nonsense nonstop.
We are about six weeks out from the infamous chase for the Christmas Number One on the UK music charts. Past winners of this title include vaunted pop classics by Paul McCartney, the Spice Girls, Whitney Houston and Pink Floyd. For those readers unfamiliar with the concept, this is a cultural phenomenon in Britain, a time when a mad crush of artists releases Christmas-themed songs and sing-song-y power ballads in a bid to see who will end up on top of the musical pile during the biggest sales period in the music industry for the entire year. Only sales in the week leading immediately up to Christmas Day counted towards the total, so timing is crucial.

In the last decade, the Christmas Number One single has been dominated by reality singing competition winners, such as Girls Aloud (who saw “Sound of the Underground” launch their successful career in 2002), Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis. There have on occasion been songs that were released as explicit cash grabs that have nothing to do with the holiday, such as the Teletubbies’ theme song and Bob the Builder, some of which top the chart but often came up just short. Then there was the successful 2009 Facebook-enhanced campaign to get Rage Against the Machine’s anything-but-Christmas-y “Killing in the Name” to the top, which was started as a joke to counter the commerciality of the whole enterprise but actually became the Christmas Number One (I may or may not have purchased a copy).

True to the whole enterprise, there’s a huge Novelty Factor. Like comically ironic candidates like Rage Against the Machine and the insipid Teletubbies theme song (which was an unconsciously ironic choice), it’s the idea of taking the piss out of the whole occasion, with its seriousness and sentimentality, that makes it such a great idea.

It kinda sounds like a Christmas song. Sing “Trololo lolo” and what does it sound like? “Falalalala”. Reader, the gibberish rhythm makes it, combined with the instrumentation, almost sound like a forgotten Christmas classic, complete with orchestral sweep and chimes that make this sound like a Russian Bing Crosby. Okay maybe not that far, but it’s a musical facsimile, nyet?

It would be really, really funny. Having seen the Christmas Number One parody storyline in Love, Actually many, many times, I have been waiting for a blatant attempt at the coveted title with a song that mocks the insincere warbling of pretty young pop stars. Plus, an added bonus would be that the idea of having this top the chart would make musical executives rip out their hair in frustration. Can you see Simon Cowell having a fit that a decades-old record beats out his latest X-Factor investment, the one that was going to buy him a private island next to Beyoncé’s and Jay-Z’s?

Universal appeal. It’s the kind of “universal” record that the record companies try to get to appeal to everyone with the Christmas Number One releases. While the Spice Girls had three back-to-back-to-back titles from 1996 to 1998, non-English speakers would not be able to fully appreciate their singles. “Trololo”, however, is perfect in that anyone anywhere can sing along and enjoy it. Plus, it offends absolutely nobody (except aforementioned record company executives) and language is not a factor. You could play this to anyone of any race, age, religion, gender, political affiliation, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnicity and they would get it. I always wondered: in that old 1972 commercial “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, what song would the singer like to teach to sing? It sure isn’t Michael Jackson or “Express Yourself”, because it’d be too tough with the language barrier. Just throw “Trololo” on and have everyone sing, and you could bring about world peace. Heck, for those opposed to pop music as being “too westernized”, let me remind you: this is a pop record from Soviet Russia. (This also explains Eurovision.)

If you can buy “Gangnam Style”, you can buy this as your next earworm. Self-explanatory.

So if you’d like to teach the world to sing, have a laugh and get a perfect score at karaoke while getting caned at your parents’ place, get “Trololo” to the Christmas Number One! And remember: you can only buy it during the week leading up to Christmas in the UK, so that the sales count.

With thanks to our friends at Gay French Riviera for the tip!