NFB Listens To Numbers Ones: “Do The Bartman” – The Simpsons

This song of all songs for the RNG to land on. Looking at the way the still young Simpsons – only three years old at the point of this release – dominated even the Irish number one chart makes you look even harder at the current product, which has become little more than an embarrassment, and wonder how we got to this point. The episode “Behind The Laughter” that mocked this earlier period of The Simpsons in so many ways is itself old enough to drink in the US. That’s how long ago this was, an embryonic stage of The Simpsons where between this and “Deep, Deep Trouble”, they spent the better part of three months at the top of the charts, a factoid that boggles the mind in 2021.

And wow it is an awful song, novelty hit or no. I won’t accept any thoughts to the contrary, this is drek. Indicative of that period when The Simpsons was the Bart show – before Homer really took over – it’s awful, awful stuff. The RnB basics are here in spades for the music that is just repeated notes for the entire run time, save for a brief screeching guitar interlude and then some deliberately off-key saxophone. Things don’t get any better for Nancy Cartwright’s lyrics though, that are the epitome of white rappings “My name is X and I’m here to say”, designed to have a faux-sense of pushing the boundaries by its similarity to actual rap, but in reality being so far from that boundary that it is impossible to see. I tend to hue to the side of Bryan Loren, one of two credited songwriters, who has insisted that the oft-made claims of Michael Jackson’s involvement are largely bogus: MJ of that era would be able to do a lot better than this. They do a shout-out to him of course, but it’s really hard to believe the genius of “Thriller” is the same guy behind lines like “I’m the kid that made delinquency an art, Last name Simpson, first name Bart.” Hell, it’s hard to believe the people behind “See My Vest”, “The Monorail Song” or “We’re Talking Softball” could release something this sub-average.

Incredibly, the version of this song you are most likely to hear nowadays is a full five minutes long, with the radio edit only a minute shorter: that’s way, way too long for what is only a mildly diverting novelty single at best. It speaks to the Simpsons mania of the time. The music video was probably the only thing to really recommend this song long-term, essentially a five minute Simpsons short directed by Brad Bird, which sees Bart hijack a school talent show with his song. It’s a fun few minutes – my favourite being the turn of Jacques, dancing with a figure who metamorphoses from woman to woman to Harvey Fierstein’s Karl – but it doesn’t distract from the fact that the song is still cringe-worthy. 1991 was a pretty dark year for music.

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