OH NO! THE BEST MEME SONGS
What are the ultimate meme songs? Where does that ‘oh no, oh no no no’ snippet come from? How do you decide the best meme tune to accompany your musical meme?
We’re used to thinking of memes as primarily a visual medium. Silent images and gifs. But hollup! Musical memes are totally a thing. And not just memes about music, which is a whole other category we’ll dive into elsewhere.
Today, we’re focussing on those memes where, for full enjoyment, you need the sound turned up. Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram are awash with them. The very, very funny r/youtubehaiku is a great resource too.
Let’s do a li’l deep dive on the five most fun meme songs…
1/ FROLIC, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Legend has it penny-pinching showrunner and star Larry David used a piece of royalty-free stock music to accompany his genius sitcom. That’s not strictly true. The inspired tuba and mandolin-led ditty – which is actually called Frolic – has been used in various contexts, including a commercial for a bank.
That’s where Larry David claims he heard it for the first time. He later told Inside Media that he thought the tune ‘just sort of introduces the idea that you’re in for something pretty idiotic’.
Composer Luciano Michelini, who wrote the piece for an obscure Italian movie, is happy that it’s gone on to be a meme classic. Happy, but baffled.
He told Thump: ‘I never thought that “Frolic” would have a future life because of this.’
2/ THE SOUND OF SILENCE, Simon and Garfunkel
This bleak 1966 hit is the perfect soundtrack to existential crisis memes, most notably (obv) the ‘Sad Affleck’ moment. You remember, when he was doing a press tour trying to look enthusiastic about Batman v. Superman.
Fun fact, the song was recorded earlier in the sixties by then-unknown duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The album it was on tanked, and the pair split up, assuming they’d never work together again.
The record company saw potential, and (without telling Simon and Garfunkel) secretly added drums and bass guitar. They released the record, and it became a hit, prompting the duo to re-form and change the face of folk rock forever.
The message? If a tune is that good, it’s gonna make it. It’s just gonna.
3/ OH NO! The Shangri-Las
You’ll have heard this incredible slice of meme tuneage everywhere, it’s a certified banger. But where does the ‘oh no!’ snippet come from?
In the 1960s there was a fashion for teenage girl groups. One such group was ‘The Shangri-Las’. Four girls, two sets of sisters. They needed a hit, and turned to George ‘Shadow’ Morton (who was nicknamed ‘shadow’ because he liked to linger in the corridors of the record company hoping to get signed).
Anyway, the story goes he was heading to a meeting to pitch a hit to the Shangri-Las, and realised on the way he’d forgotten to write the song. So he wrote ‘Remember (Walking in the sand)‘ in his car, which he apparently pulled over at the side of the road.
Dance producer Capone sampled the track, and it’s this version that’s best-known today. Another really fun fact – piano on the track was played by a young unknown kid called Billy Joel. Quite a debut to give.
4/ ALL STAR, Smash Mouth
From the group’s Songfacts interview:
‘When we were on tour for the first record, it’s still when people were writing fan mail, like, in the form of paper and pencils and typewriters and stuff,’ said songwriter and Smash Mouth guitarist Grew Camp.
‘We would get these big bags of fan mail and we would take them to the Laundromat and do our laundry and read all this mail while we were sitting around waiting for our clothes to get dry. And about 85-90 percent of the mail was from these kids who were being bullied or their brothers or older siblings were giving them s–t for liking Smash Mouth or liking whatever they’re doing or the way they dressed and stuff. So we were, like, “We should write a song for fans.”’
So it’s all for you!
5/ AFRICA, Toto
Songwriter and Toto keyboard player David Paich had never been to Africa when he wrote this song, intended as a semi-jokey piece of album filler, that’s since gone on to spawn a million memes.
Partly for (frankly) insane lyrics like ‘as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti’.
Toto guitarist Steve Lukather told Rock Eyez magazine that he never understood the appeal. ‘I thought it was the worst song on the album. It didn’t fit, the lyrics made no sense and I swore that if it was a hit record, I’d run naked down Hollywood Boulevard! That’s how good I am at picking singles!’
Luckily he was dead wrong, and in the classic tune charts it’s been up ever since.