Dead, dead; dead.
The American sing-along is dead. Once upon a time, there was a baby Steinway in every household, and American families sang together in perfect nuclear harmony. Pa was an operatic baritone, and little Timmy had chosen to forgo puberty to carry on the castrati legacy. The sing-along was the musical hearth of the home, warming our spirits each holiday with all-night medleys fake-booked on the spot.
Sadly, the patriot songs, hymns, and drinking songs that inspired the group sing-alongs of yesteryear will stay in those fake-books, abandoned by a war-wearied atheistic public who still like to drink, but now to the tune of a digital jukebox. Is there anything more terrible than the obligatory Happy Birthday sing-along? Even the National Anthem is a little too sing-songy, to perform in public.
However, embarrassing sing-alongs can still be found in contemporary films—a quaint artifact of our Atlantean musical culture—as if it required a great deal of special effects and movie-magic to get a group of people to sing together.
Below, we have Jerry O’Connell belting out David Cassidy’s “I Think I Love You” from Scream 2. Somehow they even got the key of this song right—E Flat Major. Either O’Connell has perfect pitch, or Wes Craven respects the Partridge.
The really interesting thing about this clip is how beautifully it illustrates the phenomenon of Clapping on the Ones. The audience actually keeps their clap on the same beat the entire time, as if they were cued and synched for this scene. It is Jerry O’Connell who compromises the rhythmic integrity of the sing-along song. Around :20 seconds in, O’Connell is late on his melody, and the audience finds themselves unwittingly clapping on the ones. While the clap begins on the Two’s and Four’s, Jerry misses a beat, and forces the audience to clap on the One’s and Three’s, so that what was once Up-beat, is now Down-beat.
All I’m sayin’ is: Clapping on the One’s would never even be happening like this, if the people would be stomping on the One’s instead. Not that it’s such a bad thing. It’s a wonderful thing really.
The above lunchroom sing-along scene was borrowed from an earlier film—Top Gun—wherein Tom Cruise sings “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” accompanied by a bar full of fellow air jocks singing unison. As in the clip above, these guys are dead-on C# Major—the original key of The Righteous Brothers song. Such respect for the classics!
Of course, people still have serendipitous sing-alongs at sporting events and church. And the children still sing nursery rhymes and play double-dutch. Leave it to the kids to keep the song alive, while us atonal adults fade into the black noise.
Sing-alongs ain’t embarrassing. Talking without tone: now that’s embarrassing. Next time you need to tell someone you love them, try doing it in song, in a public space, with all of your comrades singing along in perfect lunchroom harmony.