Weird Songs That Actually Worked

Today we take a look at some hits from the past few years that seemed a tad too outlandish to be considered “mainstream”.

Prologue – What Is Weird?

According to Google the word “weird” is used to imply that something is either supernatural, unearthly, or induces a sense of disbelief or alienation in someone. Sure to some extent those definitions could be used to describe the goal of today topic, however I do have to disagree with the alienation and disbelief part though. I mean from my understanding and experience these tracks have done a exceptional job in uniting listeners from different backgrounds, shapes and sizes to a common goal.

Now before we get started, let’s set some rules so that we get an understand the objective of today’s topic and how you the reader can participate with your own selections. For a track to qualify for this list it has to suffice the following criteria:

  • Has at least accomplished a respectable presence on the local charts.
  • Sound distinct, especially when compared to other successful tracks of its time.
  • Most importantly has aged well enough to deserve a revisit after a decent period of time.

Oh and to keep things fair, we’ll only include one track from each respective artist due to how some of them have a cluster of tracks that qualify underneath their discographies and to prevent this blog turning into a novel because I am a lazy person. Honorable mentions are welcome though. Now in no particular order, let’s begin!

1. Toya Delazy – Heart Rock

“It takes alot to make a classic”

Toya Delazy

Spotify | Apple | YouTube

To be honest, most of Toya Delazy’s music meets the criteria of this topic, so choosing one track from her catalog proved to be a challenge by itself, especially amongst the gems scattered through her debut studio album Due Drop (2012). Nevertheless, if I had to pick one it would have to be Heart.

Everything from her voice to the production and lyrics just oozes with color, energy and positivity. Whenever I listen to I can’t help but feel like a kid again, enjoying an ice-cream cone while shaking my butt off to the hot summer sun. The music video is quite charming, boasting an interesting usage of stop motion animation to illustrate a vivid story.

I’ve got to give credit to the lady for being brave and sticking to herself and her music by always contributing something creatively different in the industry. Sure her material doesn’t necessarily always land, but you can tell that she does have a lot of fun doing what she does. The song’s popularity along with others from the album proved that even SA, a country that is devoted to its popular music genres can enjoy a nice change of pace from time to time.

2. Vigro Deep – Black Power

“I never thought that I would get this far, I started music without an idea that I could go far with it.”

– Vigro Deep

Spotify | Apple | YouTube

Initially, I had not taken that much interest in the song. I’ve only caught glimpses of the breakdown section after the beat drops through various social media posts and the occasional loud Polo driver zooming past the neighborhood. Eventually fate slapped it in my face, I obediently sat down to absorb the experience. I was flabbergasted from what I had noticed as the song progressed.

It literally or at least to some extent, contains an element of every local SA house subgenre from the past decade. For example; the outlandish kick pattern sounds quite reminiscent of Broken House music from the mid-2010s. The snares are an obvious callback to Mamelodi’s Bacardi music. As for the percussions, mainly the shakes and hats, have a hint of Deep House flair infused within them. The “uhh” chants that are introduced within the intro section of the song are pretty much Gqom, and can also be heard in a bunch of tracks such as Babes Wodumo’s 2016 Gqom hit Wololo. Finally, the keys, rest of the percussion, chants, and horns are all pretty much modern Amapiano.

Okay I might be reading a little too much into this and this could all just be as deep as a bowl of brown porridge, but nonetheless it’s still a fun and catchy song. I love the usage of the pan flute instrument and yes even the infamous beat drop. At the time, it was something fresh which was interesting since not many producers incorporated it in their music. The pacing of the song seems to follow an 8 bar structure that is used well to generate a sense of escalation and intensity from start to finish.

Overall Black Power is a fun and interesting take on an already well-established genre that manages to introduce a glimpse into the future while also paying tribute to the past.

Educate Us:

Breakdown – The part of a song whereby various instruments have solo parts called breaks. This may take the form of all instruments playing the verse together, and then several or all instruments individually repeating the verse as solo parts.

Broken House – A house subgenre originating from Pretoria that makes use of obscure rhythms as opposed to traditional means. It was popularized in townships during the mid-2010s.

Bacardi – A house subgenre originating from Mamelodi that has elements that are reminiscent of early South African disco music. Heavy snares and guitar riffs are common traits of this genre. It was popularized in townships in the area during the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Bar – A measurement for the number of beats in a song.

Gqom – A house subgenre originating from Durban that boasts EDM elements and heavy amounts of bass. It was popularized in townships during the early 2010s and locally during the late 2010s.

Percussion – Musical instruments that are played through physical actions such as striking and shaking either by hands, sticks or beaters.

3. Jack Parow – Cooler As Ek

“We were on a mission to make Afrikaans cool again…make people proud to be Afrikaans and let them see that its not just about pop music”

– Jack Parow

Spotify | Apple | YouTube

From my understanding, the song compares Jack who represents the overlooked average Joe’s lifestyle with the typical rich popular stereotype. What sets it apart from other songs that tackle the same topic is that Jack tries his best to convince us that his lifestyle is better by mocking the latter, even though some compassions will have you believe otherwise.

Verses such as “Jy dink jy’s cooler as ekke, want jy hang saam met models en ek hang saam met slette” (“You think you’re cooler than me because you hang with models and I hang with sluts”) and “Jy rol met ‘n selfoon in jou pen, ek rol nog met ‘n 3310” (“You roll with a cellphone with a pen, I still roll with a 3310”) corroborate the statement.

The beat used is simple, catchy and manages to not overstay its welcome while Parow delivers steady flows, catchy hooks, and witty punchlines all in Afrikaans. The song also features a cartoonish sense of humor that deals with both perspectives in a light-hearted format. The closest match that comes to mind is Bosso (2011) by the late and great rapper, HHP due to the comedic nature seen on both tracks. The music video even compliments the music through simplicity, charm and humor.

At the time there weren’t any major white Hip-hop acts on the local scene, let alone Afrikaans ones. The culture was pretty much heavily saturated in Pop, Gospel and Rock music. To see an artist bridge the gap successfully is quite a feat in itself. My honorable mention goes out to Army Of One (2016)

Educate Us:

Flow – A term used in Hip-hop music that is used to describe the interaction between the rhythm and rhyme structure within the lyrics.

Hook – A section of a song that is used to grab a listener’s attention. It can comprise of brief riffs, phrases and even the chorus.

4. AKA – Jealousy

“I set out to kinda redefine SA Hip-hop and where the sound is. I kinda felt like it’s stuck in a certain type of like turn up-turn up mode”

– AKA

Spotify | Apple | YouTube

The song samples Martin Soleveig’s Jealously (2005), garnering its background vocals, chords and hook. These elements are accompanied with synths, ad-libs, chants, progressive pacing and an electrifying bridge are all blended to create a hip-hop sound that is distinct, abstract and timeless.

My favorite aspect of the song is the hook, specifically the vocal sample. It is used as its background vocals, ad-libs and as well as the chorus. What’s interesting is that it never sounds out of place nor overstays its welcome even though it covers the song’s entirety.

AKA himself is on his A-game through his delivery, energy and charisma. He spares no effort in letting the world know that he’s on top of the game and that all the haters are jealous individuals who wish that they are in such a height. Sure this trope has been done a million times before, but the presentation is so brilliant that it avoids sounding mundane. The music video does a good job of providing good context and visualization to some verses. My honorable mention goes out to All I Know (2011)

Educate Us:

Ad-libs – Vocal effects, similar to scatting that are used in Hip-hop used to reference an artist’s signature and/or to emphasize a verse.

Bridge – A contrasting section of the song that prepares for the return of the original main section.

Synths – Short for “Synthesizer” is a piano like electronic instrument that generates audio signals.

5. Freshlyground – Doo Be Doo

“Each one us has got different influence and what we do when we create the music is to try to bring our experience and backgrounds into one thing which is Freshlyground, I think that’s what makes us sound different.”

– Julio Sigauque

Spotify | Apple | YouTube

In my eyes this song represents a perfect world the was achieved over triumph. A world that is filled with freedom, equality, victory, diversity, opportunity and harmony. A place where the people have a voice, respect each other and are kind.

The phrase “Doo be doo bade” itself is meaningless and is used in a manner that makes it sound wholesome and catchy. Its simplicity makes it appeal to almost any generation that encounters it, heck I’ve even seen toddlers sing it passionately with ease. The lyrics themselves are easy to follow along and carry a good amount of weight when you do listen attentively to them.

Production-wise the song is superb. Each and every band member’s presence can be felt such as Peter Cohen’s (drummer) head-bopping rhythms, Julio Sigauque (guitarist) and Josh Hawks’ (bassist) electrifying riffs, Kyla-Rose Smith’s (Violinist) emotional string work, Aron Swartz’s (keyboardist) smooth chords, as well as Zolani’s (lead vocalist) mellow voice which is sweeter than honey. The overall sound appears to be a mix between Afrikaans Traditional, Pop and SA Jazz music.

The music video does a good job in its correlation with the music. It also tells an interesting story that I could spend an entire episode just talking about its message and subtle details. However, for the sake of time I’ll just have to recommend it by saying that it’s worth a good watch.

Educate Us:

Riff – A short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song.

Epilogue

Oh so you’ve made it to the end, what a journey it was to you who didn’t just skim and scroll down to the end. If you did, either make an immediate U-turn or settle this with a cooldrink. As always we do love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section. Totsiens!

2 Replies to “Weird Songs That Actually Worked”

  1. Thank you for this article.

    The AKA jealousy track is not weird,

    it just has a more of an electronic vibe to it considering that from 2009 until maybe 2014 all music genres had a lot of electro elements to them ( okay maybe it was new it south Africa to use that in style in Hip Hop ).

    You hit the sweet spot on that Doo be Doo track, I love how you break it down. My favourite part is when the beat changes to a South African jazz rhythm and the guitar has a solo part ( it can’t get more south African than that ).

    1. Thanks for the comment

      Yes a lot of SA Hip-hop had a lot of electro elements, however I felt like most of them were either leaning more towards a kwaito or international sound. Jealousy doesn’t seem to do that, well for the most part at least. It leans more towards an abstract and in your face kinda sound which was unfamiliar at the time – hence why I chose it.
      Still thou at the end of the day it’s just my opinion.

      I agree the jazz part of Doo be Doo is spectacular and my favorite as well.

      How would your list look like?

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