5 pop(ish) songs & their operatic equivalentsHumour
There are only so many stories that we tell with all of our art. Though they can go through an infinite number of permutations, situations, and reasons for conflict, the fundamentals of all of these stories can be collected neatly into a much smaller list of Offical Stories. Christopher Booker even boiled down all the world’s stories into 7 categories, in his book, The Seven Basic Plots.
That’s why it’s fairly easy, and even ridiculously hilarious, to find some modern-day equivalents to some of opera’s best characters, in the form of pop songs. It’s endlessly amusing to imagine Cherubino singing the Beastie Boys’ “Girls”, or to draw a clear line between Carmen and the Pussycat Dolls song, “Dont’ Cha”.
We want to get a bit more specific, though. We’ve got a list of 5 songs that offer a fair comparison to some of your favourite operatic arias. The game of “name that aria” is officially on:
One Fine Day (The Chiffons)
This one should be an easy giveaway, considering the title. The basic message of the song is, “I am optimistic that in the future, the man I love will realize that I am a pretty great catch. I know that he’s not too keen on staying in one place right now, and that there are probably other girls he’s seeing, but there’s no reason at all that he won’t change and come running back to me.”
Breaking my heart over here. Sound familiar?
Like a Rock (Bob Seger)
Another title spoiler, if you’re Italian’s in decent shape. Bob Seger’s message is perhaps inspired by different circumstances than this song’s operatic equivalent, but the message is the same: “I am an immovable boulder, not to be influenced by outside sources.” Whenever that Chevrolet commercial pops into our heads, we can’t help but think of that famously stable operatic lady. Sometimes, it’s even vice versa.
Emotions (Mariah Carey)
This song has the message and the high notes in common with one very famous aria from one very famous opera. Mariah sings, in a notably more upbeat manner than in the opera version, about how some guy has her feeling all these new things. “I feel good / I feel nice / I’ve never felt so satisfied / I’m in love / I’m alive / Intoxicated / Flying high / It feels like a dream,” she says. It seems to be a novel experience for Mariah, much like our opera heroine in question. Hint: the opera equivalent of this song takes a turn that starts sounding a bit more like Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Woman”.
Sigh. This song, right? “I want you to notice when I’m not around / You’re so &#$%ing special / I wish I was special.” Radiohead’s version doesn’t come with the comedy surrounding this operatic equivalent to the wailings of a man who can’t get a happy life with The Girl, but the message is tragically similar. Can you think of a man, in love with a girl, who feels invisible and helpless? But, you know, in a comedic situation?
Man of the Year (Schoolyard Q)
*Note: maybe NSFW.
When it comes to this particular aria equivalent, the simple option is to look up anything by Kanye West. But in this case, Schoolyard Q’s lyrics are a better fit. “Shake it for the man of the year,” he says. Some of the details are different; Q is in a different line of work than his operatic cousin, but he seems to get the same amount of attention and “perks” from the local fame he’s earned for himself. Everybody’s after his product (so to speak), and he’s got plenty of self love.