A few nights ago, the Seattle Symphony and Seattle homey Sir Mix-A-Lot performed the latter’s 1992 magnum opus , the subtle and insightful “Baby Got Back.” (“My anaconda don’t want none/Unless you got buns, hun.”) How can anything this stupid be this funny?

AllMusic.com critic Steve Huey writes:

Seldom does a novelty song spark such a fierce cultural debate: “Baby Got Back” touched on hot-button issues of race and sex with a cheerful, good-natured crudeness that was guaranteed to offend. Was it a token of appreciation for women whose body types were rarely given positive cultural attention, or just another sexist objectification? Was it an indictment of narrow, white-dictated beauty standards that left many black women (and the black men who loved them) out in the cold, or did it simply build up one type of woman by denigrating another?

What “Baby Got Back” has got is unimaginative writing and lots of it (700+ words). The music isn’t even as good as MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” and frankly, no one cares that he won’t let you touch it. Plus the dancers in the official “Baby Got Back” video are models. They don’t actually got back. That’s right, in a video celebrating women with generous derrierès, you can’t actually show women with generous derrierès. Federal law.

But I’m seriously impressed that after 22 years, “Baby Got Back” is so closely integrated into the mainstream that when Sir Mix-A-Lot encouraged the ladies in the audience to join him onstage, about three dozen stepped right up. They were mostly white, mostly in their twenties, and they knew most of the moves from the video.

So give a cheer or two for Sir Mix-A-Lot, a rap pioneer and a very hard worker, for sparking this fierce cultural debate. I hope he sells lots of tickets for the Seattle Symphony. But I doubt it.

Random Pick of the Day
The Breeders, Last Splash (1993)
The Breeders, a band led by the sisters Kim and Kelley Deal, follow the grunge pattern closely: the singing sucks and the guitars sound like you’re standing in front of a speaker with a punctured diaphragm.

But The Breeders are way above the alt-rock standards of the 1990s. Amid the stop-and-start of the fuzzed-out guitars they deliver a sweet pop song, “Divine Hammer,” which is easily within the range of The Bangles, and a semi-sweet, “Cannonball.” “Saints” is a gleeful grunge tune built on the chassis of “A Hard Day’s Night.” And “Drivin’ on 9” is, of all things, country.

Last Splash is a rare example of an album that gets better as it goes along.

Random Pan of the Day, sort of
Various artists, Songs of the Civil War (1991)
Not officially connected to the Ken Burns’ Civil War series of 1990, but definitely inspired by it. I owned this CD but only played it once. It was too sad. Also, our ideas of what a song should sound like have radically changed. With Judy Collins, Hoyt Axton, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Richie Havens, Waylon Jennings, and plenty of other expert interpreters. The 25th and last track is “Taps.”


  1. Accused of Lurking says:

    Jonathan Coulton does a great folk version of “Baby Got Back.” I can’t think of many songs that could stand up to such successful interpretation by two such different artists.

    Wait a minute. Yes I can. Isn’t that what makes for a great song: the ability for it to be performed in a wide variety of styles?

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Exactly so, my dear Lurk. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Coulton does a great job with this ridiculous song — thank you for bringing it to the Bureau’s attention. Unholy Trio’s “Bring the Noise,” with its integration of country and a touch of “Dixie Land,” is another good one. But I can’t help wondering if Dynamite Hack’s “Boyz-N-The-Hood” is a parody or a politically correct way for these polite white boys to slap their bitch up.

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