All Songs Considered Blog
Mon May 21, 2012
Balthrop, Alabama, 'You've Gotta Be Gay': Prisoners Meet Parasols
Warning: This post, about a song by Balthrop, Alabama (a 10-piece Brooklyn band, not a extremely musical township), includes numerous instances of coordinated jazz hands and chorus line kicks. The band's new song "You've Gotta Be Gay," is filled with theatrical sounds from all different places and times: stomps, grunts and rattles from a 1930s chain gang, a tinny player-piano from an old-timey saloon and an accordion out of every stereotypical Parisian boulevard scene. The lyrics don't wink as much as hit you on the head with obvious references. But despite all of the joking around about "happy endings," the song has a definite positive message. It may be wrapped in the cheesiest package, but underneath it all is a declaration of acceptance and support in the face of intolerance.
In the song's video, a campy romp filled with prisoners and parasols, the band is joined by drag king known as "Mr. Showbiz," Murray Hill. On a ridiculously tiny stage, Hill leads the band as master of ceremonies/warden through a spirited performance of the song. Like the Mucca Pazza video we posted last week, the video gives the feeling of a cohesive group of people having fun and putting on a show. It's kind of dorky and not everyone can kick very high, but they sell it by staying connected with each other.
In an email, director and Balthrop, Alabama founding member Pascal Balthrop talked about the inspiration for "You Gotta Be Gay" and creating the video with Hill:
My sister Lauren Balthrop and I were goofing around on a subway platform, pretending we were writing our own Broadway show. I think the first germ of the idea was the image of some fellas with umbrellas. Everything kinda fell into place around that image. [It became] a queer-positive manifesto to the benefits of facing life's foibles with a smile. Pretty early on Murray Hill came to mind [as the video's main character]. He's a well-known comedian and entertainer, a legend of New York City nightlife. He just seemed perfect for the role. I used to work with Murray in another life back in San Francisco, and we've kept in touch. So I reached out to him and he said "Of course I'm in!" He really makes the video.
We Have Electricity, Balthrop, Alabama's new album, is out now.