I’m not sure where I was on February 23, 1993 when “Love’s Alright” by Eddie Murphy was released. Perhaps listening to that new-fangled grunge stuff, or maybe “Achtung Baby” by U2, or maybe still smarting from the last few singles off of Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” that were still being released. But thank God in heaven that somehow I was not aware of the travesty that was Eddie Murphy’s early 90’s effort until just this week, a whole 16 years later, when I stumbled across “Wazupwitu” on a worst videos of all time list.
So before going any further, you, Dear Reader, must watch this assault upon all your senses – your eyes, your ears, your sense of all that is good and holy – before I continue with the deconstruction of this mess. So, for your viewing and listening displeasure I present “Wazupwitu”, via youtube, by Eddie Murphy and featuring Michael Jackson. I will see you below…
Well, firstly, lets get the discussion of the sheer awfulness of the video out of the way. As one worst-videos-of-all-time lists put it, the “PM Dawn sky” is a problem. They are referring to more than a few videos in which PM Dawn is lying against a blue background, sometimes water, sometimes a sky. This is most obviously referenced in their video for the ridiculously titled song Set Adrift on Memory Bliss.
But in actuality Eddie is not stealing from PM Dawn . PM Dawn stole the sky-blue theme themselves from none other than Prince, and specifically the Raspberry Beret video, and even more specifically the “Around the World in a Day” album.
Exhibit 1: Around the World in a Day
Exhibit 2: Prince Rolling Stone cover feature “Around the World in a Day” theme.
Not only did Eddie Murphy construct his video to reflect what Prince had done a mere 8 years earlier, AND got Michael Jackson to perform the hideous duet with him, co-opting the two most popular pop musicians of the time, but to top it off the very cover of his album, “Love’s Alright” appears to be a mash-up of both the “Around the World in A Day” album and “Dangerous” by Michael.
Here is the cover of “Dangerous”:
Here again is the cover of “Around the World in a Day”:
And here, (drumroll please), is the cover to Eddie Murphy’s “Love’s Alright”:
Wow. I’m speechless.
Lest this become too much of a pile-on on Eddie Murphy, I will say the responsibility for the embarrassment of “Wazupwitu” lies in as much his own hands as it does those of his record company and management. For the record, it must be understood that in the early 80’s with the success of his SNL stint, followed by Beverly Hills Cop and the stand-up movie Delirious Eddie was probably one of the biggest stars of the 80’s. Even when mediocre product such as Golden Child was thrust upon the public, they forgave him, because everyone is allowed a misstep here and there, especially when you make it up with great stuff like Trading Places.
His first foray into music in 1985 resulted in the semi-hit “Party All the Time” which, I hope Eddie realizes, was more of a novelty song than anything, and only got any airplay because he sang it, NOT because it was a good song. However, “Party all the Time” was not a bad song, rather just a effluviatic and generic pop attempt. He also had another album in 1989 called So Happy, of which I have never heard a single track.
“Wazupwitu” was released against the backdrop of 2 years of nothing from Eddie and in the middle of a career slump. His last project had been the lame Another 48 Hours. He may have been scared of becoming a has-been after 10+ years of being an absolutely massive star. He never really did get his groove back until 1997, five years after “Wazupwitu”, with the release of The Nutty Professor which also included a re-branding of himself as ‘family-friendly’.
It is in this cynical light that I believe “Wazupwitu” achieves its greatest offense. The ridiculous title was obviously intended to become some sort of catchphrase for the summer of 1992. Noteworthy is the fact that “Wazzup” by itself became a catchphrase in the mid-00’s due to a Budweiser commercial, however, the very success of the catchphrase was due to its intended annoying and cloying nature, whereas, the annoying and cloying quality of Wazupwitu is neither intended nor recognized by its creators as such, and thus completely un-ironic.
Here’s the Budweiser commercial. Note the very fact that it is stupid and ridiculous is a big part of what charm it contains.
Pair the unironic, unintended, and most importantly, unrecognized annoying quality of the very phrase “Wazupwitu” with the stolen bits from Prince, the participation of Michael Jackson to lend some sort of legitimacy to the whole pathetic endeavor, and you have nothing less than a failed campaign to sell a musical dwarf to the public disguised by the filched accoutrements of musical giants. Fortunately, the public didn’t buy it.
So far I have yet to say a single thing about the song, but instead have focused on the jaded marketing of it. The song itself, musically speaking, is completely unremarkable until we get to Murphy’s choral part Waz-up-wit-Uuuuuuu. The notes themselves, the way he stretches them out, the nasally timbre of his voice, all of it adds up to a faint literal throb in the listeners temples. In fact, if you’re alone right now and of the mind, do an impression of it for yourself. Out loud. That’s right, I’m asking you to sing it. Not the Michael part, the Eddie part. Waaats-Up-Wit-Yoooooooooouuuuu. Again, and again. You will feel a buzz in your head. Literally. A physical feeling as the tonal vibrations reverberate throughout your skull. Amazing. Stop now. Before you need Ibuprofen.
Michael for the most part actually seems to be saying the words “What’s Up With You” rather than the misspelled, phonetic nightmare “Wazupwitu”. Thank god for small miracles, and one wonders if Michael didn’t foresee the disaster that the whole project would become. That he agreed to frolic around in front of a green screen whilst Eddie tried his best and failed to look cool in his tank top is testament to the inverse; Michael’s lack of judgment. Both of them are smack-worthy, but Eddie, particularly when he’s getting all up in Michael’s face while singing the aforementioned abomination of a catchphrase is particularly and egregiously in need of a slap that will send him flying against the green screen on the opposite side of the room. Furthermore, Eddie’s too-small sunglasses, the fish-eye lens-like look at the space between his two-front teeth, and the expression on his face and his body language that suggest that he is imparting the wisest thing that we will ever hear, add to the effect of making us hope that there are a thousand spikes on the other side of that green screen when we smack him right through it.
As far as the lyrics? Not really even worth quoting, but because I have to I will.
The Suns Gonna Shine,
the Flowers Are Gonna Grow,
the Clouds Will Bring Us Showers,
the Rivers Gonna Flow.
men Ain’t Got No Power,
he Kills Nothing But Himself,
men Is A Creation,
men Is Nothing Else So…
Evidently, nature will go on in spite of “Men”, who “is” a creation. Why the use of the plural “men” when the proper singular “man” works fine. Why slaughter all grammar rules? And exactly why would the supposition that nature goes on in spite of man’s activities invite the question “what’s up with me?”
How about this one:
We Can’t Stop This World,
cause’ Its Not Our World,
we Can Just,
Jackie Chan It Up.
What does that mean? Is Jackie Chan used as a verb a good thing or a bad thing? If it is a bad thing, as in “we can just mess it up,” is that not a total insult to Jackie Chan for no good reason at all?
[Edit: A reader, Kaitlin, commented that she believes this lyric is “Jack each other up…” On second listen I think she’s right which makes this paragraph moot. Please read the comments to the post to see multiple citations for the “Jackie Chan” lyric – Smirk – Aug 27, 2009]
Then we add some kids singing, and then over and done.
All in all it seems to be trying very hard to be a Michael Jackson song… but its just – well – off. Perhaps an upbeat “Man in the Mirror” or “Heal the World”? But too vague and with horrible grammar that doesn’t make sense, even allowing for a whole lot of poetic license.
There will always be bad songs, bad writing, effluvia, but this song combines a bad combination of headache inducing tones, nonsensical lyrics, built upon a foundation of stolen musical ideas and the contemptuous assumption that the public is looking for nothing but formula. There is not one redeeming quality to the song either within the song itself, but even more so within the jaded marketing that marked its release.
It’s bad, in a way that surpasses other bad songs. It is one of a kind in that this type of badness could only be achieved by the likes of, say, an Eddie Murphy and a Michael Jackson – people of this stature. As the old saw goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
A small musician, because of the very fact that he or she is small, could never achieve a failure of this size and scope. A small musician is in fact, incapable of failure on this monumental level.
Finally, the failure of Wazupwitu is true, and absolute. It is not a case of say, Vanilla Ice, and “Ice, Ice Baby” being a bad song. You must remember, “Ice, Ice Baby” was a huge hit as was Vanilla Ice. In its time “Ice, Ice Baby” was actually considered good. This is not retro-bad. This is not a how-could-we-have-liked-that? bad. No, Wazupwitu was bad and a failure in its own time and place, as well as now.
Always and forever.