While driving around yesterday, I heard my second favorite song from the Bad Boys II soundtrack on the radio, “Shake Ya Tailfeather” by Nelly, P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee. While that in itself isn’t much of a monumental event, I did hear something I never noticed before: Murphy Lee rapping, “Man, I’m that damn hungry/See I’m starving like Marvin, girl,” a reference to “South Park’s” classic “Starvin’ Marvin’” episode. Surprisingly, there aren’t many references to specific TV shows in popular music, but here are ten of the most memorable — some good, some Blessid Union of Souls-awful.
[EDIT: As many have so kindly pointed out, Murphy Lee likely wasn’t referencing “South Park.” Nonetheless, it’s what planted the seed for this article, so just go with it.]
#10. “99 Red Balloons” by Nena
Like the “Leonard Bernstein!” part of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” I barely pay attention to anything that’s not the words “99 Red Balloons” in the song of the same name. But a little more than midway through, Nena sings, “Everyone’s a superhero, everyone’s a Captain Kirk/With orders to identify, to clarify to classify.” To repay the German singer for her mention, an extremely old and confused William Shatner pushes her into oncoming traffic, killing her immediately because he thought the Nazi atomic bomb-preventing plot in “Star Trek” was real life.
[Purists can listen to the German version here.]
#9. “Storybook Life” by Blessid Union of Souls
You might remember Blessid Union, who spell their name that way because they’re assholes, as the band that rhymed “Tyson Beckford” with “Robert Redford” in 1999’s inexplicable hit, “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me).” Well, on the same album, Walking Off the Buzz, they had another song with lyrics seemingly written by an eight-year-old girl: “Storybook Life,” an elegy to the narrator’s perfect gal, and how he’d choose her over Buffy because “she don’t slay me.” Later in the track, Meg Ryan, Felicity, Halle Berry, and “that brunette” on “V.I.P.” are all mentioned, too, and it’s no surprise that none of them have careers anymore. Along the same lines…
#8. “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies
The Barenaked Ladies really wanted it both ways (heh?). They yearned to be recognized for writing tender, somber ballads (“Call and Answer”), while also earning notoriety for their wacky white guy rapping, the most famous example being “One Week,” from 1998’s Stunt. They’re a band that could have only become famous in the 1990s, so it’s perfectly understandable that they would mention a particularly 90s show, “The X-Files”, and its wonderfully 90s character, Cigarette Smoking Man, in their biggest hit. Although BNL is any easy target, one that “Community” has directed many shots at this season, I will give them this: even they never tried to fit “The Lone Gunmen” into one of their songs.
#7. “Hurricane Fresh” by MC Lars
The self-proclaimed founder of “post-punk laptop rap,” whatever that means, MC Lars had made a career out of taking a good idea (sampling post-punk songs into his raps) and somehow making it sound terrible. For instance, “Hurricane Fresh,” in which, among other boasts, MC Lars, real name Andrew Robert Nielsen, spits, “And I still rock shows and try to dance/Still rock “Simpsons” underpants.” And this is why white guy rappers can’t be taken seriously.
#6. “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West
Years before Kanye’s “We met at Borders” line from “All of the Lights” became instantly outdated, the man known as Ye, in proving how much he needed religion, rapped, “I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers/The way Kathie Lee needed Regis/That’s the way I need Jesus.” In 2004, when “Jesus Walks” was released, Kathie Lee Gifford had just released her seventh album, Gentle Grace, and was generally wandering aimlessly through life, not unlike her husband Frank after Chuck Bednarik’s hit that made him temporarily retire from football. But in 2008, Kathie Lee not only became co-host of the fourth hour of “Today”, getting drunk alongside Hoda Kotb, but she also inspired Kanye to record Late Registration, originally titled F*ck Regis.
#5. “Guilty as Charged” by Gym Class Heroes
There are plenty of (mostly rap) songs that mention “The Wire”—from Bad Boy’s Da Band’s “Living Legends” (“Bitches in trouble, I spit fire/Quick to bust off, like Wee-Bey from “The Wire””) to Skillz’s “Don’t Act Like You Don’t Know” (“And these youngin’s want to act like Michael on “The Wire”/’Til they realize Michael’s just an actor on “The Wire””)—but my favorite is “Guilty as Charged” by Gym Class Heroes, which goes, “Paranoid like Chris and Snoop was out to kill me/Walkin’ on a thin wire, why they tryin’ to Marlo Stanfield me?” mostly because I like “Marlo Stanfield” being used as a verb.
[For those wanting extra credit, this track also mentions Judge Judy. — Ed.]
#4. “Magna Cum Nada” by the Bloodhound Gang
Back when I was a teenager, I thought the Bloodhound Gang were the funniest comedy troupe ever—well, second funniest, behind the Jerky Boys. The Gang, as us fans called them, filled their songs with pop culture references, double entendres, and sexually-suggestive lyrics, three things teenage boys will always like, until the end of time. In “Magna Cum Nada,” off the truth bomb-dropping Hooray for Boobies album, Jimmy Pop & Co. are depressed because they’re “never gonna be nothin’ more than me.” To prove this point, Pop sings, “Big let down unparalleled/Like the last episode of “Seinfeld”.”
#3. “America Loves Gangsters” by CunninLynguists
According to Wikipedia, the tastefully-named CunninLynguists is a “portmanteau of the words ‘cunning’ and ‘linguist’, and is also a play on the word ‘cunnilingus’.” Ohhh, now I get it! Anyways, they’re just another decent group with a terrible name (like Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Archers of Loaf), and a personal favorite track is “America Loves Gangsters,” a song about our country’s blood lust for people like Al Pacino in Scarface and “While Eddie Nash controls bankrolls in Wonderland/Tony Soprano hits channels and holds down On-Demand.”
#2. “Freaks and Geeks” by Childish Gambino
It’s fun writing about crappy songs that mention TV shows, but it’s even more fun listening to a GOOD song that bring up good shows, like Childish Gambino’s “Freaks and Geeks,” the recently released first single from Donald Glover’s EP. Like most of his songs, it’s a mixture of both intentionally hilarious disses (“Got her picture in my iPhone, what do y’all think?/While y’all niggas masturbate, I’m in that Ariel Pink”) and somber realizations, like the final line, “My clique should be canceled/”Freaks and Geeks”,” a reference to both the short-lived Apatow comedy and Glover’s show, “Community”, which when he was writing the song was on the verge of cancellation.
#1. “TV Party” by Black Flag
Warming Glow’s love for Henry Rollins is no secret (and this writer is finally watching season two of “Sons of Anarchy”…), and with good reason: he’s been a badass since the early 1980s, when he was a member of hardcore punk greats State of Alert and Black Flag. One of the latter’s best songs is “TV Party,” a sardonic ode to stupid people who have “nothing better to do than to watch TV and have a couple of brews.” While I don’t necessarily agree with the song’s message, I would have probably have felt the same way in 1982 if my only TV options were “That’s Incredible”, “Hill Street Blues”, “Dallas”, and SNL-ripoff “Fridays”.