Column: 'It's Thanksgiving,' the song everyone will love to hate
By By Matt Pais
|RedEye Sound Board|
Nov 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM
What, exactly, is the appropriate response to Nicole Westbrook's "It's Thanksgiving," the latest example of writer-producer Patrice Wilson's (Rebecca Black's "Friday") write-a-song-in-five-minutes-and-wait-for-it-to-become-a-viral-hit strategy?
Perhaps it should just be ignored as goofy kids' stuff. Westbrook appears to be somewhere in the vicinity of 13 (just guessing) and the video features her, among other things, singing into a turkey leg, something actual artists like Fiona Apple and Frank Ocean probably don't do very often. At least on camera.
Then again, I'd be lying if I said watching the video once didn't already put Westbrook's voice in the back of my head, still singing about turkey and mashed potatoes as I write about the ridiculousness of a pop song about turkey and mashed potatoes. Much like the family films "The Polar Express" and "Hop" suggest Christmas and Easter exist primarily for the purpose of gifts and chocolate, respectively, "It's Thanksgiving" boils Thanksgiving down to an opportunity to miss school and eat. "Gotta be grateful, can't be hateful," Westbrook sings, which is good advice she hopefully means in terms of how people should act toward family, friends and everyone, not just in terms of the importance of not hogging the gravy and passing the cornbread when you're asked.
Like “Friday,” “It’s Thanksgiving” almost seems deliberately engineered to be as bad as possible (again, note the turkey leg microphone please), as if that will result in the greatest exposure. It’s not like you’re going to share a video with all your friends that you think is just OK. A terrible one, though? Comedy gold, especially when Westbrook opens the song with some uncomfortable moans of “Oh yeah, ohh yeah,” and performs wearing a shirt reading “Dance until dawn” that assumedly means “Let’s keep dancing until my friend Dawn comes over because she’s like totally the best dancer I know.”
“It’s Thanksgiving” subscribes to the songwriting approach of writing as broadly and generically as possible, with Westbrook singing “We’re going to have a good time” and, with the help of an R&B singer who later arrives in a turkey costume, recalling the months when various holidays are celebrated. (This includes Easter in April but does not mention Passover.)
It’s not as if the majority of pop songs cover hefty topics. From the majority of late-period Black Eyed Peas songs to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” the biggest hits often come from the smallest amount of subject matter. Let’s party. Let’s dance. It’s Friday. And so on.
So it’s both impossible to take “It’s Thanksgiving” seriously and necessary to recognize that, rather than standing alone on an island of superficial, pandering crap (Everyone in America celebrates Thanksgiving, so everyone will love this!), it’s merely part of a slippery slope of music for the masses. If you think Wilson hasn’t already tinkered with beats and lyrics for songs about Valentine’s Day (imagined lyric: “Love is What I Love”), Morning (“Every Day Is a New Day”) and Air (“Oxygen is My Favorite Thing to Breathe”), you should really take a minute and write one yourself. It’s pretty fun.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U