My Favourite Musical Songs: #16
16. You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray (Version included: the 2007 movie performed by Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta and many more)
(I have included a video that is the recording put over the film rather than a clip from the film cause all the ones on youtube were shoddy quality…In case you were wondering where the dialogue went.)
Another musical where I don’t think the whole score is that brilliant but this song more than makes up for it. Hell, this song makes up for Zac Efron and that is saying something. Double Hell, this song cures RACISM. It gets rid of it! Are we even different? Of course not! Except people who can’t dance. They can fuck right off.
My love affair with ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ began several years ago at a sleepover. My friend Katie, also a musical lover, suggested we watch a film. Someone, possibly Amy, suggested ‘Hairspray.’ Katie had just got it and was very keen, so in to the DVD player it went. And I settled down for a good sulk.
You see, I had avoided the film as it looked pretty balls. I like musicals, hence this list, but a remake of a John Waters film starring Travolta in drag and that incredibly irritating eyebrow merchant from the diabolical high school musical films?! How good can something that naff be?
A girl I used to be friends with but who now holds the honour of being the only person in the world whose misfortune makes me smile involuntarily had introduced me to the Waters film way back in my very early teens. I had responded like I always do with Waters: Amusement. Bafflement. Bemusement. Amusfflement. While it was cool to see Daytime TV Queen Ricki Lake carrying a movie the whole tone of the thing was a little off. (The bit that stuck with 13 year old me the most was when the two teen couples made out while having a conversation about how they wish they could be black and not white but it was ok because their souls were black…Then one of the girls gets taken for shock therapy for being in love with a black guy…It was just crying out for a musical adaptation wasn’t it???) So the idea of translating the stomach churning, shit stained world of trash that colours the work of Waters into a happy, auto-tuned show sounded like playing the spin bottle: The only way it was going to be in my life would be as a result of peer pressure while attending a sleepover.
In short, I was sceptical that I was going to enjoy the 2007 musical film based on the Broadway show that was based on the 1988 comedy/romance about the tension of racial integration in 1960’s Baltimore. But God save me I really did. The cast were into it, the set pieces were fun, and newcomer Blonksy was delightful. There is nothing exceptional about it and I have not watched it since but I couldn’t honestly say I was bored.
And then that final song…I couldn’t even handle how much I loved the last 10 minutes of this film. Nobody who attended that sleepover, and who subsequently rewound the song so we could all sing and dance along together, knew that I nearly cried. I nearly cried because I was happy. So happy. Because ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ is one of those songs where everything comes together. It is catchy, hopeful, joyous, fun and completely free from cynicism.
Anyway, the reason why it makes this list is it NEVER fails to make me smile. It is just so hopeful and sweet with everyone in the cast getting a moment to shine as a kind of curtain call. Some of my personal highlights include:
Penny and Seaweed’s bit from 1.16 especially watching Amanda Bynes trying to dance in that super tight dress. Oh and if you were expecting any jokes at the expensive of this particular actress: Forget it. Bynes is great in this role and I wish her nothing but the best. So there.
Christopher Walken’s happy and proud face at 2.34. This film is worth watching for his convincingly sweet love affair with Travolta alone.
Then there is the awesome Queen Latifah who appears at the home stretch with a lovely word about how racism is over. Hooray!
Sigh…It is all so warm and welcoming and easy…What’s not to love? Plus try not dancing to it. I dare you.
OTHER NOTABLE VERSIONS: The original Broadway cast is pretty great (although half of them can’t sing very well…There is a reason stage shows rarely revolve around the overweight: Breathing and dancing is hard.) and is just as smile inducing so check it out:
BEST BIT: 3:55 when all the kids celebrate the end of hate by joining hands and shouting ‘Yeah!’ I burst into laugh/crying every single damn time. It would be lovely if we could demolish societal and institutionalised prejudice by doing a mass lindy hop or something wouldn’t it? I still believe dance will heal the world. One day…One day…We will all be equal. Except those awkward fuckers who refuse to join in and boogie. Who needs ’em?