The Swing Of Things

Jan 17, 2020
Originally published on January 24, 2020 9:50 am

Revisit the New Jack Swing, you know, that musical genre trend of the mid-1980's to the early-'90s that fused R&B with jazz, soul, and hip-hop. In this music parody game, songs from the New Jack Swing movement are rewritten about things that very literally swing — or can be swung.

Heard on Justin Long And Marina Franklin: Franklin My Dear, I Don't Give A Long.

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(CHEERING)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thanks, Jonathan. Before the break, we met our contestants Alaire and Kathryn. Our next game is about things that swing, like middle-aged suburbanites. Alaire, stay in the lead and you're in the final round. Kathryn, you need to get more points or you have to take back your own keys.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: In our ongoing shameless attempts to capitalize on millennial nostalgia, this game is based on the new jack swing trend of the mid-80s to early '90s - jazz-inflected R&B, soul and hip-hop. And if you didn't know that was a thing, now you do.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: We rewrote new jack swing songs to make them about things that swing or are swung. If you can identify the swing or swung thing...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: ...You can earn a bonus point by giving me the song title or artist who made it famous. Are you ready? Here we go.

(Singing) You practice your scales and licks, and I'm keeping time with clicks. Keep your rhythm just right. I'm tapping out beats per Ms, so you can keep track of them, set my tempo tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Kathryn.

KATHRYN BROWER: A metronome?

COULTON: Metronome is correct.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(CHEERING)

BROWER: For a bonus point, can you name the song or artist? I want to say it's called "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight."

COULTON: Yeah, that's right. It's Whitney Houston.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: Here we go.

(Singing) Keep it on my desk with all my things. It's balls on strings. I'll just pull one back on the left side. Then I'll let go of that one. Now it's swinging back. Runs into the others, and it hits them with a clack. Wish I thought to invent them. If you step into my office, I will demonstrate momentum.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Kathryn.

BROWER: I know the song.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWER: It's that thing that people in office buildings have on their desk with the silver balls that go clack, clack, clack, clack, clack.

COULTON: Yeah, that's - I'll except that, yes.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: Just so you know, the name of that clickety-clack ball thing is Newton's cradle or Newton's balls. I know this because it's the only toy we've given our 4-year-old.

COULTON: Newton's ball - it's also known as Newton's balls.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah. He had eight.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWER: Oh. Oh, my.

COULTON: And bonus point for the song or artist.

BROWER: Montell Jordan.

COULTON: Yeah, that's right. "This Is How We Do It."

BROWER: Yeah.

COULTON: Yeah.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: Here's your next one.

(Singing) Hang away from a cable and let it swing free a bit. Demonstrating how Earth is rotating under it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Kathryn.

BROWER: Pendulum. Foucault's pendulum.

COULTON: Yeah. That's correct. Foucault's pendulum. I'll give that to you.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: That's - I would have given you pendulum, but you said the whole thing. For a bonus point, can you name the original song or artist?

BROWER: I really want to, but I can't.

COULTON: That was "Now That We Found Love" by...

BROWER: Ugh.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: ...By Heavy D & The Boyz. You're so hard on yourself, Kathryn.

BROWER: That's hurts me. That really - (laughter).

EISENBERG: It's interesting how the show works. Someone goes for Foucault's pendulum, and it's like, whatever.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And then they're like, oh, "Now That We Found Love" - I didn't remember that. I suck.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWER: It was Heavy D & The Boyz.

EISENBERG: That's right.

BROWER: Yeah.

COULTON: OK. Here's the next one.

(Singing) No, my last name ain't Baby. It's Greystoke, or Viscount if you're British. Feral - feral boy, was raised by apes. I will call you Jane.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Kathryn.

BROWER: Tarzan.

COULTON: Tarzan is correct.

(CHEERING)

COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the song that I just massacred?

(LAUGHTER)

BROWER: So I want to say it's "Nasty."

COULTON: It is "Nasty." Congratulations for picking that out of what I did - by Janet...

BROWER: Janet Jackson.

COULTON: Janet Jackson. That's right.

EISENBERG: Come on. That was pretty amazing on the acoustic guitar.

COULTON: Don't even.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right. After two games, Kathryn pulled ahead and is moving to the final round.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.