It could have been so good, poking fun at a state so ripe for ribbing, especially with all eyes on the Red Sox for the start of the World Series. Instead, “Massachusetts” is a pretty inane and unfunny follow-up to “The Fox,” the intentionally absurd song from a Norwegian comedy act named Ylvis. “The Fox” was a viral hit last month, mostly built on the chorus that imagined all the kooky sounds that animal makes.
It’s too bad “Massachusetts,” for which the video went online Wednesday and quickly racked up close to 500,000 views on YouTube, is so short on satire and long on head-scratching moments. Calling the Bay State “an undiscovered paradise,” the song begins benignly enough, part tourism ad, part ode to the state’s reputation for being inclusive. “Forget New York and California / There’s a better place / Now close your eyes,” the trio instructs listeners over generic music straight out of a dentist’s office.
Then comes the mishmash of attractions: “boys of Attleboro,” “Catholic priests of Haverhill” (yes, they mispronounce the town’s name), “local dance group of Pingryville” (Google it; I had to), and cheerleaders who can’t spell “Massachusetts” (“Massochei-chei”?).
Full disclosure: I didn’t grow up here, so I don’t harbor any inherent hometown pride that would automatically make me hate this song. (Related: Go Sox!)
The whole song is completely tone-deaf, random enough that it doesn’t register with people from here or, for that matter, who live elsewhere. It has the feel of outsiders trying to make a statement about a place they’ve never visited.
Then, of course, there’s a blatant suggestion that living here will turn you gay, an argument that seems more in line with something Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church would have you believe. In the middle of the song, there’s a sudden shift in tone from celebration to paranoia. One of the guys in the band finds himself in a pickup truck with another man, and the lyrics are cautionary: Just two friends hanging out together. But never crossing the line.
The song circles back to that theme toward the end, with the band declaring, “Just because you’re kissin’ a man doesn’t make you gay” (“confused!” a gospel choir exclaims).
Huh? Is this the byproduct of legalizing gay marriage here?
C’mon, boys, connect the dots. That homoerotic subtext, which I’d say is borderline homophobic, would have made more sense, and perhaps even coaxed a laugh, if it were tied to a mention of Provincetown. Instead, the joke falls flat.
It’s been fun to watch fervent criticism of the song spread over Facebook and Twitter, especially among locals. It’s even more amusing that some commentators claim — in jest, no doubt — that Ylvis has given Massachusetts a new state song.
Or if we want a song by three men from another country, I heartily recommend the Sunday-morning melancholy of the Bee Gees’ “Massachusetts.” Anything would be better than this Ylvis nonsense.
James Reed can be reached at james