Oh No

Album: Noble Beast (2009)

Songfacts®:

  • Bird told Drowned In Sound that this song was "inspired by the sweet, mournful cry of a four-year-old boy sitting behind me on an airplane. His dread was so utterly complete. I found myself envying his emotional abandon and tracing the musical cadence of his wail as he cried 'Oh no.' I suppose we're talking about repression here. We can't all behave like four-year-olds but must we be emotionally frozen? So let us lock arms as the harmless sort of sociopath and all sing in together."
  • In a blog written for the New York Times, Bird wrote that the thing that's unprecedented about this song for him, "is that the chorus actually happens three times. He explained: "I've always had a block against repeating myself. Repetition is one of the basic tenets of Pop music and I've gone from deploring it to seeing it as a great virtue. There's this tension between the restless, early-jazz-obsessed 22-year-old I once was and my present self, who finds writing a simple and direct song infinitely challenging. I think that's why I respond to Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. They were improvising not in a linear, searching way but with the goal of finding a new melody and then, god forbid, repeating themselves."
  • Bird chronicled the history of this song from idea to completion in a series of blogs for the New York Times. After he recorded it, Bird wrote: "We tracked it live with two acoustic guitars and some improvised whistling and got it on the second take. I'm pretty happy with it. The whistling sounds are especially otherworldly."
  • Bird admitted to Q magazine March 2009 that he is afraid of dry lips when attempting to whistle on this and other songs onstage. He explained: "Whistling is something that you do without thinking, not in front of a microphone to order." Bird added that this song is "carried by a whistling melody, so there's a terrible fear of choking. I try to drink water and eat lots of succulent fruits with crisp skins, such as grapes."
  • The "Short Squeeze" episode of Showtime's financial drama Billions opens with this song. Co-creator Brian Koppelman told Billboard magazine: "The Andrew Bird song, I've been walking around with that for three or four years waiting to deploy it. That scene originally had a David Allan Coe song, 'You Never Even Called Me By My Name' and Dave (Levien, co-creator) looked at me like, 'Is there a better idea?' The moment I played 'Oh No' for Dave, he was like, 'That's the one.' It's one of my favorite parts of getting to do this."

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