Hippopotamus

Album: Hippopotamus (2017)

Songfacts®:

  • This is the title track of Hippopotamus, the 23rd studio album by Sparks. The record marked a return to the band's traditional format of short, wryly humorous songs backed by Ron Mael's offbeat pop-classical arrangements.

    Ron Mael said in a Songfacts interview that in a way it is more difficult to pen shorter tunes.

    "I think it's almost more difficult to write within the three-to-four-minute song structure because there can't be any filler along the way. And, the song has to make sense," he explained. "You know, we try to break the rules. There are sort of rules as far as repetition of some area of the song. In a way, a film is easier. Even though you have to write a long narrative thing, it's easier because you can do anything and hopefully it works within the story structure of the film. But with three-to-four-minute songs, there are established rules. You can bend them as much as you can, but it makes it more difficult. But also, that kind of challenge is really fun."
  • Hippopotamus entered the UK Albums Chart at #7. It was Sparks' first UK top-ten long player since 1974 when Propaganda peaked at #9.
  • The song finds Russell Mael asking how a Hippopotamus got into his pool. Well, we can't answer that but we can give you some fun facts about the large semiaquatic, mammal courtesy of The Encyclopedia of Trivia

    Oxford dictionaries accept either hippopotami or hippopotamuses as the plural of hippopotamus but suggest the former is "... now generally taken to be either funny or absurdly pedantic".

    Hippopotamus has been an English word since the 1300s. The abbreviation hippo arrived in 1872.

    Louisiana senator Robert Broussard proposed the "American Hippo Bill" in 1910 which would have brought Hippos from Africa to get rid of a invasive species and solve a meat shortage in the United States. The bill nearly passed.

    When Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's grand estate was raided, the military released the dangerous hippos of his personal zoo, not knowing what to do with them. They now thrive in the Colombian rivers. This means Colombia now has the largest wild hippo population outside of Africa.

    Hippos cannot swim. Their bodies are far too dense to float. Instead, the water loving creatures walk underwater along a riverbed or use their feet to push off it in order to move about.

    An average male hippo weighs 3,300lb. Of all land mammals only elephants or rhinos are bigger.

    More people get killed by hippos each year than sharks, bears and lions combined.
  • Sparks vocalist Russell Mael recalled to Uncut: "The song 'Hippopotamus,' we couldn't figure out a beat we were satisfied with, and our drummer couldn't either, except he came up with this breakbeat rhythm that he played through the entire song. We didn't know that it worked through the entire song, but we really liked it because it was off the wall, just coming in on some sections. So we chopped up what he'd done."
  • The song lists objects appearing in Russell Mael's swimming pool. He told Mojo: "What appeals to me is there's no resolution to the lyric and no judgment is passed on the objects in the pool. But is it a metaphor for something bigger? No, despite that, I think it does tell you something about the writer. Perhaps it's a subject for the analyst."

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