Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day
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Santa Monica Boulevard
Many kids only know Randy Newman for his sweet, animated movie theme songs. He's that guy with the nasally voice that sings about friendship and other admirable traits. However, Newman has another side, a more sarcastic side. One of his most beloved songs, "I Love LA," also contains some of his best veiled sarcasm.
"I Love LA" has become the unlikely theme song for the L.A. Lakers basketball team. It's played after nearly every home court victory - especially during the playoffs. Many people just sing or hum along, while not paying close attention to the lyrics. The L.A. that Newman loves is not a perfect place, by any stretch of the imagination, so every time it's played, it's as though Newman is getting a laugh at L.A. sports fans' expense.
Newman begins his praise song to El Lay by getting in a few barbs at the East and the Midwest. He complains about how cold New York City is and says its residents dress "like monkeys." Then he suggests Chicago be left "to the Eskimos." Each reference offers handy stereotypes, merely used to contrast these frigid locales with sunny Southern California.
The real L.A. is filled with the yin and yang of human existence. Yes, he mentions the beautiful mountains and trees in and around Los Angeles. Yet in the very next breath he highlights the region's homelessness. "Look at that bum over there, man/He's down on his knees."
Newman enjoying LA in the video
Newman is featured driving around town in the video for "I Love LA," which makes perfect sense, because Los Angeles is a car culture. He even sings about the act of driving, admonishing his "big nasty redhead" to put the top down and crank up the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys spread the myth that Los Angeles is heaven on Earth. All the girls are beautiful, they once claimed. All the waves are massive, they suggested. Everybody lives at the beach, we all assumed. "Everybody's very happy," Newman echoes, "'cause the sun is shining all the time." Yes, it does rain in Southern California sometimes. But for Newman's purposes, however, it "looks like another perfect day."
If you're not from L.A., you might assume the street names he rattles off at the song's end are all beautiful lanes, lined with huge movie star mansions. However, while Santa Monica Boulevard is high class in places, Sixth Street is actually Skid Row. Even still, after every street listing, the backing singers exclaim, "We love it!"
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Taking Newman at his word for a moment, however, one can make the case that he truly loves his home town. After all, most of us love our families, even though there are some members we might easily live without. He knows full well there are not any perfect cities, so he's learned to love the one he's with. It is, perhaps, one of the most honest city songs of all time. Classics, like "New York, New York" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," are each packed with superlatives. Nevertheless, they are not wholly true songs. New York has some really ugly sections, and even San Francisco is not completely paradise by the sea. We all know this, right?
Others have tried and failed to write the perfect L.A. song. (The less said about the Frank Sinatra-recorded "L.A.'s My Lady," the better.) Lakers fans, if they really thought hard about it, would likely choose "I Love LA" as their theme song if they had it all to do over again. Like the dramas made in Hollywood, the Lakers are sometimes little more than an athletic soap opera. Whether it's Kobe vs. Shaq, or a team that can beat the best teams in the league one night and lose to the worst the next game, this is a drama queen/drama team. Like the city itself, fans have come to love their Lakers - both the good and the bad that goes along with them.
After all those Toy Story
movies, Randy Newman might write a much kinder Los Angeles song today, if he had to do it all over again. However, L.A. is Newman's crazy lady; we just wouldn't have her story told any other way. We love it!
~ Dan MacIntosh
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