Category Archives: “Let me tell you something”-Song

The “Let me tell you something” Song

Bear with me, it’s the best name I came up with. This is the last one in the group of “narrative songs”.

There are different variants of it, but most of the tome basics, someone explains something directly to the audience, or he explains something to another character (though the message is naturally still for the audience). Alan A Dale (Robin Hood) is a perfect example for the first variant. Merlin’s songs (Sword in the Stone) tend to fall into the latter category. In some rare cases “Let me tell you something” songs are even sung from the off, though they are hard to recognize as such, because songs which are song from the off tend to fall in multiple categories.

The Rescuers for example is a movie, in which every song safe for the Anathema of the Rescue Aid Society and “For Penny’s a Jolly Good Fellow” is sung from the off, and none of them are directly character related. That doesn’t mean that they are even clear cut exposition songs. One can make a case for “The Journey” being an Introduction (It’s played at the start of the movie) with shades of an “I want” Song (since it expresses Penny’s desire to get rescued…in fact, if she were the main character and not Bernard and Bianca I might put it in this category), and “Tomorrow is Another Day” being a Montage Song – even though there isn’t much of a montage, it’s main function is to cover the time Bernard and Bianca need for the travel.

The best example for a clear cut “Let me tell you something” song from the off is “No way out” from Brother Bear, though in this case what is sung from the off is not the same as what is said in the scene to Koda, it is more the attempt (emphasis on attempt) to add an additional layer to the story the audience already knows by explaining the feelings behind it. Generally speaking those songs have to balance a very fine line between adding to the story and being too much on the nose. Some of them come off as downright preachy (“Colours of the Wind” from Pocahontas springs into mind)

Disney especially likes to use the “I’ll tell you something” song in their shorts. Their adaptation of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow for example alters between narration, spoken lyrics and singing, creating a very distinctive rhythm.

[Speech in rhyme] Brom: Just gather ’round
and I’ll elucidate
what goes on outside when it gets late.
Long past midnight,
ghosts, and banshees
get together for their nightly jamborees.
There’s things with horns and saucer eyes
some with fangs about this size.

[Speech] Woman #1: Some are shorth & fat.
Woman #2: And some are tall &thin.
Creepy Man: And some don’t even bother to wear their skin.

[Speech in rhyme] Brom: I’m telling you, brother,
it’s a frightful sight,
see what goes on Halloween night.

The rhymes and rhythm are already setting the mood at this point, which is a strange mix between cheerful and threatening.

When spooks have a midnight jamboree,
they break it up with fiendish glee.
Now, ghosts are bad,
but the one that’s cursed
is the Headless Horseman,
he’s the worst.

Chorus: That’s right,
he’s a fright on Halloween night.

Brom: When he goes a-joggin’
cross the land,
holdin’ his noggin’,
in his hand,
demons take one look, and groan,
and hit the road for parts unknown.

Chorus: Beware, take care, he rides alone.

Brom: Now, there’s no spook like the spook who’s spurned.

Chorus: They don’t like him, and he’s really burned.

Brom: He swears to the longest day he’s dead,

All: he’ll show them that he can get ahead

Brom: Now, they say he’s tired of his flamin’ top,
and he’s got a yen to make a swap.
And so he rides one night each year,
to find a head in Hollow here.

Women: Now, he likes them little, he likes them big.

Men: Part in the middle, or a wig.

Chorus: Black or white, or even red.

Brom: The Headless Horseman needs a head.

All: With a hip-hip and a clippety clop,
he’s out looking for a top to chop.

Brom: So don’t stop to figure out a plan,

All: you can’t reason with a headless man.

The song, which contains the actual Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is one big built-up to the climax. Before the headless horseman is even on the scene the audience knows that he wants a head, and it learns what the one way to escape is:

[Speech in rhyme] Brom: Now, if you doubt this tale is so,
I met that spook just a year ago.
Now, I didn’t stop for a second look,
but headed for the bridge that spans the brook.
For, once you cross that bridge, my friend.

Chorus: The ghost is through, his power ends.

Brom: So, when you’re riding home tonight,
make for the bridge with all your might.
He’ll be down in the Hollow there.
He needs your head.
Look out! Beware!

Women: With a hip-hip and a clippety clop,

Men: He’s out looking for a head to swap.

All: So, don’t try to figure out a plan,
you can’t reason with a HEADLESS MAN!!!!!!

The whole scene has only one purpose, to set the stage for what is to come. The audience now knows the rules, and it knows that most likely something will happen. And what will happen is, like the song, a juxtaposition between two different moods, mixing comedy with horror. It is, in more way then one, the perfect use of a song like that.