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Click below to download pdfs of scores

Lana Del Rey: Video Games and Elizabethan Video Games

Britney Spears: I’m A Slave 4U

Miley Cyrus: Wrecking Ball

Katy Perry: I Kissed A Girl

Robyn: Call Your Girlfriend

P J Harvey: In The Dark Places


A curious by-product of making the music for Othello at The Globe Theatre:

a set of a cappella arrangements of pop songs, each of them originally sung (and often composed) by a woman. The first three were chosen for their strangely misogynistic qualities, I Kissed A Girl for its coy transgressiveness, Call Your Girlfriend for its emotionally intelligent message, In The Dark Places as a sombre, uplifting epilogue. Wrecking Ball and Call Your Girlfriend didn’t survive the rehearsal process.


Choral arrangements of pop songs are often problematic, lacking the power and the idiosyncracies of the original, winsome, bland. The subtle deviations (sometimes not subtle, now I come to think of it) of the tuning and timing of the lead vocal are very difficult to achieve when sung by more than one person. So I have usually presented the lead vocal as a separate line, with the implication that it should best be sung solo by someone who’s suited to it. I’m no expert on beatboxing, so I’ve not attempted to write a beatboxing part (which is anyway a suspect project). All the arrangements can live without a beatboxer, except the chorus of Wrecking Ball, a song which depends very heavily on the extreme contrast between its verses and its chorus. (In fact for anyone who’s heard the song before, its most exciting feature is the anticipation of the first chorus.)


One-voice-to-a-part versions are of course much easier to pull off. On the other hand these songs are very enjoyable to sing as a choir, and some of the material unquestionably works well – the choruses of I Kissed A Girl and Call Your Girlfriend are pure choral euphoria. The strange, melancholic Video Games becomes a prayer. In The Dark Places, clearly the odd one out in the set, both lyrically and musically, becomes an anthem.


In the original arrangements, the distinction between the lead line and the accompaniment is very extreme. The lead line is vocal, the accompaniment (mainly) instrumental; the lead line is delivered by a star, the accompaniment by anonymous musicians. In these choral arrangements, the distinction is much more subtle, particularly in the chorus, where the other voices often take up the lyrics. As in most choral music, everyone has an equal stake. Yo!


By the way, I’ve included two versions of Video Games; the ‘Elizabethan’ version was a flirtatious attempt to fool the Othello audience, sitting in a charming reproduction Elizabethan theatre, into thinking that they were in for a period production – until the lead vocal came in.

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