You may not be aware that Free Music Archive is running a contest to identify some excellent birthday songs. There’s a real need for restaurants, moviemakers and radio people to identify a song which can be sung royalty-free at any time.
Out of the 137 songs, here are my 10 favorites. They are all great.
Some comments about the genre itself:
A birthday song should be memorable, easy-to-sing, short, inoffensive and slightly offbeat. It’s a challenging song format. On the one hand, you want to make it as simple and short as possible; on the other hand, you want to make it memorable too. Just the lyrics are a challenge. The songs needs to have direct rhymes; that means you have a lot of monosyllabic words ending with “ay” (yuck!). Ironically, the bolder the musical ideas in a birthday song, the less functional the song actually becomes.
Out of all the songs, the Danimals’ Super Psyched for your Birthday and Older than Dirt are the most memorable. Every time I come to the moment where the Danimals scream, I laugh.
Older than Dirt and Chris Trapper’s “Birthday Song” have the best lyrics, although to be fair, many of the songs don’t even try to be clever or poetic. As a compromise, the Rodger Rainono “Happy Happy Happy Birthday” just uses a refrain where you can add extra lyrics ad infinitum (and some of the lyrics in the recording they use in this recording are pretty damn clever). Who would have ever thought that a birthday song would inspire such humorous and poetic meditations on aging!!
For brevity, awards go to Monk Turner’s “It’s Your Birthday”, Jazzy J’s “One Year Older” and Caston Deluca’s “Happy Birthday.“ Deluca’s song is minimalist and charming. Ironically, she is an avante-garde music composer of hazy music landscapes. ( I have already written a profile and interview about songwriter Monk Turner).
For singability (i.e., singable by people with limited voices), Rodger Rainono’s “Happy happy happy birthday” and “Older than Dirt” are great.
For musical ideas, I thought Hendrik Left Engelmann-Löffler’s song had nice interweaving melodies, and Chris Trapper’s song had lots of nice touches (a tuba!). Both songs are too out there to win though.
The songs I want to win: Superpsyched for your birthday, Older than Dirt, and Chris Trapper’s Birthday.
Here are the songs that I predict will win: “Happy Happy happy birthday!” Superpsyched for your birthday and one of the longer songs (either “Older than Dirt“ or Chris Trapper’s Birthday).
The grand prize should go either to Superpsyched or “Happy happy happy birthday” because either song does exactly what a birthday song should do. Interestingly, both songs have multiple verses (which is NOT something you would expect for a birthday song), but the chorus for both songs are easy to remember.
Finally, I should mention something interesting about the Danimals. Apparently they write and sing a LOT of different birthday songs. I think they write custom songs for people on special occasions. They have 2 versions of the same song: a clean version (“Super-psyched”) and a not-so-clean version (“F*****ing psyched”).
Believe it or not, I have boycotted the “Happy Birthday” song for several years now, so I am eager to get some new stuff to sing….. I am super-psyched!