Friday, August 9, 2013

"Shaddap You Face" and "Japanese Boy" AKA I Guess It Was OK To Stereotype Italians and The Japanese Back Then

Mexicans? Nope. Jews? Probably not. Blacks? I wouldn't suggest it. But apparently, as Joe Dolce and Aneka demonstrated, it was perfectly acceptable in the '80s to string a bunch Italian or Japanese stereotypes together and make a hit song out of it.

Joe Dolce was an American from Ohio who moved to Australia and released "Shaddap You Face" in 1980. The lyrics, as well as Joe's delivery, make fun of Italians. And ... that's it. That's the whole song. There's no moral, no life lesson, no spiritual epiphany. It's just a bunch of Italian stereotypes. Didn't Weird Al do this better with "Lasagna"?

"Shaddap You Face" might have been tailor-made for something like Dr. Demento's show, where it was played frequently in the US. But how do you explain the song topping the charts in the UK, Australia, and several other countries besides? According to Wikipedia, "The original release sold over 6 million copies and has remained the most successful Australian-produced single in Australian music history for 33 years straight, with sales of over 350,000+ copies." Some audiences are too easy.
Slightly more understandable, but arguably more tasteless, is Aneka's "Japanese Boy." And no, Aneka was not her real name:
Written by Bob Heatlie and produced by Neil Ross, the song was recorded by Scottish folk singer Mary Sandeman. Realizing that the name didn't fit the song, they decided to come up with a name to put to the single. Leafing through the telephone directory, they came upon the name of Aneka.
Umm ... isn't that just some ersatz, quasi-Japanese-sounding name? Why not just call her Fuji, or Yamaha, or Iwo Jima while we're at it? And didn't they just compose some ersatz, quasi-Japanese-sounding melody to go with it? Why not just have her sing, "Me build steleo system and eat flied lice"? I mean hell. My roommate's Top Ramen Cup O'Noodles is more authentically Japanese than "Japanese Boy."

Or maybe this was just Britain's revenge for World War II? We won the war, so now we get to insult your defeated nations with tacky, politically incorrect '80s pop songs?


Herr Zrbo said...

Did both of these songs hit #1? Because both of them are pretty damn awful. Especially that Aneka one, not only is the song a complete bore, but the video is too. She's wearing a terrible wig and a kimono, and then she she sort of wobbles both and forth. Like at the end of the video, the two guys fighting collapse, and then she just kind of stands there and looks at them. At least with Shaddup You Face their at least making some attempt to entertain those kids (and teach them young and early about racial stereotypes).

Little Earl said...

No, neither of those songs went to #1; I just like picking terrible '80s pop songs and falsifying their true chart position. Hey, don't blame me for Britain's bad taste.

In all fairness to Aneka, that video is not a video proper but another clip from TopPop, my new favorite Dutch '80s music program. And maybe I'm losing my marbles, but I strangely enjoy "Japanese Boy" in a semi-ironic sort of way. "Shaddup You Face," however, I don't really enjoy either ironically or sincerely.