Legitimate High-pitched Pop: Music in The Chipmunk Adventure

It’s midnight and I’m watching “The Chipmunk Adventure” on YouTube. So two things are pretty apparent to me right now. First, this movie surprisingly still holds up since the last time I watched it (which is saying a lot since that was literally twenty or so years ago). Second, I should probably get my life sorted out. Questionable life choices aside, there is something that I can’t wrap my head around while listening to the songs in this movie. Primarily, and I am committing music snob seppuku here, some of the songs are legitimately good. Not just good from a stupid kids movie standpoint, but good from a legitimate 80s pop song standpoint.

Historically (and by historically I mean the first time these little bastards started singing) Alvin and the Chipmunks was sung by the one guy, Ross Bagdasarian Sr. Mr. Bagdasarian (who I will now refer to as just Ross) created a song called “Witch Doctor” in 1958 in a bid to make it big in the “thriving” novelty song market. Unsurprisingly, the venture didn’t work out. The ever adaptable Ross decided to make a novelty song even more of a novelty. So he speed up the recording of him singing the chorus and its result was a high-pitched hell that ended up being Alvin and the Chipmunks of the 60s. The details of how the 80s Chipmunk cartoon came into being is irrelevant here, lets just say it established what the chipmunks (and their three female counterparts The Chimpettes) are today as characters.

This should come to no surprise to anybody, the actual chipmunk voices are different from those who are singing. This is still the 1980s, computers hadn’t really made an impact on music yet (we’re talking no auto tune or any sort of voice modification/editing). “Ok Mr. Now Questionable Music Credibility” I hear you say dear reader, “you just stated that the whole shtick of the Chipmunks they are just normal pop songs that are sped up, so of course they sound like actual songs slowed down”. And to that I say, you’re right. If you were to search YouTube for “Chipmunks” anything you’re treated to every song imaginable lovingly butchered by the video’s creator. And for the most part this applies to many of the songs in “The Chipmunk Adventure” save for two, Girls of Rock N’ Roll and Diamond Dolls. While both of these songs follow the traditionally laid out setup of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus they are different to another in sound. Girls of Rock N’ Roll was in fact not originally created for the movie but instead for a movie called “Malibu Bikini Shop”. Regardless of its origins the song lyrically can be boiled down to just a “girls are just as good as boys” type of deal. But what is important here is how it is performed. Primarily the harmonies between both groups with lead and backup vocals. Oddly enough the song was written by Steve Kipner who also wrote “Physical” for Olivia Newton-John and it shows in its pure unadulterated 80s’ glory. It’s a weird mix between Madonna and David Lee Roth, right down to the cheesy as hell guitar intros and synths. Diamond Dolls on the other hand is pure Go-Go’s in both structure and sound and as a result is the better of the two. There is an actual structured harmony here and the hook in the chorus is ridiculously catchy. Lyrically Diamond Dolls follows the same theme of Girls of Rock N’ Roll but then again most won’t ever understand or care about it to begin with. The synths are, well synths and serve to only to propel the song forward. What sells this one is the vocals. So here is my point, these songs were created and sung by actual studio musicians. Of all the other songs on developed for this movie, these two original could have at one point

If I’ve convinced you of anything, outside of destroying whatever music credibility I had, is that these songs are, regardless of where they come from, actually perfect 80s pop songs. Each hits that expected pop peaks and each is perfect in their execution. Again, we are talking about 80s pop here, so take from it what you want. I should also point out that I’m not defending the Chipmunks as a whole. Quite the opposite, outside of the little bubble that is the 80s cartoon I can’t stand to even look at them, let alone hear anything related to their “music”. That said, if these songs were to be released in their alternate normal slowed versions they would have topped the charts easily. Now if you excuse me I have to go hide for a couple of months, I just defended an Alvin and the Chipmunks song as legitimate song.

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