Northwestern attracts some very interesting people. Not to sound like a blubbering tour guide, but NU’s student population features some very unique snowflakes with very unique ways of expressing themselves. Some people throw one-another around a ring while dressed as a mime. Some students pretend to be homeless for a month and sleep outside. Some folks MS Paint basketball games (avoid these loons). Expressing ourselves is literally the (almost) center of NU – students paint The Rock on a daily basis to promote events, wish friends happy birthday or tell the masses that Willard smells.
And then there are those NU students who express themselves musically on YouTube. In an era where anyone can record themselves covering “Live Your Life” on the ivories and have 50,000 people view said performance within a week, I’m surprised more NU students haven’t struck out for YouTube fame via tune. But Northwestern has a fair amount of notably weird musical performances floating around the web. Here are ten of the strangest musical endeavors to go from dorm room to YouTube.
1. “That Guy” by Steve Persch
As the most notable rap song out of NU (with a strong, compared to the competition, 6,102 views and media coverage ), “That Guy” takes a hard-hitting look at the type of dudes inhabiting NU. And by “hard-hitting,” I mean a Republican, a hippie, a dork and the lead singer of Vampire Weekend. While “That Guy” falls flat in delivering any riveting commentary (Persch explains in the above Daily article how the song is about how people “front” who they are, a topic socially popularized by Fat Albert), it succeeds in being very well-written (he may not be Q-Tip, but Persch has some good lines in here) and bosts references to SESP, Plex and Net IDs.
2. “Thriller” as done by various NU students
Everyone remembers the hilarious Filipino prisoner rendition of “Thriller,” but before your grandma forwarded you this internet sensation, the folks behind Dance Marathon briefly held the Guinness World Record for “most people doing the ‘Thriller’ dance at once.” Back in February of 2007, 78 dancers imitated the King of Pop, breaking the previous record of 60 people zombie-ing it up at once. For a few months, DM laid claim to a (quirky) world record. And then 1,500 inmates took that joy away from NU.
3. “I Screwed My GPA” by The Northwestern University Singaporeans and Friends
Somehow “I Screwed My GPA” both bucks and embraces the NU stereotype of homework before Hundo. Yes, the song revels in debauchery (including games of frisbee and vomiting into what appears to be a Halloween plastic pumpkin), but everything comes back to that sagging grade point average, and what’s more nerdy than letting the thought of a sub-3.0 GPA interfering with your good time? It’s important to think about this internal conflict while listening to “I Screwed My GPA” because it helps your mind avoid the subject of the putrid source material.
4. “Ignition (Remix)” by Ladies In Red
A cappella isn’t my thing. Like, when I see a flyer taped on the ground for a show, I turn the other way. I’d rather be strapped to a chair placed in front of a thousand speakers blaring out The Jerry Lewis Telethon than sit through ten minutes of a Ben Folds song done completely vocally. But even though I’m not really a fan, I understand a cappella is a staple of NU culture and tons of people enjoy it. And plenty of footage of Northwestern a cappella groups can be found online. Instead of wading through clip after clip of human beat-boxing, I’m throwing Sigma Alpha Iota’s a cappella rendition of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” onto this list because, quite frankly, this song is pretty neat. Good work ladies, you made me not want to throw my computer out the window after four straight viewings.
5. Freestyle about NU by Common
What could be better than Northwestern students singing a famous rapper’s song? How about a famous rapper singing about the lives of Northwestern students? Chicago emcee Common did just that that at Dillo Day 2008, when he slipped into a hoodie and freestyled on topics pertinent to the NU community like painting The Rock and eating at Flat Top. The whole clip isn’t entirely Northwestern-centric though: Common gets in plenty of shout-outs to Kanye, Obama and sex, but the most memorable bits come when the Smokin’ Aces star rhymes about jumping in the lake at midnight. One complaint though: Why would you alienate the majority of the campus by just giving a shout-out to Bobb? Now I’ll never come around to Finding Forever.
6. “Tarzan Boy” (according to the video) by the Northwestern Marching Band
The NU Marching Band’s various game performances are a breeze to find online, so why settle for something so obvious? I have no idea what the context for this video is, but somehow this is the strangest band video I’ve ever seen. The key is the insightful commentary (“woooooo, hahaha, ohohohohoh”) by the ladies behind the camera.
Is Marching Band not doing it for you, especially at football games? Then I present the Bad Boyz II of Northwestern football songs: Mo Greene’s “Go U.” Mr. Greene should be thankful the Wildcats are having an awesome season; I can’t picture listening to this rap if NU were limping towards the Motor City Bowl (heck, the line about Ohio State makes me cringe). But beyond being a good cut for Jock Jams: Northwestern Edition, “Go U” also offers up one of the most glowing portrayals of NU in song ever. The fans are “rowdly like Piper” and Mo Greene (oh geez, I just got that) even makes Willie the Wildcat come off as a bouncer at The 40/40 Club. Plus, “N-Dubs” is a much better t-shirt slogan than tepid “Nerdwestern.”
8. “The Real Stephtizzle” by…I’m not sure
“Stephtizzle” grew up in the Show Me State, got accepted into Northwestern and feels rejection because she’s surrounded by talent and…she made a rap video about it? The mysterious tizzle and her roommate filmed this biographical rap joint with visual aides courtesy of a laptop. This little diddy is shrouded in mystery (well, not really, you can figure out more details by checking the tags on the video) and is a vital artifact of NU during the YouTube era. Also, I’m digging The Blood Brothers poster in the background.
9. “Hockey Mom/Pitbull (Jockin’ SP Remix)” by Russ Armstrong
For all you university YouTubers who aren’t sure what you want to do with your life, NU alum Russ Armstrong shows you that it is possible to rap about current events after graduation. Though it feels archaic today, this video probably looked and sounded awesome back when a certain Vice-Presidential candidate was still relatively unknown and had not yet been outed as a functioning idiot. It’s good to see Northwestern graduates not named Stephen Colbert creating YouTube content, even if said content features a defecating kangaroo.
10. “The Jewish Boy Rap” by Rappin’ Joely-B
Not every NU YouTube video was made post Y2K. “The Jewish Boy Rap,” made by a National High School Institute participant under the name Rappin’ Joely B, was created in 1987, before a large chunk of the current NU student population was born. Featuring a very brief story starring a young Jewish man and the “King of Rap,” it doesn’t take “The Jewish Boy Rap” long to get to the good stuff, especially when he “raps the Jewish way.” Terribly awkward and unfazed by stereotypes (“we’re gonna blow you away with our big Jewish noses,” not to mention enough bagel shout-outs to give Einstein’s a run for their money), “The Jewish Boy Rap” is without a doubt the most bizarre musical endeavor to ever come out of NU and that’s even before it hits the lox-and-prayer breakdown.