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    Tuesday, January 19, 2021

    #ThemeSongTuesday: Jungle Boy Is Tarzan Boy

    It's Tuesday. You know what that means.

    Now we're taking a quick break from our regularly scheduled programming to take you back to the year 1985... That's Baltimora, the one-hit-wonder behind "Tarzan Boy," Jungle Boy's new entrance theme in All... Elite... Wrestling... We're taking you back to the glory years of new wave, it's the exciting '80s... on (insert radio station right here)!

    And that's the closest you'll get to seeing a written radio spiel from ya boy. It's DJ Stan Sy checking in for Theme Song Tuesday!

    Right before the first episode of AEW Dynamite in 2021, AEW head honcho Tony Khan told the world that he'd just bought the rights to "Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora so that Jungle Boy can use it as his entrance theme. That's definitely something Vince McMahon wouldn't do for a WWE Superstar in 2021. But hey, TK gonna TK. If you can afford it—and if it makes your product better—then why the fuck not, right?

    As AEW Dark aired on YouTube, we got to see Jungle Boy come out to "Tarzan Boy" in its full new wave glory and it was fucking awesome.

    I was conceived in 1989 and I have no living memory of the '80s at all. But goddammit, I love new wave. So hearing an iconic track from that era as a wrestling theme in 2021... That wasn't just a Christmas present from Tony Khan to Jack Perry. That was a fucking blessing to me and every new wave-loving schmuck who also loves wrestling!

    Let's get the obvious bits out of the way. The title and lyrics tell the story of a man who lives like Tarzan, you know, much like Jungle Boy. And there's the catchy-as-hell hook, which uses Tarzan's cry as a melodic line. As you can see in the video above, seeing Jungle Boy come out to "Tarzan Boy" just sparks joy. Even Taz, who's supposed to be a hardened heel commentator, breaks character and has a lot of fun with it, even singing along to the hook!

    I don't know what it is, but there's something pure and unadulterated about seeing a new wave song from the '80s in wrestling. Remember when Mark D. Manalo used to come out to A-Ha's "Take On Me" during PWR's Makati Cinema Square days? The entire arena would erupt and just sing along all the way to the falsetto in the chorus. The song made MDM and after he'd been forced to change his theme to some generic entrance theme by the heels at Filscap, he was never the same.

    Grado is another great example of a wrestler whose entrances just made him. You have entire arenas of your stereotypical manly wrestling fan singing along to fucking Madonna—and it's not just Madonna—it's peak Madonna from the '80s! "Like A Prayer" isn't just an entrance theme for Grado. It's a fucking rallying cry! 

    That's exactly what AEW is going for here with Jungle Boy and "Tarzan Boy." If commentators and the scant audience members in Jacksonville, Florida are already going apeshit over Jungle Boy's entrance, imagine a post-pandemic era where entire arenas or stadiums will be singing along to that signature melodic Tarzan cry. Man, that moment can't come soon enough.

    But why is "Tarzan Boy" such a fun song? And why does it elicit these emotions of joy? Why does it make Luchasaurus forget that he's a 65 million-year-old dinosaur? Why does it make Marko Stunt want to dance like he's making it rain at a strip club like he's James Harden? Why does it make Jungle Boy an even more attractive twink?!

    It all goes back to the hook.

    The Millennial Whoop

    It's been thirty-six years since "Tarzan Boy" was first released as a single. Unlike a lot of new wave artists from that time, not a lot of people remember Baltimora. All people really remember is their signature song and not much else. But the song is so distinctly memorable because of the melodic Tarzan cry, which is sung in a particular pattern that alternates between the fifth (G) and third (E) notes in a major scale. 

    This pattern is called the millennial whoop. It normally starts with the fifth note, G, and then alternates with E, and you'd often hear singers using the syllables "wa" and "oh" as they sing this melody. Musician Patrick Metzger coined this term in an article for The Patterning from August 2016, where he identified the millennial whoop as a vocal pattern. He wrote that songwriters and producers latched onto the trend from the late oughts to the 2010s, but that it has been around much earlier than that, citing "Jungle Love" by The Time from 1983 as an early example, along with "Tarzan Boy."

    Where have I heard this before?

    Through the turn of the century, a lot of pop songs kept going back to the well of the millennial whoop to create distinct hooks that would make listeners latch on to the music. As early as 1979, you could already hear a version of the "wa-oh-wa-oh" pattern in the very first song whose music video was aired on MTV, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles. You hear it as "oh-wa-oh" in the pre-chorus.

    You bet your ass it reappears in the 2010s, thanks to will.i.am and Nicki Minaj's "Check It Out," which samples "Video Killed the Radio Star." Hell, the song has a cold open and it's the fucking millennial whoop.

    The pattern shows up through the 2000s and 2010s, appearing in songs like "The Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani feat. Akon, "Like While We're Young" by One Direction, "Habits" by Tove Lo, "Really Don't Care" by Demi Lovato, "Work From Home" by Fifth Harmony feat. Ty Dolla $ign, "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX, and fucking "Baby" by Justin Bieber. Hell, there are way more songs that have it than I want to bother listing down, so here's a freaky mix by YouTube user unic0de, which mashes all the millennial whoops in these songs (along with many others) into a fucking earworm. Enjoy.

    Think about all those songs and all those millennial whoops in them. Those are the parts of the songs you either remember the most or are able to sing right off the top of your head. You can forget the bridge, a verse or two, or even half the chorus. But that millennial whoop is what hooks you in—which is why it's called a "hook" to begin with.

    If it's everywhere, then is it ripping off?

    Here's the thing. These sequences are short and are only made up of two notes alternating and repeating between one another that nobody can stake a claim to owning that sequence. Think about it. Anyone can repeat notes in a sequence like the millennial whoop, but nobody can trademark just that sequence and say that they own it.

    In fact, people have tried... and failed.

    Singer-songwriter Ally Burnett sued Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City, claiming that their 2012 hit "Good Time" violated the copyright of her song "Ah, It's A Love Song" from 2010. To be fair, you can hear the similarities. "Ah, It's A Love Song" starts with a millennial whoop that sounds a lot like the one in "Good Time." Queen Carly settled with Burnett out-of-court, while Owl City actually fought the case and won because the jury determined that "Good Time" was an original work!

    That's because the millennial whoop has been around for so long—and is so short and common—that nobody can claim the "wa-oh-wa-oh" sequence as an original idea. There's a legitimate legal defense called scènes à faire that backs this up, which means that there are musical elements—like "wa-oh-wa-oh"—that are just too fucking common to be owned by one person or entity.

    So why is it a go-to trick for songwriters?

    Let's go back to Metzger's on The Patterning because he explains it so casually better than I ever can.
    Humans crave patterns. The reason pop music is successful to begin with is because almost every song is immediately familiar before you get more than 10 seconds into a first listen.

    He points out that we are drawn to familiar audible structures and patterns from the time we're born, starting with our heartbeat. That familiarity is what pop music preys on because for a pop song to have staying power, it has to be familiar to you as a listener, hence the feedback loop, or why these memorable hooks and patterns go over and over again. Think back to "Tarzan Boy's" melodic Tarzan cry. Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!

    So it is that the Millennial Whoop evokes a kind of primordial sense that everything will be alright. You know these notes. You’ve heard this before. There’s nothing out of the ordinary or scary here. You don’t need to learn the words or know a particular language or think deeply about meaning. You’re safe. In the age of climate change and economic injustice and racial violence, you can take a few moments to forget everything and shout with exuberance at the top of your lungs. Just dance and feel how awesome it is to be alive right now. Wa-oh-wa-oh.

    And that's what makes songs like "Tarzan Boy" so fun. Even if you've never heard this song, as soon as the electronic music comes in and you hear the first Tarzan cry, you're drawn in by the familiarity of the pattern. There are no lyrics to understand, no foreign sounds to comprehend. You only really need to remember two notes. The rest is you yodeling or bellowing the notes that have seemingly been imprinted in your brain since birth. And it's fun and delightful!

    That's why "Tarzan Boy" is an effective theme for Jungle Boy. It represents everything he and Jurassic Express stands for. They're basically AEW's equivalent of The New Day! They stand for happiness, positivity, and fun. And when you hear "Tarzan Boy," you can't help but just feel like a kid, bellowing that melodic Tarzan cry out, even when you're supposed to be a no-nonsense heel like Taz. For a moment, you get to just live in the awesomeness that wrestling is supposed to be fun because Jungle Boy and his theme song, "Tarzan Boy" make it fun.


    Header image from AEW


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and the host of On Deck, as well as one of the hosts of The Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, AEW, and the occasional New Japan match. 

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    Item Reviewed: #ThemeSongTuesday: Jungle Boy Is Tarzan Boy Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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