I was dimly aware of “What the Fox Says,” (now over 240 million views!) but my first exposure to Ylvis was someone mentioning their song “Massachusetts.” It’s light goofy parody, let down by falling back to retro homosexual panic.
I surfed some more. Ylvis make these videos to promote their evening talk show on Norwegian TV. “Someone Like Me” is a one-joke trick, but it’s a killer. “Jan Egeland” yokes the tropes of high-caliber stadium rock to a real-life mid-level U.N. diplomat. They’re all very funny.
But with “Stonehenge” they reach the zenith. Watch, it full-screen, then watch it again.
The parody casts a wide net:
- tortured cosseted artist
- Josh Groban precious singing
- pop stars flailing around trying to rip their clothes off (stripping is hard)
- non-sequitur jump-cuts between a studio and a daytime shot
- forced rhymes
- writhing around on a car
- emoting on a dark set with a smoke machine
Parody doesn’t exist in a vacuum, Ylvis acknowledges their forebears:
- of course the “Stonehenge” debacle from This is Spinal Tap
- the kitchen scene riffs on Dana Carvey’s Choppin’ broccoli
This is all great, but with the call and response with the choir, the video leaps into the stratosphere. Normally the singer asks and the gospel choir responds, instead the choir challenges his commitment. But he’s resolute. Why shouldn’t a guy with a thousand-dollar haircut drive a Civic, a car you can trust? “Never mind the car, let’s talk about the henge!”
It’s a brilliant move. But it’s not Monty Python absurd, the song and video are ruthlessly consistent, and that unity makes it so perfect. This is a man obsessed with one thing. Who the f*** builds a Stonehenge?