Na Na Na Na

If you’ve been following my internet presence, you know how much I love flowcharts. So naturally, I was amused by this Randall Munroe cartoon:

I was reminded of it walking down the street the other day, because someone in our neighborhood in Brooklyn was blasting a dancehall track from their car that sampled the “na, na na na na, na na na naaah na na na na na na” part from “Land Of A Thousand Dances.” Then I got to thinking, this cartoon is actually an inspired recipe for a mashup.

Production

I put the track together using my new favorite software in the world, Ableton Live. I’ve historically been a Reason/Recycle guy, and while I’ve had Ableton sitting on my hard drive forever, it took me until recently to motivate to check it out. I’m glad I did, it’s been wildly inspirational. Here’s how the mashup looks in Ableton’s session view.

Mashup in Ableton

Land Of A Thousand Dances

I used the Wilson Pickett version of “Land Of A Thousand Dances.”

Hey Hey, Good Bye

The chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” is such a ubiquitous meme that it’s strange to think it was originally part of an actual song, rather than something written specifically to be chanted at sports games. It’s by an anonymous bunch of studio musicians who called themselves The Steam. Here they are in Austin Powers finery:

I also included the version by Bananarama, because who doesn’t love Bananarama?

Nas Is Like

The one song I put in that isn’t from the cartoon is “Nas Is Like” by Nas. I used it because the repeated “Nas Nas Nas is like, Nas is like” fits the sonic theme well, and because I needed a good strong beat for certain sections of my track.

Batman

The cartoon references Neal Hefti’s groovy theme song from the sixties TV Batman show. The thing is that there is no “na na na” part anywhere, it’s just the way everyone sings the guitar riff. I figured I’d just put it in rather than split hairs.

Katamari

The Japanese a capella voice with the bit of beatboxing at the end is “Sasasan Katamari” by Yu Miyake, from the classic video game Katamari Damacy.

Katamari Damacy

Randall Munroe shares my love of this game and its infectious theme music:

Hey Jude

Finally, I conclude my mashup with the entire end section of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” a masterpiece of zen-like repetition.

Other na na songs

Songs I could have included, but didn’t:

  • My Chemical Romance – “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
  • Akon – “Right Now (Na Na Na)”
  • 112 – “Na Na Na Na”
  • Jim Jones – “Na Na Nana Na Na”
  • Tiffany – “Na Na Na”
  • A.B. Quintanilla III Y Los Kumbia Kings – “Na Na Na”

Why are all these “na na na” songs so catchy?

I think nonsense syllables are crucial to good pop music. They enable emotional expression uncluttered by narrowly literal semantic meaning. “Na na na” can mean anything, everything or nothing. It’s a blank space to project whatever feeling you want onto it. I subscribe to the belief that music is much older than language, and that it reaches much deeper into the core of the brain. Like scat singing and obligato, singing “na na na” touches something much bigger and more ancient inside us than any specific set of lyrics can. Maybe that’s why these hooks are so much more memorable than the songs they come from. Anyway, enjoy the mashup, and thanks Randall Munroe for the best comic on the internet.

4 thoughts on “Na Na Na Na

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  2. Of course there’s a na na na na part to the Batman theme…it comes in at the very end…the female vocalists sing it preceding the last “Batman”! Cool blog, btw.

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