In early October, the brilliant parodies of a 17-year-old singer who goes by the pseudonym “SongBird” came to the attention of Trax on the Trail. Following in the footsteps of her idol, Randy Rainbow, SongBird’s music showcases her acerbic wit and pitch perfect comedic timing. Her DIY videos have received over 500K hits and counting on YouTube. Curious to learn more about what animates SongBird’s parodies? Read on!
Dana Gorzelany-Mostak: Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and what led you to writing parodies?
SongBird: I have been singing for my whole life, and I have been performing as a singer and actor since age nine. A few years ago, I started rewriting the choruses of songs to fit a funny story or situation, such as making up new lyrics about my dog or things I was learning in school. I never really finished these parodies—it was mainly just for a short joke in the moment. Then when I saw the work of Randy Rainbow about a year ago, I realized that I could apply my love of singing and writing to politics. I wrote a few parodies that I only shared with my parents, but when Trump said that Biden would “hurt God” if he got elected, I decided that this statement called for a fully written parody. Once I started writing it, it was so much fun, and I started thinking I wanted to do this more.
DG: I know a lot of people your age are somewhat disengaged and apathetic about politics. At what age did you develop an interest in politics, and when did you start setting current events to song?
SB: I first got interested in politics a few years ago. Randy Rainbow has been my main source of political news, as well as Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert. My interest in politics mainly comes from my passion for environmental justice. I want the U.S. to be led by people who believe in climate change and will do something to help combat it. I started setting current events to song a couple of years ago and started getting serious about it with my first video, “He Will Hurt God?”
DG: “So Long To Kell: A Parody Farewell to Kellyanne Conway” has earned an impressive 225K+ hits on YouTube. Can you discuss the genesis of this song? And, maybe talk a bit about how you go about writing parodies?
Let me start by saying that I had no idea or intention for this project to leave my circle of friends. I am stunned that so many people have watched my videos and are enjoying what I am writing. I think that So Long to Kell is not as strongly written in terms of rhymes and content as some of my other parodies, but I think the fact that people know the song so well is one of the reasons why it is so popular. When I heard Kellyanne Conway was leaving, I thought it would be really fun to write her a farewell…and I was thinking….what are some songs with Goodbye in them? And then I thought: So Long Farewell could become So Long to Kell. When I thought of the line “an absurd angry bird is popping out to say fake news,” I knew I had to do it.
DG: Why do you think this song has resonated with so many people?
SB: I think this parody is popular because it is based on a song that nearly everyone knows well. I can see from my YouTube demographics that a lot of my fans are people over 50. Most of my other parodies are written to songs that my generation knows well but that age group does not. [See for example, “Vlad Guy,” set to Billie Eilish’s “bad guy”.] So I think the combination of the big news of a major figure in the Trump administration leaving, together with a song that everyone knows is why it took off.
DG: What role do you think musicians can play in political campaigns? I mean, do you see yourself as an activist in some way?
SB: Making these parodies helps me feel like I am doing something to help. I am making so many people laugh, and everyone needs a laugh right now. I think for the most part, I am preaching to the choir because right now, there are virtually no undecided voters. But there is always a possibility that I might change someone’s mind, and that is uplifting, too.
DG: Your music is getting a *lot* of attention and this must be pretty exciting! What have been the rewards of this experience?
SB: I was not expecting this attention at all, but I am glad that I am making people laugh. Also, writing and producing these parodies has been a nice distraction from all of the difficult things going on right now in the world. Whenever I sit down to write, I always have so much fun finding the rhymes and presenting current events in a funny and entertaining way. It feels like I’m doing something, however small that something is, and that helps me not feel totally helpless.
DG: You mention on your YouTube channel that Randy Rainbow is an inspiration to you. In what ways do you feel your style differs from his?
SB: I think the main differences between my work and Randy Rainbow’s are that I don’t have any video editing skills or computer software, so I use a low-tech alternative (pictures on sticks), and I have to memorize my lyrics and record the videos in one take. This is a fun challenge, but it can also mean I stay up very late.
DG: One of my other SongBird favorites is “The Ten Trump Commandments: A Trump Parody.” Can you talk a little bit about how you developed the lyrical content of this parody?
SB: First of all, I love Hamilton (I have the entire musical memorized) and it is always a lot of fun to write new lyrics to a song that I know like the back of my hand. “The Ten Trump Commandments” parody started when I heard about the Tulsa rally that Trump held and how he was breaking all of the rules…which made me start to think: If Trump were to have a set of rules, what would they be, and could I think of 10? I then started writing down a list of the rules he breaks on a regular basis, and I built the lyrics from there. My mom is also a major Hamilton fan, and I wrote her a backup vocal part and taught it to her, and she sings backup on that song as well. Again, the entire thing had to be done in one take, and since the potential for mistakes doubled with the addition of my mom, that video took quite a while to make. I’d mess up and we’d have to start over. Then I’d be doing well, and my mom would mess up and we’d have to start over…and so on.
DG: What sort of issues or challenges do you think creators, whether they are musicians, or dancers, or artists, face when they want to address political issues in their work?
SB: Our country is so divided right now that it is difficult to put any viewpoint out there without being immediately shut down by people who do not share your viewpoint. It is difficult enough to share my work with the public let alone when my work might be met with hate from those who do not agree with me. I do not think all Trump supporters are dumb. I am just curious as to how they justify all of Trump’s actions and why they think they’re right. But there is definitely a lot of fear around posting anything political since it could mean losing friends or getting nasty comments. I hope that someday in the future, people will be nicer to others and try to understand where they’re coming from as opposed to automatically hating them.
DG: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
SB: Thank you so much for this opportunity! What you are doing is really interesting especially right now with all the music and parodies that are being written. Again, I feel so honored to be a part of your research. Thank you so much.
You can hear more of SongBird’s parodies here.
And to read about SongBird in the news visit this site.