January 24, 2011


Steelers' Weal

You can say this much for Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow": it's admirably goal-oriented, in multiple senses. It's been a while since there's been a song so close to the top of the pop charts that's so earnest a tribute to a particular sports franchise--in this case, the various Pittsburgh teams, especially the Steelers, whose colors Khalifa shouts out. Even the Chicago Bears Shufflin' Crew's infamous 1985 single "The Super Bowl Shuffle" and Fu-Schnickens' collaboration with Shaquille O'Neal "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock?)" didn't make the kind of pop impact that "Black and Yellow" has. And Stargate's production (see last week's column for a bit more on them) on Wiz Khalifa's song is the essence of early 2011: cheap-gizmo synthesizers several generations removed from the era when they would have actually tried to imitate orchestral sounds, and a beat engineered for the twin contexts of halftime and ringtones.

Still, the song's got an Achilles' heel, and it's that the lyrics beyond the chorus don't have anything much to do with the Steelers (or the Penguins, or the Pirates). That means that "Black and Yellow" can easily be mutated to be about other teams' colors. So, for instance, The Game's turned it into "Purp and Yellow" for the Lakers (with the aid of Snoop Dogg, who also turned up on the official "Black and Yellow" remix), Tijon's made "Blue and Orange" to support the Mets, and so on. In the meantime, Khalifa glancingly mentions a Transformers-style "black stripe, yellow paint" car, then all but gives up on the chorus's theme as he moves on to a money-diamonds-weed litany, finishing with a gentle backhand directed toward Kat Stacks. What kind of local pride is that?

So perhaps the Steelers and their fans might want to check out some other black-and-yellow songs to adopt. Read on for a few possibilities:

Gucci Mane's "Lemonade"

Pros: The video has even more black and yellow in it than Wiz Khalifa's; there is no way to rewrite the lyrics to eliminate references to yellow without doing a massive overhaul on the entire thing.

Cons: has nothing to do with Pittsburgh, or indeed any localities other than Miami, East Australia and, if you're willing to willfully misinterpret it, Bangladesh; maybe claiming that Gucci Mane speaks for you is not the best idea right now unless, say, you're an ice cream parlor. An ice cream parlor with a lightning rod on its roof.

Sam Sparrow's "Black and Gold"

Pros: The chorus is very big on the color theme; it was a huge hit internationally, even though it didn't quite catch on in America; the Steelers/Pirates/Penguins colors are technically black and gold rather than mere yellow.

Cons: Sam Sparro's appearance does not exactly shout "professional sports victory"; neither do the nonchorus lyrics, a restrained meditation on agnosticism ("if vision is the only validation/then most of my life isn't real"); Stereo MCs' "Black Gold" and Rotary Connection's "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun" are both better songs, if even less touchdownable.

Negativland's "Yellow, Black and Rectangular"

Pros: A chopped-up bit of found sound from the audio pranksters' 1987 album Escape from Noise, this would be a fantastic anthem for the Pittsburgh of the Bizarro World, where all football helmets are cubical rather than rounded.

Cons: The punchline of the piece — a description of another thing that's yellow and black — is the kind of bringdown that's not terribly conducive to touchdowns. Also, it's only possible to dance to it in the aforementioned Bizarro World Pittsburgh.

Stryper's "Loud n' Clear"

Cons: Does not mention or allude to the Steelers. Does not mention or allude to Pittsburgh. Does not mention or allude to football. Does not mention or allude to any colors, at least in its lyrics.

Pros: Many professional athletes have tight clothes and/or earrings, both of which are mentioned in the first verse. Not only is the 1984 record it comes from called The Yellow and Black Attack, but there are more yellow-and-black clothes, instruments and props in it than Wiz Khalifa has ever dreamed of. And isn't it about time that the halftime music/Jock Jams world expanded to encompass mid-'80s Christian hair metal?