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Music Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Pop, EDM/Electronica/Techno
Performance
Heavy YouTube traction helped propel the track to No. 6 on Billboard's pop chart.
RELEASED
September 3, 2013
Reviewer
Adam R. Holz
Ylvis
"The Fox"

Viral videos have to be funny. Right? Really funny. I mean, LOL funny. On the other hand, that humor has to feel utterly natural, accidental or effortless, because YouTube audiences can smell a fake five websites away. Anyone actually trying to create a viral video (with the possible exception of Jimmy Kimmel), is likely to meet with instant failure and continued anonymity. Then there has to be something unexpected, something absurd about it. Something that makes a video watcher say, "I've never seen anything quite like that." That's the kind of sentiment that makes people rush over to Facebook and tell everybody else about it.

The viral video event of 2012, of course, was Korean pop star Psy's massive hit "Gangnam Style," a video that's equal parts LOL funny, effortless, unexpected and absurd. It's currently closing in on 1.8 billion views on YouTube.

And that brings us to "The Fox," a music video from the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis, composed of brothers Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker. As was true of "Gangnam Style," "The Fox" is straight-up, bust-a-gut chortlingly ridiculous. In it, the Brothers Ylvisåker ponder a mystery that's lingered since the dawn of time. Yes, I'm talking about that age-old question: What kind of sound does a fox make?

"Dog goes woof, cat goes meow," the brothers begin over a thoroughly passable EDM beat. "Bird goes tweet, and mouse goes squeak/Cow goes moo. Frog goes croak, and the elephant goes toot/Ducks say quack and fish go blub, and the seal goes Ow Ow Ow/But there's one sound that no one knows: What does the fox say?"

Later, the pair ponders how said silent quadruped carnivore might communicate with a horse. "But if you meet a friendly horse, will you communicate by mo-o-o-o-orse, mo-o-o-o-orse, mo-o-o-o-orse?/How will you speak to that h-o-o-orse, h-o-o-orse h-o-o-orse?/What does the fox say?"

Utterly, earnestly transfixed by the mystery of the fox's continued soundlessness, the band concludes, "The secret of the fox, ancient mystery/Somewhere deep in the woods, I know you're hiding/What is your sound? Will we ever know?/Will always be a mystery; what do you say?" Then this: "You're my guardian angel hiding in the woods/What is your sound?/Will we ever know?/I want to, I want to, I want to know! … What the fox say?"

Do you want to know what the band's best guess is when it comes to mimicking that elusive sound?

OK. Here it comes: "Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow! Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow! Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow! Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho! Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho! Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho! Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff! Tchoff-tchoffo- tchoff-tchoffo-tchoff! Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!"

It's not far afield, really, of what we might once have expected from "Weird Al" Yankovic. Or maybe even one of those "Silly Songs With Larry" from VeggieTales (like, say, "The Water Buffalo Song")—albeit with a highly synthesized digital sheen. And it's that kind of sheer, gleeful absurdity that's generated nearly 100 million YouTube views in only a handful of weeks.

As for what you'll see when you tune in to learn about the mystery of the fox, well, it's a party at a lavish home in the woods with people dressed up in cheap costumes representing each of the animals mentioned. Most are sipping from champagne flutes before the whole gang gravitates out of the backyard into the deeper woods for some crazy ensemble dancing (that occasionally features mildly suggestive shimmying).

For the most part, though, we're still in "all in good, goofy fun" territory here.

But curious viewers, many of whom may very well be on the young side due to the song's frivolous fun factor, will get bitten by more than just a fox if they decide to check out some of Ylvis' other videos. "Work It," for example, satirizes and skewers rappers' appetite for carnal pleasures by going into unprintable, scientifically graphic detail about sex. Obscenities get lobbed in along the way as well. And in the similarly absurd video for "Stonehenge," musings on the ancient monument are rudely interrupted by verbal and visual references to oral sex.

So much for those "Weird Al" and VeggieTales comparisons. Better not wander out into the Ylvis forest any further than the fox.

A postscript: The review you've just read was written in good faith that a silly song about a fox saying even sillier things might, even in the jaded, sarcastic age of the 2010s, still be just that. And for anyone innocently stumbling upon the sounds of "The Fox," as I did, everything you've just read may well still be (or at least seem to be) appropriate and true.

But it was also written before I stumbled upon something Bård and Vegard revealed on Ellen Degeneres' daytime talk show when they came to the U.S. to promote their music and comedy shtick. And the lads' casual little revelation means something significant just might have gotten lost in translation when Americans started frantically dancing to the beat of a certain furry fox. Something that may skew the way one looks at the song.

Here's what they said:

"The fun fact is that marijuana, you know, is actually called, in Norwegian, it's the Norwegian word for fox. So if you take, like, a smoke, that's called taking a fox, actually."

"Now it makes sense. Now it all makes sense." Ellen replied.

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