Musical criticism and commentary

Family Guy’s Music…

Family Guy's music.

NSFW Warning – this article contains offensive language.

Nearly 20 years ago, the first episode of Family Guy aired. That fact alone boggles the mind. I have seen every single episode several times, which makes me wonder if perhaps I need to rethink my life. From the antics of Peter Griffin, to the, err, antics of Stewie and Brian, Family Guy really shows what society has become – a cesspool of bad jokes and rehashed pop cultural references.

Alright, alright, cheap shot – there are many reasons to love Family Guy. But perhaps one of the best reasons to love Family Guy – the music! Family Guy ‘s music, appearing in nearly every episode, gives the show a little extra. Some of Family Guy’s music sounds sweet and innocent. Still, most of the songs feel rather crass and boorish. Join me as I take a musical journey through the world of Family Guy’s music! And yes – I know, The Simpsons did it first. D’oh!

Family Guy Main title Theme

Let’s start from the beginning! The show’s theme song was the first time we heard Family Guy’s music. We knew literally nothing about the Griffins, other than a couple lines from Lois, Peter, and Brian on the cold open. As Lois Starts to sing, the lyrics  make us think of Archie and Edith Bunker’s “Those were the days.” Both songs recall a simpler time, when prices were fair, politicians were honest, and entertainment was innocent. We begin to think this new Family Guy show will deliver a wholesome series, a call back to a warmer time in history. Oh boy, we were wrong!

That isn’t to say the theme song lied to us. We get a hint in the theme that Family Guy will be the cesspool of moral degradation we now know and love. While we might not catch this the first time around, we begin to wonder if Stewie sings “effing cry” instead of “laugh and cry.” He doesn’t – but still – we wonder. The very fact that we wonder says something about the show; this show will push the envelope. This show will make you think a baby near curses, and this show will try to slip things past the censors and the easily offended on a regular basis. As we watch over the course of 20 years, we find that this is exactly what Family Guy does.

The FCC Song

The 2005 episode, “PTV,” gives us a classic satire of the FCC’s over zealous censorship of “obscenity.” At this time, the FCC was particularly heavy handed due to Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction.” As the centerpiece of the episode, we get a classic example of Family Guy’s music: “The FCC song.” This song gives us so many great lines and so much commentary. Some lines display the creative ways TV shows like Family Guy must describe things, such as “…and they’ll make you call fellatio a trouser friendly kiss.” Then there’s the line”…you’re going to have to do her with your ding-a-ling – cause you can’t say penis,” which breaks a supposed rule by stating the rule.

However, the best part of the song,  “…And they stuck it in your mailbox hoping you could be coerced / I can think of quite another place they should have stuck it first!” Ooo. That’s just harsh. These two lines, for that matter, the entire song, might be a dare! After doing an intentionally offensive song, mocking the FCC, this line makes us wonder if maybe Family Guy wants the FCC to come down on them. The line serves as a dare…go ahead! Fine us! Make Family Guy a martyr. That’s part of the brilliance of Family Guy’s music – sometimes it just yells, “damn the consequences!”

Shipoopi

The episode “Patriot Games” from 2006 certainly has a place in my top five episodes, despite the fact that the New England Patridiots (especially Tom Brady) are a bunch of low down, nasty no good cheaters who deflate balls and pay off refs on a regular basis…but I digress. One of my favorite scenes in the episode features Peter Griffin leading a stadium of New England Patridiots fans in a song and dance number showcasing the song “Shipoopi” (originally from The Music Man).

We get a very humorous scene if we view this as a stand alone gag, however, there’s so much more “Shipoopi”. The fanfare literally stops the game for a few minutes so everyone can celebrate. Those of you who go to sporting events know about these celebrations and how utterly ridiculous they feel. The opposing team sits there and waits as a stadium cheers for as long as five minutes. All this just to, celebrate the fact that Peter Griffin or the Seahawks or the Lakers or the Mississippi Mudhens made a goal. “Shipoopi” lampoons this ritual. One might call this a brilliant cover of “Shipoopi.” In this case, Family Guy’s music adds more to the song than the original intends.

But the best part of this song – the only person not celebrating Peter’s touchdown (other than the opposing team), Tom Brady. Yeah – Tom Brady was pissed off….because Tom Brady is a crying little baby who can’t win a game without cheating. Loser.

Down’s Syndrome Girl

2010’s episode, “Extra Large Medium” gives us perhaps the most offensive moment ever in Family Guy’s music, “Down’s Syndrome Girl.” The song parodies Down’s Syndrome with a series of derogatory statements against Chris’s crush, Ellen (Palin?). But don’t take my word for it…look at the ending chorus. I warn you – these lyrics are highly offensive.

My boy, between the two of us,
We’ll get you on that shorty bus
And then you’re gonna take it for a whirl.
Now go impress that super-thrilling,
Wish-fulfilling, Yoo-Hoo spilling,
Ultra-swinging, boner-bringing,
Gaily singing, dingalinging,
Stupefying, fortifying,
As of Monday, shoelace tying,
Stimulating, titillating,
Kitty-cat impersonating,
Mega-rocking, pillow-talking,
Just a little crooked walking,
Coyly pouting, booby-sprouting:
For some reason always shouting,
Fascinating, captivating,
Happiness and joy creating…
Down’s Syndrome Girl!

© Fox Broadcasting

Yeah – I feel dirty just posting this, and you should feel dirty by reading it! I originally had no intention of mentioning “Down’s Syndrome Girl.” After careful consideration, however, I feel this song really shows what Family Guy, and Family Guy’s music is all about. Sure – Family Guy gives us satire with “The FCC Song,” but Family also pushes boundaries just to push boundaries. Family Guy offends just for the sake of offense. Like this fact or hate it, Family guy does this and will continue to do this. Personally, I wish they had not gone down this particular road – but they did and they probably will again. If I don’t like it – well – I guess I don’t have to watch it.

Road to Rhode Island

When we talk about Family Guy’s music, we must include something from the “road to…” series. So, why not start from the beginning – 2000’s “Road to Rhode Island,” featuring the song of the same name. “Road to Rhode Island” might have been developed to focus on Seth McFarlane’s jazz crooner voice, but regardless, we get Family Guy’s essence in one song. The song itself uses the tune from 1942’s “(We’re Off on the) Road to Morocco” from the movie of the same name. With this fact in mind, we realize the song serves as one of Family Guy’s many pop cultural references. 

“Road to Rhode Island” has a nice back and forth between Brian and Stewie featuring zingers like Brian’s “I’m with an intellectual who craps inside his pants,” Stewie’s rebuttal,”How dare you! At least I don’t leave urine stains on all the household plants.” The song breaks the fourth wall with the line “That’s right, until we’re syndicated, Fox will never let us die. Please?” The placement of the song seems shoehorned, but so do most of Family Guy’s pop cultural references. 

Most importantly, “Road to Rhode Island,” the song and the episode, sets an interesting tone for the future of the show. We see the very first time Brian and Stewie really interact. Before this point, Stewie and Brian barely said two words to each-other. The song serves as a capstone to this new relationship – and as a precedent for all the future antics of the duo.

Family Guy’s music – so many more examples.

Family Guy gives us more songs than we can count. These are just a few, handpicked cherries of a vast, vast, orchard of apples. Wait…what? Seriously thougb, Family Guy would not be the same show without the music. From “Give up the Toad” to “A Wonderful Day for Pie.” From the offensive, “You Have AIDs” to ” the almost inspirational “You’ve Got a Lot to See.” As the new season of Family Guy premiers this Sunday, I will eagerly await to see the new songs. I just hope they don’t reuse Surfing Bird. Seriously Seth, once was enough! Please have mercy on our ears.