RANDOM BLACK GIRL - LYRICS & COMMENTS
Patina Miller in Kooman and Dimond's HOMEMADE FUSION at the Zipper Theatre.
Uploaded by koomandimond on Mar 20, 2008
This Cocojams.com page provides the lyrics to the song "Random Black Girl" by Kooman & Dimond. That song is featured in Kooman & Dimond's 2008 play Homemade Fusion. This page also features three videos and comments about that song and comments about the theatre meme of the "random Black girl".
For the record (no pun intended), I've communicated via email with Kooman & Dimond. They are aware of this page and have no problem with it.
This page is edited by:
Ms. Azizi Powell, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Latest revision 1/10/2013
This page is posted for educational, entertainment, aesthetic, historical, and folkloric purposes. All rights to the video and all rights to this song remains with its respectful owners.
I became interested in this song as a result of this post: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/07/02/the-random-black-girl-wi... . Selected comments from that post are reposted on this page.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE PLAY HOMEMADE FUSION
After reading about the play Homemade Fusion, I learned pf its connection to my adopted hometown-Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I consider it fitting that this Pittsburgh based website helps to increase awareness about this play, this song, and the meme of the random Black girl.
Here's a link to the Human Fusion play: http://www.koomandimond.com/shows/homemadefusion.html
Here's an excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kooman_and_Dimond which provides information about that play:
"Homemade Fusion is a song cycle, and was originally produced at Carnegie Mellon University, and moved on to venues such as The Pittsburgh CLO's Cabaret Space, The Zipper Theater, and Monday Nights New Voices Chicago. Selections from Homemade Fusion have been performed at several National Alliance for Musical Theater showcases, and are popular at colleges and cabaret venues across the country."
The sheet music for Random Black Girl is available through http://koomandimond.com/store
The song is also available for purchase through Itunes.
LYRICS: "RANDOM BLACK GIRL"
(music by Michael Kooman; lyrics by Christopher Dimond)
I’m not like the other girls in this show.
I’m something of a sore thumb.
I’m starting to think that I’m different.
And I suspect I know how come.
My complexion stands out.
And my voice does as well.
Cause in case you haven’t noticed,
I’m black as hell.
It’s an obligatory part of every new musical
It’s the random black girl singin’ the soul.
Every show must have an ensemble,
Without it things wouldn’t be right
And every crowd needs at least one person
Who doesn’t happen to be white.
Well, that girl is usually me,
Feels like I’m just filling a quota.
Anytime I ever have lines,
They’re “yes’m”, and “yessir” and “nosa’”.
When it comes to the plot I play no significant role
I’m just a random black girl singin’ the soul.
So, I conduct with my hands
And I’ll squinch up my eyes
And then I’ll open my mouth
And at the end of the song
When it’s time to let go
I’ll give ‘em a dose
Of my crazy vibrato.
Why couldn’t I be cast for a part in The Color Purple,
‘Stead of a random black girl singin’ the soul?
My agent gave me advice.
Those words I’ll never forget.
He said “Don’t think you’ll ever be cast
As Eponine or Cossette.”
But I guess things always could be worse,
When it comes to my Broadway station
At least I’m not cursed
Enough to have been born Asian.
Then I’d be stuck in Miss Saigon dancing on a pole,
Stead of the random black girl singin’ the soul.
The designers can’t light me.
Director don’t know my name.
And the make up artist thinks
That we all wear the same…shade.
And Mr. Stage Manager
Thinks I got too much sass.
The costumer don’t know what to do,
With my big old black—-hair.
Maybe I should audition for American Idol.
They love the random black girl singin’ the soul.
So what does this song change?
Well, not a relevant thing.
But you gotta be thinkin’ to yourself
“Goddamn, this sister can sing”.
Don’t you hate it when songs are so self-referential?
I’m a random black girl singin’ the…
Don’t stop me now, cause baby I’m on a roll.
I’m the random black girl singin’ the…
I can make an entire phrase out of one syllable.
Cause I’m a random black girl singin’ the soul.
COMMENTS ABOUT THE RANDOM BLACK GIRL SONG AND MEME
From http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/07/02/the-random-black-girl-wi... "Random Black Girl with the Big Voice" by Lisa Wade, Jul 2, 2011, at 10:16 am
Comments about the persistence use of the "random black girl" in movies, television, and theatre productions:
"It’s about how new musicals all just so happen to include a soulful, sassy, big-voiced, big-bottomed black girl in the ensemble (I’m looking at you, Glee)."
"I don't think I've seen a musical movie without a random black girl with a big voice,word to School of Rock, and Sister Act".
SpeZek- reply to Dirk Chilliwitzki:
"I don't think Sister Act really qualifies; it's not a random black girl, Whoopi is the main character and an important role beyond just filling the ethnic quota and "being" black.
Plus, everybody loves Whoopi."
"This always annoyed me to no end, the fact that ANY black girl that appears in a musical has to have a big voice and is automatically categorized as soul or r&b. I remember once on American Idol this one girl wanted to sing country and they were like great voice but you should do soul/r&b. in fact, I can't think of a black girl singer in general who isn't considered r&b/soul. at MOST, she's pop."
Cocojams Jambalayah Azizi [excerpt]
"... in the context of the song "Random Black Girl (singing the soul)", it seems to me that the song's title and lyrics refer to the manner in which the "random Black girl" sings and not to the R&B (Soul) category of music.
* Notice the phrase "singing the soul" and not just "singing soul". I think that's an important. distinction.
Here's an excerpt from http://www.blackinformant.com/...
"Soul is based on certain musical tecnniques including – Soul Shouting, Call & Response and Melissma (the ability to bend a word over several notes)
“King James (Cleveland) is master of all the vocal devices of black singing – syllables stretched over many, many notes, falsetto glisses, bent notes, torn notes, excited shouts, and the changing sonorities and textures manipulated by blues and jazz singers”
(The World of Soul P.244)
Comment about the meaning of the "random black girl" meme
"If the black "girl" with the big voice is the main character, or even a secondary character with a significant role other than having a big voice, I don't think this trope counts. This is an example of a ham-fisted attempt to make musicals more "diverse" by sticking in a black character who is entirely 2 dimensional. The character only has the traits that the target audience (probably upper middle class white adults who think of themselves as liberal) wants to see: stereotypes, but ones they interpret as positive, without letting the stereotype show up any of the white characters. Making a black woman with a big voice the main character, or a well rounded supporting character, or hell, a completely offensive villain, would mean that this trope isn't invoked. The trope is more the complete pointlessness of it (these characters often have no role aside from a loud, soulful solo or two, and maybe a few "honey" or "mmhmm gurrrrl" lines) than the fact that a black woman is singing stereotypically."
Comment about the random Black girl being a "plus size" female:
"& if you really want to hit the demographic sweet spot, RBG should be bigger than the white girls too: a combo that lets whatever the show is wear the "they cool with fat and we cool for knowing that" ribbon...."
MY COMMENT ABOUT THE "I'M AS BLACK AS HELL" LINE IN THE SONG "RANDOM BLACK GIRLS"
Song lyrics may have unexpected nuances based on the experiences of their readers and listeners. I think this may be the case with the line "I'm black as hell" in the song "Random Black Girl".
This is the only line in that song which rubs me the wrong way - although I confess that I initially also had problems with the "I'm glad I wasn't born Asian" line. However, in retrospect, I understand that the lyricist meant that in the theatre business, Asian actresses have it even worst than Black actresses.
So why does that "I'm black as hell" line bother me? First let me say that I know that the line "I'm black as hell" rhymes with the preceding line "and my voice does as well". And I know that the line is a witty conclusion to the preceding lines that "set the stage" for why the vocalist is different from her other cast members. That line's wit - and the way it is sung or spoken -are reasons why that line in the song seems to always evoke laughter. But my problem with the "I'm black as hell" line is that I'm Black and I'm old. And as an old Black woman, I'm aware of nuances for the phrase "black as hell" that younger Black people and any age non-Black people may not get.
When Black people say "She's (or he's) black as hell", I think they usually meant (mean) that the person was "really black". And really black meant (means) "real dark skinned". A comparable saying was/is "She's black as the ace of spades". I hasten to say that I don't ever recall me saying this to anyone because 1. I'm too nice and 2. I wouldn't want to get my behind whooped.
I believe that Chris Dimond, the White lyricist for the song "Random Black Girl", may have interpreted "really black" to mean "really a member of the Black race" and therefore a person who is darker than & different from the play's other cast members. However, I remember a time - and I think that time is still now - when a Black person would NEVER describe someone as being "black as hell" - at least not to their face. That was a SERIOUS insult. Why is black as hell an insult? Blame it on the REALLY messed up racial realities of the United States and elsewhere.
That said, I repeat that I believe that the lyricist for this song may not have been aware of the nuanced interpretation that some (many?) African Americans have for the phrase "I'm black as hell". Or maybe he was aware of that nuance and wanted to de-emphasize that meaning for the song's listeners & readers -including Black folks.
It should be noted that, while the vocalist Patina Miller who sung that "Random Black Girl" in the Human Fusion play would probably be considered dark skinned, most of the YouTube videos of "Random Black Girl" feature a Black vocalist that Black people wouldn't consider to be dark skinned. In some of the YouTube videos of that song the vocalist is a Black woman who would be considered light skinned, although none of the videos that I've seen to date feature a very light skinned Black female vocalist singing "Random Black Girl". It's therefore possible that the meaning of "black as hell" has changed - or maybe most Black people have put aside that old meaning of that phrase, at least in the context of that song. Also, I wonder what is the opposite of "black as hell" - "white as heaven? Hmmm.
I suppose that I could just sit back and enjoy the song. And I do enjoy it, but not without thinking about the deeper meaning of the words. (I blame my Virgo astrological placements and my natal Mercury in Sagittarius in my 3rd house for motivating me to think about the whys & wherefores of a lot of things). However, I mean no disrespect to this song, and my conclusion is that this song - and its lyricist - mean no disrespect to me, random or otherwise.
OTHER FEATURED VIDEOS OF PERFORMANCES OF THE SONG "RANDOM BLACK GIRL"
There are a number of YouTube videos of the song "Random Black Girl". Unlike the Patina Miller video reposted above, in the other videos I've watched, the "I'm black as hell" line is spoken and not sung. Here's an example:
uploaded by pennstatemt on Jun 29, 2008
Allyson Daniel '08 singing Random Black Girl at 21 Cabaret (21 songs from 21 new composers of the 21st century) directed by Robert Schneider.
And here's an example of the line spoken in a shortened version of this song :
Uploaded by HarttMTs on May 30, 2009
Olithea Anglin Sings Random Black Girl with music and lyrics by Christopher Dimond and Michael Kooman
The Hartt School's Senior class in Music Theatre performed their Showcase in NYC in May...
It's interesting that the singers in these and in the other videos delivers the "I'm black as hell" line differently.
I very much prefer the sung version of this line. However, I'm aware that others may disagree, and that's alright too. At least that line isn't spoken or sung in a self-effacing way or with an antagonistic manner like "Yeah so what if I'm black as hell" - like the speaker was admitting something bad about herself and daring someone to say something about it. I REALLY wouldn't like that.
CAN NON-BLACK GIRLS SING THE RANDOM BLACK GIRL SONG?
http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=PbbewRSc-C0 [the viewer comment thread for the Patina Miller video of "Random Black Girl" that is posted above] includes what to date is a courteous exchange between a commenter ClaireBakerVideos who asked whether only Black women could sing this song, and a few other bloggers. The concluding comment was that "since she refers to herself in the first person, I think it would be awkward if the singer wasnt black..."
-Jvilander (May 2011)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t66rMP63gds&feature=related is a link to a video of a White girl -Courtney Scheer-singing "Random Black Girl". However, this song was part of a play about miscasted actors/actresses. Therefore I don't think that play is a good example of a non-Black female singing this song just because it's lyrically and musically a good song (which I think it is).
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