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9 Musical Numbers That Could Use Some Context

Outside of their natural musical habitat, these songs might raise a few non-theatre-aficionados’s eyebrows. Context, people, context.

I’m just going to start out by saying I love these musicals dearly and have no shame when it comes to singing these songs out loud, in public places, in costume, without explanation, and to the horror of my more modest friends.

That having been said, as I’ve learned the hard way, sometimes context is a good thing.

9. “A Hymn to Him” (My Fair Lady, 1956)

Mr. Henry Higgins is a misogynist, through and through, with some serious mommy-issues. The song in context of the play (Shaw’s Pygmalion) and musical makes sense for the character and is pretty funny because it reveals Higgin’s ridiculousnesses, but you may or may not be branded a pig for singing it to someone who doesn’t know that context.

Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic’ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Well, why can’t a woman be like that?
Why does ev’ryone do what the others do?
Can’t a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do ev’rything their mothers do?
Why don’t they grow up- well, like their father instead?

Without context: “No, I don’t think women are inferior to men.”

8. “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” (A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, 1962)

Along similar lines, this song might get you a good walloping:

Everybody ought to have a maid,
Everybody ought to have a menial
Consistantly congenial
And quieter than a mouse.
Oh, oh, wouldn’t she be delicious,
Tidying up the dishes,
Neat as a pin.

Everybody ought to have a maid,
Someone who you hire when you’re short of help
To offer you the sort of help
You never get from a spouse

Without context: “No, really, I’m not a sexist pig.”

7. “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” (Kiss Me Kate, 1948)

Here’s some much beloved context: Kiss Me Kate is based on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” a problematic play for critics and audiences everywhere because of its misogynistic themes. Gender relations in the play, and the musical for that matter, are far from ok. Out of that history, comes this song.

This one breaks my heart - I love Shakespeare and the sheer number of wonderfully clever puns in this song would have me loving it except for the fact that they’re so violent towards women. It’s meant to be funny but it’s also humour based on, well, rape culture. As silly as the two songs previous were, this one kind of crosses the line:

If she fights when her clothes you are mussing
What are clothes? ‘Much Ado About Nussing’

If she says your behavior is heinous
Kick her right in the ‘Coriolanus’

Sigh. Even with context, this one bugs me a bit.

Without context: “NO REALLY I RESPECT WOMEN I SWEAR.”

6. “Sweet Transvestite” (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975)

On to lighter and funnier musicals…

OMG ROCKY HORROR!!!!!! SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS MUSICAL.
That having been said, singing this song in the middle of a crowd might get you some interesting stares:

I’m just a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania.

Without context: “I KNOW TRANSEXUAL, TRANSYLVANIA ISN’T A REAL PLACE .”

5. Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975)

Self-explanatory I think:

Touch-a, touch-a, touch-a touch me
I wanna be dirty
Thrill me, chill me, fulfill me
Creature of the night.

Without context: “THAT WASN’T AN INVITATION.”

4. “The Internet is for Porn” (Avenue Q, 2003)

This song is hilarious and I love it and you might not want to sing it on the bus. Wait, why are you singing on public transport in the first place?

Me up all night honking me horn to porn, porn, porn!

All these guys unzip their flies
For porn, porn, porn!

Grab your dick and double click

Without context: “I’m researching for my dissertation. Really. I’M NOT LOOKING AT PORN.”

3. “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” (Avenue Q, 2003)

Same as “The Internet is for Porn.” Great song, might accidentally piss off a few non-theatre-afficonados.

Everyone’s a little bit racist
Today.
So, everyone’s a little bit racist
Okay!
Ethinic jokes might be uncouth,
But you laugh because
They’re based on truth.
Don’t take them as
Personal attacks.
Everyone enjoys them -
So relax!

Without context: “No, I’m not calling you racist! I’m not racist! I respect…oh for goodness sake, listen to the song.”

2. “I Believe” (The Book of Mormon 2011)

I believe that possibly the entire soundtrack for the Book of Mormon should be on this list.

Brilliant musical. Needs context.

I believe!
That the Lord God has sent me here!
And I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people!

Without context: “I’m not Mormon and I’m not trying to convert you!!!”

1. “Springtime for Hitler” (The Producers, 1968)

This is a hilarious movie and the song, in context, is possibly its highlight. For those of you out of the know, the film is about two producers who are purposefully trying to make a flop of a musical. What could piss off, offend, and thoroughly disgust an audience more than a musical about Nazis written by a man practically in love with Hitler? Unfortunately for them, it turns out to be farcically perfect and everyone loves it.

If I have to explain why this song would be problematic out of context, I don’t know what to say to you.

Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Deutschland is happy and gay!
We’re marching to a faster pace
Look out, here comes the master race!
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Rhineland’s a fine land once more!
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Watch out, Europe
We’re going on tour!


Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party!

The Fuhrer is causing a furor!
He’s got those Russians on the run
You gotta love that wacky hun!
The Fuhrer is causing a furor
They can’t say “no” to his demands
They’re freaking out in foreign lands
He’s got the whole world in his hands
The Fuhrer is causing a furor!

Without context: “I’M NOT A NAZI”.

In summary, when singing these out of context, be prepared to explain:

“I’m not misogynistic, racist, Transylvanian Nazi who’s asking for sex, looking at porn, or trying to convert you. I. JUST. LIKE. MUSICALS.”

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