Today’s video insight is for the song “Christmas in Paris,” a parody of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Ni@@as in Paris!”
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INSIGHT INTO A SONG:
When I first heard Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Watch the Throne” album, the 3rd track, “N!@@as in Paris,” was the one that caught my attention. Apparently, everyone else felt the same way: since the album’s release, the song has hit number 8 on Billboard (and rising); almost everyone and their grandma has released their own remix of it on YouTube; and, when I went to their concert this past Sunday, the duo performed it SEVEN TIMES (and NINE times last night according to my friend), and the crowd never seemed to tire from hearing it.
Very few songs come along where just about EVERYONE who hears it likes it, and where it’s so infectious it can be played hundreds of times and keep you hyped up each time. This is one of those songs. And when these types of songs come along… well, I know that means it’s my job to make a parody of it!!
Aside from that, I wanted to release a song specifically meant for the holidays. I haven’t released a Christmas song before, but they’re always good to have available for sale in November/December since those types of tunes are being bought.
So, I decided to make my parody version of “Paris” about something Christmas-related. I went with the angle of me being a Santa Claus that’s explaining to bad kids why they’re not getting gifts from me this year. It’s almost like an anti-Christmas song in the sense that Ol’ St. Nick isn’t being his jolly self, but rather a person tired of bad kids asking him to look past their misdeeds all year just so they can get a gift.
Writing the song was surprisingly easy – I think it only took about 20 minutes or so. Once I found the beat(s) on YouTube, I downloaded them and began recording.
As part of the write-up for the song, I wanted to use my regular voice, as well as a kid’s voice for the parts where I have a kid begging Santa for gifts. The only real kid voice I have is the one that sounds similar to the voice I use for my puppet character, Non Juan, so I decided to go full out and use him in the song… which would then also give me an excuse to use him in the video. Smart thinkin’, right?
Some Interesting Song Tidbits:
1. The original version of “Paris” has 2 beats – one used for most of the song, and one used for the breakdown. I couldn’t seem to find a version of the beat produced by one person that had both beats that sounded good, so I split it up. The main song beat was produced by YouTube user juan777ish; the latter beat was produced by YouTube user GeneralsBeats.
2. The line “No gifts for your muffin…” is a secret shout-out to one of my cousins who calls me that all that time. Still makes sense for use in the song, though…
3. The “Ho Ho Ho Ho” at the end is an ad-lib. After Non Juan’s scream, I wasn’t going to have any more vocals, but just said it to see how it sounded. I liked it, so I kept it.
INSIGHT INTO A VIDEO SHOOT
I had so many ambitious ideas for this video, to the point that it almost stalled me from making it.
At first, I wanted to get actual kids to use in the video instead of Non Juan (my bro thought it might make the vid turn out better). Of course, that means having to schedule kids, get the parent’s permission for dates and times, hoping they can do a take right, making them listen to the part of the song you want them to lip sync and hoping they get it… quite the hassle.
Then, I was thinking I wanted to film it outside in front of a decorated house… but that would mean having to ask the person who lived there if I could use the front of their yard, and possibly having to pay them. Plus, I’d have to get someone to film me since I don’t have a camera stand…
At some point, I had to stop and think back to when I was making videos in Atlanta. No help, no budget, nothing but a camera, a silly idea, and time on my hands. Best of all, it was SIMPLE. I didn’t have to consult with anybody about what would be a good idea, I just went by my instincts.
So, that’s what I did this time around: kept it simple. I’d just decorated the apartment with a Christmas tree and some stockings, and had access to a chair that looked like something Santa would sit in. In lieu of an official camera light kit, I used my roommate’s highly-lit 3-pronged lamp (which uses the same bulbs as most camera light kits anyway) and placed it in front of me. Then, I set up a table chair across from where I’d be sitting and used it to prop up my Flip Ultra HD camera.
Yeah, like I said, back to basics, people!
As for the Santa costume… turns out, renting a Santa costume cost about $70 that I didn’t want to spend. However, going to Target and getting a Santa hat ($4), some fake cotton snow to use for a beard ($3.59) and a green shirt with Santa’s face on it that says “Don’t Stop Believin’” ($9) was MUCH more cost-effective (yet still more than I spend on most of my videos).
I put the costume on, sat in the chair, and filmed the video. I did a few shots by myself (one with sunglasses on) and a few with Non Juan in my lap as the kid. Then, I moved the placement of the Christmas tree, stood in front of the wall next to it, and did some more shots of me performing the song and/or dancing to it. Really, really simple shoot, about 5 or 6 takes in all.
Some Interesting Video Shoot Tidbits:
1. To keep the fake snow beard on, I used scotch tape and tucked the top part of the beard into the hat. Midway through the shots of me standing up and performing, the left side of my beard fell out of the hat, so I had to stop, re-tape and re-tuck, then go back to filming.
2. I have 2 Non Juan puppets; the one I used for this shoot has a hole in his back where my hand can go. However, I didn’t want that hole showing when I was spanking him; I had to hold him at an awkward angle so as not to show it.
3. The various footage of Santa Claus flying in his sleigh was found at www.iSpotSanta.com, a hilariously great website where people post up “footage” of Santa flying over different places.
4. The moving effects for the video at the part where the beat breaks down was found by accident. I wanted to use the earthquake effect to make things shake (thus making that part of the song and the beat seem powerful), but it wasn’t quite giving off the full effect I wanted. I saw something in the editing bay that said “Quick Flash/Spin,” and when I tried it, I instantly KNEW it had to be used!
5. The “Mom” used in this video is my roommate, Danielle. Ironically, the “infant” crying near the end of the video is her son (and my Godson). He was making a fuss about something one day; with this song in mind, I ran to my room, grabbed my camera, and was able to film him just as his crying spell was ending. (Oh, and then I comforted him. Yeah, had to add that in so I wouldn’t look like I cared more about filming than soothing a crying child )
6. Editing time for this video was… I can’t even count. It was longer than I thought it would take, especially given that I only used 5 or 6 takes. A lot of video editing is figuring out where to place things, how certain parts of the video should look, and it’s making these decisions that takes the longest. Actual editing was probably about 5 or 6 hours, but it felt a LOT longer.
And that’s it! Be sure to download the song, share the video with your friends, request it at radio… you know the dilly!
-A.P.T. (Prince of Parody)