Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations"

Webster's Revised New Post-International Dictionary defines a bad introduction as one that "begins with a direct quote from this book." It also defines a vibration as an "oscillation," a "tremor," "a supernatural emanation," and "a general emotional feeling one has from another person or place." Negative vibrations include such devastating naturally occurring phenomena as unintended amplifier feedback, earthquakes, landmine explosions in war-torn countries, and a yellow sports car with unnecessary modifications filled with drunk fraternity boys throwing empty cans of Budweiser & Clamato Chelada at you. Fortunately, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch--in one of 1991's defining musical moments--decided to focus on the positive ones in their definitive New-Jack-Ranch-House-Porch-Swing mega-hit "Good Vibrations."

Though it remains unclear exactly who The Funky Bunch are (their identities have been lost to the ravages of time), there's no doubt who "Marky" Mark Wahlberg is. Brother of the (then) more famous Donnie Wahlberg, of the influential group New Kids on the Block, Mark would go on to make a name for himself as an actor in films such as Boogie Nights, Shooter, and The Departed. But as one revisits "Good Vibrations," the listener is left to wonder if he made the wrong career choice. The song transcends all of its popular counterparts of the era, including Snap's "I've Got the Power," C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat," and Paula Adbul's "Straight Up"--as well as its association with NKOTB, without whom its success might not have ever happened--with this soulful combination of rap, house music, and its lyrical celebration of "good vibrations." Marky Mark's rap praises the good vibrations of house and hip-hop, not "selling out," American multiculturalism, Sunkist orange soda, positivity, and sobriety. Also, when he grunts, "Can you feel it baby?" at the beginning of the track, I've got a hunch--call me crazy--this specific "good vibration" he's talking about is sexual intercourse.

Without a doubt, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations" is the definitive celebration of these positive "supernatural emanations" and the "general emotional feeling[s] one has from another person or place." Its glorious pluralism, fusing Swing (he does shout "Come on swing it" multiple times in the song), the positivity hip-hop of groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, House club music, and Soul (with its cunning sample of Loleeta Holloway's "Sweet Sensation") is a thing to behold! Marky Mark's "good vibrations" transcend nepotism and the co-optation of African American and gay male musical expression in a timeless fashion, leaving us all well-vibrated. We can feel it, Marky Mark!

Here's the sexy video even Alfred Hitchcock (or Brian DePalma) would be proud of:


  1. First, I'm up for any song that calls for the DJ to "break it down." This video, for sure, pays homage to the opening of Psycho. the seduction scene in The Graduate, any Rocky montage of going back to the roots, and finally, Marky Mark going all Hemingway on a mirror's ass (indeed there is a photo of Papa boxing himself in the mirror). But here, the mirror is fragmented. (Calling Lacan). But I digress. Another phenom analysis, Dr. Flota. Alas, anytime I refer to Marky Mark in class--I get blank stares. But you can be assured that every Men's Health cover photo, with men almost showing it all, owes the look to one infamous Marky Mark Calvin Klein ad. To be clear--yum.

  2. Could LL Cool J knock out Marky Mark? Would LL's mother tell him to attempt such a thing?