YMCA (song)

"Y.M.C.A." is a 1978 song by the Village People which became a hit in January, 1979.

On the surface, its lyrics extol the virtues of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) which operates like a hostel in larger cities. In the gay culture from which the group sprang, the song was understood as celebrating the YMCA's reputation as a popular cruising and hookup spot, particularly for the younger gay men to whom it was addressed (ironically, at the time that the song was a hit, the gay community both increased its visibility and no longer felt the need to use organizations such as the YMCA as a cover for its sexual activities, and the YMCA moved toward being a more family-oriented and less exclusively male organization).

The song has continued to remain popular despite (or later, because of) its status as a disco classic and gay anthem, even among listeners who are otherwise uninvolved in disco or gay culture. A popular dance in which the arms are used to spell out the four letters of the song's title may have much to do with this. It is frequently played during breaks in the action at sporting events, with crowds using the dance as an opportunity to stretch, similar to the later "Macarena".

YMCA is number 7 on VH1's list of The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century.

The song, played in the key of G-flat major, begins with a brass riff, backed by the constant pulse that typified disco. Many different instruments are used throughout for an overall orchestral feel, another disco convention, but it is brass that stands out.

"YMCA"'s other distinctive element is its vocal line, with its repeated "Young man!" ecphonesis, sung by all band members, while lead singer Victor Willis handles the rest of the line alone. The last line of every verse, however, is sung by the group, leading into five sudden bursts of sound followed by the "It's fun to stay at the YMCA" chorus.

Producer Henri Belolo recalls that he saw the YMCA sign while walking down the street with composer Jacques Morali, who seemed to know the institution fairly well: "Henri, let me tell you something. This is a place where a lot of people go when they are in town. And they get good friends and they go out." And Henri got the idea: "Why don't we write a song about it?"

The song became a number one hit in many places (notably not in the United States where it lost to Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"). It has remained popular at parties, events, and functions ever since.

In 1999, the band rereleased the single. In 2004, American Idol reject William Hung released a cover version of this song on his first album.

Many straight listeners were unaware of its camp undertones and thought it was simply a musical celebration of the organization. However, on closer examination, once one is aware of the role of the YMCA in gay history, possible double meanings become clear.

They have everything a young man could enjoy,
You can hang out with all the boys ...
You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal,
You can do ... whatever you feel!

It references the angst felt by many young gay men:

Young man, I was once in your shoes.
I was down and out with the blues.
I felt no man cared if I were alive.
I felt the whole world was so tight

The song even seems to suggest at one point that picking up men at the Y is preferable to masturbation:

No man ... does it all by himself,
Young man ... put your pride on the shelf!
And just go there, to the YMCA
I'm sure they can help you today

Garry Trudeau made mention of (and fun of) this song's gay context in a Doonesbury strip.

"YMCA" is also the name of a group dance with cheerleader Y-M-C-A choreography invented to fit the song. One of the phases involves moving arms to form the letters Y-M-C-A as they are sung in the chorus:

Y - Arms outstretched and raised
M - Left hand on left shoulder, right hand on right shoulder
C - Arms extended to the right
A - Hands held together above head

Dick Clark takes credit for his show American Bandstand being where the YMCA dance was originated. During the January 3, 1979 episode which featured the Village People as the guests throughout the hour, the dance is seen being done by audience members during the performance of YMCA and lead singer Victor Willis is seen practicing the dance himself at the beginning of the standard interview sequence.

At Yankee Stadium, after the fifth inning, the grounds crew traditionally takes a break from grooming the infield to lead the crowd in the dance.

YMCA has been parodically rewritten many times, substituting different words (either acronyms or not) for the title and changing the connotations. Some examples include:

* OJLA by The Village Ito, about the O.J. Simpson criminal murder trial in 1995 where the singers/dancers were all dressed up as Judge Lance Ito.

* YODA by Steven Cavanagh, about the Star Wars character Yoda.

* LMAA by Günter Willumeit (in German), about the everyday life of a married couple. ("LMAA" is the acronym for "Leck mich am Arsch", the German equivalent of "Kiss My Ass"; the song is about a somewhat henpecked husband who maintains his sanity (and his marriage) by smiling sweetly and saying "Of course, you're right, my darling" ("Du hast ja recht, mein Liebling") every time his wife nags him, while silently blowing off steam by thinking the sentiment expressed by the title.)

* YHWH by the parody group Apologetix retells the biblical story of Moses encountering the burning bush.

* In 1997, Pepsi launched a Super Bowl ad where five bears danced an alternate version with "P-E-P-S-I" instead of the usual "Y-M-C-A".

* The Italian parody rock band Gem Boy have produced a version named "F-I-G-A" (Italian for "C-U-N-T").

* On British charity appeal Children in Need (which is essentially a televised variety show) the team of Changing Rooms, a British interior design show performed "YMDF", MDF being a building material used on the show.

* Several artists, including the Capitol Steps, spoofed the dire predictions of the effects of the year 2000 bug with songs titled "Y-2-K".

* In Britain, a woman infamously sang "YMCA" on Pop Idol, but got rejected. She was later rehired by Pizza Hut to market their Quad Pizza.

* There's a toy of Sesame Street character Elmo that dances and sings "E-L-M-O". In season 36 of the show, Oscar sang the parody "Worm Workout Song", while Slimey and his worm friends stretch and wiggle.

* The webcomic User Friendly spoofed the song when Dust Puppy and Erwin sang an altered version which included the lyrics "It's fun to violate the DMCA."

* In 2002, Diet Dr Pepper spoofed this in a commercial about the Retirement Village People written by They Might Be Giants.

* Starting in 2005 and continuing in 2006, Deutsche Telekom advertised their directory assistance by "Wenn du nicht weiterweißt: 11-8-3-3" (in German, "11" is a one syllable word: "Elf-Acht-Drei-Drei".)

* In the Wayans Bros television show, Shawn and Marlon had to perform the song as an embarrassment for hanging out with Ted. In doing so they were forced to dress up in flamboyant attire.

* A commercial for Post Alpha-Bits had the characters singing a version of the song with "YMAB" as the lyrics.

* A night comedy sketch on Portuguese cable channel SIC Radical in Cabaret da Coxa, where a group "Rapazes da Aldeia" (Portuguese for "Village Boys") are the actual influence for Village People.

* On July 2, 2004, Colin Powell, then the U.S. Secretary of State, performed a modified version of "YMCA" for his fellow foreign government officials at the ASEAN security meeting in Jakarta. His lyrics includes the lines:

President Bush, he said to me: 'Colin, I need you to run the Department of State. We are between a rock and a hard place.'

The BBC's Tim Willcox was quoted as saying of the performance, "In any league table of politician's most embarrassing moments, it must rank pretty high."

* Fans in the Yankee Stadium bleachers have a crude version of the song that includes the lyrics "Why are you gay? I saw you sucking that D-I-C-K. They have all different size, for your mouth to enjoy, you can hang out with all the boys." directed at other teams' fans.

* In 2006: SAPU, a radio jingle by a Mongolian company of that name.

* Razor Ramon HG ('Hard Gay'), a Japanese comedy star, recorded a track 'Young Man' using the song in Japanese.

* The Histeria! episode "Presidential People" featured a song by the Kid Chorus titled "You'll Be President of the United States", sung to the tune of YMCA.

* Some colleges with four-letter abbreviations (ex. UCLA) replace "Y-M-C-A" with the abbreviation.

* In a 1981 University of New South Wales law students' revue called The Legal Has Landed, the song It's Fun to be in the USSR was sung to the tune of YMCA with appropriate arm movements.

* George Lam recorded a Cantonese remix, still entitled "YMCA". It seems that it was released on 2001 Music is Live - George Lam & Eason Chan Karaoke.

* The 1980 film Can't Stop the Music, a musical pseudohistory of the Village People, features an elaborate production number to the song in the style of famous choreographer Busby Berkeley, with generous helpings of homoeroticism. Well-muscled young men box in slow motion and do synchronized dives into swimming pools.

* Late in the film Longtime Companion, at an AIDS benefit, a musical ensemble from Ithaca, New York calling itself the Finger Lakes Trio plays a version of the song arranged for strings.

* In the climax of the comedy film One Night at McCool's, as a sheriff, a regular looking man, and a man dressed in S&M gear all come to a woman's house to call on her. another man arrives with a shotgun seeking revenge for his brother's death. The woman is not home (though she IS just outside it) and all the other men are being questioned by the shotgun wielder. After much frustration, taking note on their variety of dress, the man shouts "I'm gonna kill all you damn Village People!" Not long after, a shootout begins, with YMCA playing as background music.

* In the episode "Take My Wife, Please" of Married With Children, members of the Bundy family repeatedly perform the song YMCA while impersonating the Village People at a party. Eventually when the real Village People arrive at the party they start performing the song which infuriates the crowd.

* This song is also played in the movie Wayne's World 2. Wayne and his buddies, after an unsuccessful attempt to spy on a conversation between Wayne's girlfriend and her manager leads to a chase sequence, accidentally make their way onto the stage of a gay bar. They are wearing outfits and costumes much like those of the Village People; the DJ puts the song on, and the group is forced into performing the dance routine.

* It is played in US comedy Friends season 2 "The one with the bullies", while Monica was dancing.

* It is also played in Red Corner.

* In Episode 2 of My Hero series 4, Mrs. Raven becomes a hypnotherapist, and at George's "funeral", she has hypnotised a small group of people to do one round of the YMCA chorus, complete with actions whenever they hear the number 4.

* The song was featured on the U.S. home version of Dance Dance Revolution Extreme.
* In Fable: The Lost Chapters, the four expressions to communicate with the Oracle are stone tablets with runes that much resemble the letters Y, M, C, and A on them. When using one, the Hero makes the letter's shape with his arms.
* A cover version of the song is featured in the Nintendo DS game Elite Beat Agents. In the stage, the player must help an unsuccessful underwater treasure hunter find treasure after his crew abandons him. The multi-player mode uses this same song again when two rival groups of kids face off in a game of Basketball.
* In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City there is a club the player can enter where there are characters dressed as a biker, a construction worker and a police officer on stage dancing to a similar sounding disco tune.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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