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Ranking the Music of The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience dropped on Netflix and Spotify overnight, a surprise “visual poem” from the legendary comedy rap trio. Ostensibly their first full album since the Popstar soundtrack in 2016, The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is a love letter to baseball’s iconic home run duo (and eventually, steroid era pariahs) Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. And it’s fucking fantastic, arguably the group’s best collection of songs since 2010’s Turtleneck & Chain – which, combined with the special’s ridiculously deep bench of visual influences, delivers one of the finest pieces of comedy in 2019. Here’s a ranking of every song in the episode:

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

11. “Oakland Nights” (feat. Sia)

If there’s one part of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience that feels like a cut Saturday Night Live sketch, it’s “Oakland Nights,” a 2012-era rap/pop collaboration featuring Sterling K. Brown in a Sia wig. Also starring Hannah Simone and Jenny Slate as two uninterested women the Brothers are trying to seduce, “Oakland Nights” definitely nails the tone of late 80’s era hyper masculinity – but it is more amusing than hilarious, a handful of slight jokes and mixed musical influences.

Best line: “squats in the living room/can I get a witness/’cause the best aphrodisiac/is physical fitness”

The Lonely Island Presents

10. “Focused AF”

“Focused AF” is not particularly funny, blending Bad Boy-era close-ups and neon backgrounds with the blandest beat of the album (and a necessary “Dick in My Hand” reference); but it’s worth it all for the final twist, when the big boy posturing and attitudes are peeled away for a brief moment, and both Bash Brothers express their ultimate motivation; trying to earn the love of their fathers. It’s a small moment of self-realization, but elevates an otherwise forgettable series of punch lines (though the shot of Jose running through a room of Kathy Ireland cutouts in a muscle suit is worth the price of entry alone).

Best line: “I’m Mark McGwire-y/buff, not wiry/Alex P. Keaton/is who I admire-y”

The Lonely Island Presents

9. “IHOP”

I fucking love how much of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience feels influenced by the early era of Def Jam; the influences of Rick Rubin and the Dust Brothers run heavy through the album, and breathe life into the shortest, slightest song of the collection. The album version of the song has a lot more to it, a touch of Late Registration Kanye West offering some awesome audio texture to the track.

“The House of Pancakes are my favorite place/I love the booth seating, and I love-a the taste/andros are part of a nutritious breakfast/neck so big it broke my necklace”

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

8. “I’m Joe Montana”

Given how The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience feels like the evolution of the Lonely Island’s early “I Love Sports” sketch, it’s only natural for the special to close on a laughably ridiculous, overwrought song about Joe Montana, Jorma Taccone’s one shining moment of the special. Capturing the low budget feel of their early work is a great way to close the half hour, but that understates the joy of “I’m Joe Montana”; Jorma’s ridiculous personification of rappin’ Joe is side busting material, especially when the bit leans into its own absurdity.

(note: this song isn’t on the album; in its place is “Feed the Beast,” which is a double disappointment: “Feed the Beast” is a fucking jam with some serious sonic texture, and “Joe Montana” deserves its place as a skit on the album)

Best line: “The 49ers/is my team of choice/I love chucking the pigskin/to Gerald Rice”

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

7. “Jose & Mark”

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience opens on the morning sun peeking over the crest of the Oakland Coliseum, appropriately setting the tone for its ode to the gladiators of the diamond, before kicking in with an early-era DJ Khaled song contrasting the personalities of Jose and Mark. An underrated part of their star dynamic was just how different they were; Jose was the flashy man driving Laborghinis and gracing tabloid covers, while Mark was as down to earth and milquetoast as his baseball pants. “My Name is Jose” leans into the public-facing personas of its stars, undercutting their iconography with the underlying darkness of their steroid abuse.

Best line: “freaks hit up my Skytel/I’ll come mess up your Maybelline/my beeper beepin’ more than my/dialysis machine”

The Lonely Island Presents

6. “IHOP Parking Lot” (feat. HAIM & Maya Rudolph)

With its celebrity cameos (HAIM, Stephanie Beatriz, and Maya Rudolph) and a sound completely dissonant with the rest of the album, it would be easy for “IHOP Parking Lot” to earn the same ‘cut SNL sketch’ feeling “Oakland Nights” radiates. But the strange funk sound and equally ludicrous costuming of its stars help illuminate a playful song that quietly reflects the rise and fall of the Bash Brothers; as the pressure to perform (ahem, to “shake that nasty butt”) intensifies, the Bash Brothers are slowly pulled away from each other, drowned in a sea of intimidation, forced to dance the steroid-enhanced dance until the general public consumes their friendship, identity – and eventually, rejects them.

Or maybe this is just a really dumb song with some really fun cameos; regardless of the metatextual awareness of the song, “IHOP Parking Lot” is an effective palette cleanser, neatly demarcating the glory era of the Bash Brothers past, and the struggles lying ahead of them.

Best line: “It’s not phrased weird at all/shake four halves of butt”

The Lonely Island Presents

5. “Daddy”

It’s no surprise The Lonely Island would try their hands at trap at some point during the special; the results are fun, if a bit uninspired. A bit of Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony and Post Malone does help spice up the affair, touches of harmony illuminating the Bash Brothers’ musical therapy session. Visually, this might be the weakest entry in the special – but the lyrical play is on point, breathing life into an inherently mellow track, that works best in contrast to the rest of the album’s anabolic-enhanced energy.

Best line: “Buy all my steroids in bulk (Costco)/wanna be big as the Hulk (Hogan)/stronger than Wolverine teeth (Logan)/answer to Where’s the Beef (slogan)”

The Lonely Island Presents

4. “Focus on the Game”

An album about the era of the Bash Brothers is incomplete without the story of their back-to-back World Series trips; smartly, “Focus on the Game” prominently features the World Series the A’s lost in heartbreaking fashion in 1988, rather than their win the next year. 1988 was the year of the famous Kirk Gibson home run, a man with an injured leg breaking the hearts of A’s fans with one of the sport’s most legendary comeback moments.

In “Focus on the Game,” the story is not about the team’s ultimate failure – it’s about the moment before their fall from grace, two men at the apex of their athletic powers, distracted by complicated relationships with their parents, and a depression no standing ovation can abide. Short, devastating, and paranoid, “Focus on the Game” considers the costs, both physical and emotional, that took JC and Big Mac to the top of the world. It also hints at the future strife and backstabbing that would mark their post-career relationship, a dark omen of the road lying ahead of Oakland’s baseball heroes.

Best line: “just a scared little boy/in the body of a giant/a freakshow of science/but then my friend says/you’re the man JC”

The Lonely Island Presents

3. “Let’s Bash”

“Let’s Bash” is the perfect coda to The Unauthorized Bash Brother Experience, an ode deifying the most memorable, imitated, iconic teammate celebration in baseball; the Monster Bash. Every iconic duo needs an anthem, and “Let’s Bash” masterfully fulfills its purpose – and finishes with a fucking monster of a verse from Andy, integrating the name of every major league team into an impressive stream of consciousness (there’s also a great Walt Weiss burn in the song, courtesy of a Jorma Taccone cameo).

Best line: “I’m more hopped up/than a Brewer that’s hyper/sit Indian-style/when I’m Yankee on my Tiger”

The Lonely Island Presents

2. “Uniform On”

Like a mix between Dust Brothers-era Beastie Boys and an A$AP Rocky video, “Uniform On” is an early highlight of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, an ode to the superficiality of stardom, set against arguably the hardest beat of the album. Equally boisterous and ferocious, “Uniform On” is classic late 80’s era New York rap, in all its brash, braggadocious glory.

Best line: “not a hamburger/but they call me Big Mac/got the one-ton jimmy/and the itty-bitty sac”

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

1. “Bikini Babe Workout” 

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers experience, as a whole, is the Lonely Island version of The Tree of Life, a tale of Americana full of existential dread in its lyrics, observations that come to life with the reflective, surreal imagery stitching the special’s songs together. It may not be the best song in the show, but “Bikini Babe Workout” might be the most representative of its themes, musing on the fleeting nature of fame and athletic talent (the album version also confronts sexual harassment at the gym, for an added touch). Come for the hilarious conceit, stay for the transcendental turn, Enya influences, and the best visual moment of the entire special.

Best line: “with a good bikini grip/you never risk a blister/sweatpant slide/that’s a hazard to the lifter”

 

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1 comment

Ricky D Fernandes May 23, 2019 at 4:36 pm

“Jose & Mark” is my favourite!

Reply

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