Day One hundred and forty-eight: "Party in the CIA" from Apocalypse
When Al started releasing parodies in the 1980s and 1990s the pop stars he was parodying were more or less his contemporaries age-wise. Then, like a less creepy version of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed & Confused, Al kept getting older but the girls he parodied stayed the same age.
Alpocalypse, for example, found the fifty-something year old rock and roll legend spoofing the fizzy pop concoctions of a pair of teenaged girls in Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, who was just sixteen years old when she scored a massive, Dr. Luke-produced and co-written smash with “Party in the CIA.”
“Party in the USA” is pure sonic sugar, a girlish celebration of being young and American and innocent and alive. Al transformed it from a song about nothing into a song about some of the darkest subject matter imaginable.
“Party in the CIA” boasts an eviscerating darkness and body count Al usually reserves for songs about Christmas and/or romantic relationships. “Party In the CIA” is the story of a young CIA agent with a head full of innocent dreams of assassinating foreign leaders, undermining legitimate governments, and performing what Patrick Bateman would lovingly refer to as Murders and Executions.
In other words, “Party in the CIA” is political in a way Al’s music generally is not. As I’ve chronicled here, there’s a lot of satire and social commentary in Al’s music about consumerism, consumption and the way first television and then the internet colonized and corrupted our brains but this might mark the first time in Al’s auspicious career where he wrote about the sinister side of American policy and the many evil, and illegal things the CIA things does in the name of the greater good.
“Party in the CIA” is consequently a hilariously incongruous mash-up of state of the art girly pop and international intrigue. It’s Jason Bourne meets Katy Perry as Al, ever the chameleon, channels the giddy, guileless enthusiasm of Cyrus’ delivery in the original to sing about the United States’ intelligence agencies as a rogue arm of the United States government that ignores niceties like the Geneva Convention and international law when they get in the way of achieving their ominous objectives.
It’s a jam, y’all, and a party, albeit one where the festivities are more likely to involve waterboarding and economically and politically motivated assassinations than beer, pizza and Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
The guileless enthusiasm of “Party in the USA” becomes hilarious when applied not to Jay-Z jams and L.A weather but rather executions, brainwashing and black ops drudgery, when the encouraging cries of “Like Yeah” refer specifically to “tapping the phones”, “shredding the files”, “staging a coup” and finally “brainwashing moles.”
The words “interrogating the scum of the earth/we'll break 'em by the break of day” have seldom, if ever, been delivered in such a fun, sprightly, upbeat fashion. Al’s pathologically chipper CIA spook may execute South American dictators and even some heads of state that aren’t on his list (whoops!) but he does so with a smile, a spring in his step and en excess of boyish enthusiasm.
Al takes an infectious delight here in the snazzy terminology of the spy game. I’m guessing this is the only pop song in history ever to feature the phrases “cyanide pills” and “classified dossier” in its chorus. I similarly imagine that this is the first, last and only fun little ditty to rhyme “quickie confession” with “waterboarding session.”
“Party in the CIA” subverts the bubbly pink ebullience of Cyrus’ original by taking it in a bracingly dark direction lyrically while simultaneously underlining the song’s enduring strengths as a perfect piece of bubblegum pop for ages.
Al’s parodies are almost never as dark, violent, satirical or political as this, nor as darkly funny or maddeningly infectious.
Support The Weird Accordion to Al and independent media by pledging over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace