Song of the Day #4,284: ‘Miami’ – Randy Newman

If national treasure Randy Newman releases an album, you can bet it’s going to make my list of that year’s best work. And indeed, Newman’s Trouble in Paradise is my #6 album of 1983.

Best known for the minor hit ‘I Love L.A.,’ Trouble in Paradise is a satirical exploration of hedonism and excess, with songs such as ‘My Life Is Good’ and ‘There’s a Party at My House’ showcasing some of the most despicable characters Newman has ever voiced. Of course, they’re also hilarious.

I can’t imagine how Newman’s albums would be received in today’s “cancel culture” era, where even statements made in the context of art can be twisted into daggers aimed at the artist. Hell, the other day Timothee Chalamet was ripped apart on Twitter for saying the word “dyke” — while reading the dialogue of a play!

Would the racist, narcissistic, deplorable characters in Randy Newman’s songs be given a pass because they are satirical creations? Or would Newman’s deadpan delivery of his brilliant vitriol land him in hot water?

Fortunately, he’s far enough out of the mainstream, and too infrequent a pop writer outside of the Pixar realm, to draw much attention.

At any rate, the man is a genius. And Trouble in Paradise, while not his best album, is nevertheless ample evidence of his greatness.

There’s a girl over there
With the rhythm everywhere
She’s a very fine girl
And she’s been awfully nice to me

When we walk as we sometimes do
All the way out Collins Avenue
Well it’s very, very fine
Very, very special

Gee, I love Miami
It’s so nice and hot
And every building’s so pretty and white
And I always get into so much trouble
When I’m down there
I know these two old stiffs
Live on the Waterway
That’s where I like to stay
When I’m down

Blue Day
Best dope in the world
And it’s free
Blue day
Put on your shortie shorts
And your Hawaiian shirt
And come down!

There’s a man over there
With the conk in his hair
He’s a very bad man
Don’t look now
He’s really very bad
And his name is Medina
And he comes from Argentina
See that little dog there with him
Well, he treats it just like it was his little boy

Oh, I love Miami
It’s so hot
And the women down here
Are so impure
I love to hang around
The big hotels
And sleep in the sun all day

I know this double jointed guiy
With the circus in St. Pete
He’s with me now
He says hello
From Fourteenth Street

Blue day
Best dope in the world
And it’s free
Blue day
Put on your shortie shorts
And your Hawaiian shirt
And come down!

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,284: ‘Miami’ – Randy Newman

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Years before our Twitter cancel culture, Newman’s satire was not appreciated by a certain percentage of the population. “Short People,” probably Newman’s biggest hit, received considerable backlash in the 70’s. So I’m sure if he were ever to have another satirical song make the charts, the Twittersphere, probably stoked by Russian bots, would have a field day.

    I, on the other hand, remember loving “Short People” as a kid, though I probably didn’t fully appreciate the satire at the time. My next exposure to Newman came with “Trouble in Paradise.” I’ve probably told this story before, perhaps on this blog, but my introduction to the album came when my cousin Mike was driving me from Keystone Point to Vibrations records. He wanted to show off his car and the car stereo, and the song he chose to blast was “I Love LA.” It was the first time I had heard the song and I was blown away, both by the song and Mike’s speakers. I bought the cassette (at Vibrations of course) and I was hooked. I recall being particularly impressed when I heard Paul Simon’s unmistakeable voice on “The Blues.” If someone of the caliber of Simon appeared on Newman’s album, Newman must have been a bigger deal than I thought. Paul was right, and so was I (and so was cousin Mike).

  2. Amy says:

    I somehow never heard that story, Dana. Never knew you had Mike to thank for Randy Newman! 🙂 I have enjoyed starting satire units with my students over the year by playing “Political Science” and seeing how they handle those lyrics (saving Australia just cause we “don’t want to hurt no kangaroo”??) What I love most about Newman is how effortlessly he can shift between that sharp satirist and the sincerity of “When She Loved Me” and “Our Town.”

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