In The Ones of the ’10s, I’m reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and working my way up into the present.
LMFAO- “Party Rock Anthem” (feat. Lauren Bennett & Goonrock)
HIT #1: July 16, 2011
STAYED AT #1: 6 weeks
It’s weird to imagine nowadays how a music duo so unabashedly stupid with one of the stupidest names in music consisting of two guys descendants of one of the biggest names in all of music like LMFAO managed to get so very big. But for a brief moment around 2011, LMFAO was it netting two major #1 hits before quickly dropping off. It started with “Party Rock Anthem,” the biggest of the #1 hits becoming 2011’s Song of the Summer and launching a meme dance craze. Of the two #1 hits, “Party Rock Anthem” is far and away the best one.
LMFAO is comprised of two family members Stefan Kendal Gordy (Redfoo) and his nephew Skylar Austen Gordy (Sky Blu). As their last names indicate, they are from the family of Berry Gordy, the legendary founder of Motown Records. Redfoo is Gordy’s youngest son while Sky Blu is Gordy’s grandson. This isn’t even the first time a Gordy family member has made it big on the charts. Gordy’s other son Rockwell managed a big hit in 1984 with the haunting pop classic “Somebody’s Watching Me” with an uncredited Michael Jackson chorus. (“Somebody’s Watching Me” peaked at #2. It’s a 6.)
Redfoo and Sky Blue came together in 2006 performing at various clubs around Los Angeles building up buzz. They called themselves LMFAO (Laugh My Fucking Ass Off) after a response they got from their grandmother after telling her their original name of Sexy Dudes. Redfoo’s friend will.i.am, after hearing some demos, helped get them a record deal with his label Interscope. The group was apparently so good at recording demos that Interscope considered them as “finished records” so LMFAO could get to work right away on their music. Starting in 2008, LMFAO began releasing music with the EP Party Rock EP and debut album Party Rock (notice a theme here). Each project spun singles that at best reached the middle of the Hot 100 but for the most part kept them bubbling under the mainstream even with their songs appearing on popular shows like Jersey Shore.
In 2010, the group started inching their way toward mainstream success thanks to the David Guetta collaboration “Gettin’ Over You” giving them their highest charting American hit peaking at #31. (David Guetta’s highest-charting single, the 2010 Akon collaboration “Sexy Bitch” peaked at #5. It’s a 1.) With the release of their sophomore, and to date last album 2011’s Sorry for Party Rocking, LMFAO were now hitting it big time thanks to their lead-off single that took some time to grow.
“Party Rock Anthem,” featuring singer Lauren Bennett and writer/producer Goonrock, was originally released in January 2011 but wasn’t a smash right away. It peaked at #78 before dropping off the charts the next week. In March, LMFAO released its “Party Rock Anthem” video which parodies the 2002 British horror movie 28 Days Later. The buzz from the video helped the song get back on the Hot 100 by April where it hung around the lower half of the chart before slowly rising to where by July it was the biggest song in America.
Much like LMFAO, both Lauren Bennett and Goonrock hadn’t had much American chart success before “Party Rock Anthem.” Lauren Bennett got her start in the British girl group Paradiso Girls launched as a European version of The Pussycat Dolls. (The Pussycat Dolls’ highest-charting single, 2005’s “Don’t Cha” with Busta Rhymes, peaked at #2. It’s a 4.) The group was signed to Interscope which explains the LMFAO connections and soon enough Bennett broke from the group doing solo work with will.i.am and Cee Lo Green.
Coming up from New Jersey, Goonrock got his start selling beats to hip-hop artists like Dr. Dre as well as producing songs for artists such as Ne-Yo and Kanye West. He also worked on West’s and Jay-Z’s 2011 collaboration album Watch The Throne. Goonrock also worked with LMFAO on a lot of their music and he and Redfoo are childhood friends.
It was Goonrock who had the initial idea for “Party Rock Anthem” originally wanting to give it to Flo Rida before deciding to let LMFAO record it to which he recalls, “By the time we realized that it was gonna be for us we really did sit and say, ‘let’s change the world.’ Now ‘change the world’ is probably too big for what this song is, it’s really just a feel good song that everybody can get into. That energy is what we went into it with and it really carried through throughout the song. Every part was paid attention to. We wanted to take the listener on a ride. We wanted to do something great.”
Redfoo said he was inspired for “Party Rock Anthem” by the Melbourne shuffle dance which originated from Melbourne, Australia, “Before we just kind of partied and had some personal moves but now there’s dances that are out there that people are doing and shuffling is one that really caught my eye and it felt so good when I was doing it, so we just kind of made that song about shuffling.” Initially, the chorus was written as “I feel it in my soul tonight, everybody’s gonna have a good time” before Redfoo rewrote it as “Party rock is in the house tonight, everybody just have a good time” lending the song more of an anthemic feel. Redfoo also emphasized the just in the lyric giving a command to the listener to party.
It’s hard not to escape the impact of “Party Rock Anthem” as it has become a modern party classic still getting played at every party event imaginable. At the time, aside from hitting #1, the song spawned the “everyday I’m shuffling” meme that I visibly remember hearing at summer camp that year as the song was playing on the radio. No wonder why it dominated the summer and finished as Billboard’s second-biggest single of 2011 behind Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.”
While it’s nothing mind-blowing or groundbreaking, it’s still a fun time to listen to. The verses are just a bunch of mindless flexing while the chorus is LMFAO encouraging people to party and have a good time. But for a mindless party song, LMFAO manages to deliver it well. Both members take their stupid mindlessness and actually make it work. Lauren Bennett isn’t given much here singing “Get up/Get down/Put your hands up to the sound” throughout. She’s pretty much there to fill space.
By late 2011, the electropop dance music that had taken hold of pop music for the last couple of years had begun to morph into EDM and dubstep, music that emphasized a new kind of beat and structure. “Party Rock Anthem” works at bridging both eras. Its glitchy synth melody and fun time chorus fit perfectly with the electropop that acts like Kesha and the Black Eyed Peas had been getting big off of but its extended post-chorus drop with all its pitch-shifting pretty much anticipates the EDM and dubstep that would soon take hold in the mainstream. And really, that post-chorus breakdown is just as much of a hook than the actual hook is like what a lot of EDM is.
Lauren Bennett and Goonrock wouldn’t hit this big again. Bennett would land only one more Top 40 hit with 2014’s “Wild Wild Love,” a Pitbull collaboration she did with her new girl group G.R.L. peaking at #30. Bennett still performs with G.R.L. and puts out music on her own but hasn’t landed a major hit since. Goonrock wouldn’t get anywhere near the Hot 100 after “Party Rock Anthem” producing songs for artists like Jennifer Lopez as well as the Fergie/Q-Tip “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” for the 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. As a producer, he’ll be back in this column though not as a credited artist.
LMFAO meanwhile will be back in this column eventually. By that point, I’ll be touching on a real piece of shit song.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s “Party Rock Anthem” soundtracking a party scene in 2012’s 21 Jump Street:
BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s the bit from a 2012 Parks & Recreation episode where Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones do a little dance to “Party Rock Anthem:”