Why this Italian Eurodance song from 1999 is an anthem for the death of progress in the face of human antipathy.
The world was staring down the barrel of a loaded laser gun— the weight of the millennium pressing down upon us. Yet the closer the future came, the more disappointing it began to feel. Napster arrived turning music into a disposable commodity, The Phantom Menace managed to make the far reaches of space seem dull, and with the Millennium Dome came the ultimate symbol of Blair's dead end promises. The most exciting thing about entering a new millennia was the possibility of a computer virus that didn't even end up happening. If we needed an anthem for our times, it was a strange request. Something that reflected the ongoing march of technological breakthroughs in an increasingly cyber-dependent world, yet also one that reflected a mood of antipathy, a vague and inescapable sadness. In short we needed something full of the textures of the future, with the resolutely maudlin message of the now. We needed Eiffel 65.
Consider the song now, in retrospect, and it's easy to see exactly why it gripped us. Us, the generation waiting for the future while the past rotted around us. The thudding kick drum, the open-hearted piano chords, the synthetic pulsing bass— it might have sounded like tacky Euro-dance, but something greater was at play. It was speaking to a common sentiment. We were all blue, da ba dee, da ba die.
Let's start by unpacking the lyrics of "Blue (Da Ba Dee)," beginning with opening verse.
"Yo listen up here's a story,
About a little guy that lives in a blue world,
And all day and all night and everything he sees,
Is just blue like him inside and outside."
It's important, from the offset, to understand the multi-faceted meanings behind the word "blue." It would be a mistake to think that Eiffel 65's lead vocalist Jeffrey Jey is refering solely to the color blue in this instance. While yes, the video does feature actual little blue men (more on that later), it's possible here to read far more into Jey's words. If we take the word blue to mean "sad" or "down," then the opening verse in fact sets out an all-consuming depression incurred by the oppressive suffocation of modern existence. Note that "everything he sees" is blue, as if the world itself, not his soul, is polluted. The world, cold, frigid and icy blue, freezing him inside and outside.
"I have a blue house with a blue window.
Blue is the colour of all that I wear.
Blue are the streets and all the trees are too.
I have a girlfriend and she is so blue."
Notice how far the little blue man is projecting the over-whelming blueness of his existence onto all aspects of his life. His house, his shelter, is now completely blue as is its single window. The nature of the blue window is particularly unsettling for, as we know, windows are a transparent panel onto the outside world, perhaps suggesting that if his window is blue, then so is his outlook itself. Note that the blue man has a girlfriend, yet now, possibly due to his own sensibilities, she too is blue.
Beyond the text, it is also worth considering the official video for Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Be Dee)."
The video begins with the members of Eiffel 65's faces screened on televisions, headed up at the front by Jeffrey Jey as he introduces the titular "little guy." What the televisions themselves mean is, of course, open to interpretation, but it's doesn't seem unreasonable to assume they are in some way representative of just how encased Eiffel 65 feel by the attention of the media. It is also worth noting just how much Jeffrey Jey looks like Eastender's Beppe Di Marco.
Interestingly, despite the clear sociopolitical undertones of the lyrics, the video opts to manifest the blueness of the "little guy" in the form of little blue guys. The role of the little blue aliens remains relatively unclear throughout the videos. At some points they engage with the members of Eiffel 65 in hand to hand combat, yet at other points they stand admiring the band as they perform "Blue (Da Ba Dee)." The video is full of contradictory and confusing imagery much like this. For example:
In this shot Jeffrey Jey is stuck in a massive bubble.
In this shot, another member of Eiffel 65 is shooting (blue) electricity at one of the blue aliens.
Yet here, inexplicably, despite the numerous acts of violence that occur between Eiffel 65 and the blue aliens, as they look down at the planet from above on making their exit, the blue aliens appear to be pleading with them to return, via a massive (blue) sign.
It's worth mentioning at this point, that the blue aliens in the video have an official website. According to an extensive section of literature on the site, which is basically a brief novelization of the video, the narrative in fact follows that one blue alien (called Zorotl apparently)—a respected scientist on his home planet—kidnaps Jeffrey Jey in order to harness the power of his music. However, what Zorotl didn't bank on was the fierce loyalty of the rest of Eiffel 65 who immediately came to his rescue. Of course, the real question provoked by this is who exactly had the time or inclination to write a piece of fan-fiction based on the video for "Blue (Da Ba Dee)?" Who felt so compelled, so urgently inspired by the 3-minute-and=39-second clip that they simply had to pen paragraphs like:
"The 3 humans called Eiffel65 saw this transmission and from their Star Ship, they accepted to listen to the Zorotl message : "Hello human friends, my name is Zorotlekuykauo Sushik IV, but friends call me Zorotl. I am very sorry for what happened to you, but please let me explain the real story " After having explained all the story to Eiffel65, Zorotl said " We are , in general peaceful people, and we are in love with the Science-Art that you call Music. With your help, we would like to learn it, and to show you my good intention, if you allow me, I will go on stage to sing your song "Blue" together with you, as a sign of friendship."
Perhaps we will never know why the actual fuck somebody wrote that, but one thing's for sure. Whoever they are, they resolutely understood that this song was one of multiple dimensions, of universal significance.
Whoever they were, their effort is a testament to the enduring emotional pull of this track. A song that sits somewhere between DJ Otzi's "Hey Baby" and the "Cotton Eye Joe" on a mixtape, yet evokes a thousand years of confusion and anti-climax. A song that with the power to knock "Mambo No.5" off the number one spot. The highest charting Italian song ever in the United States.
Don't let anybody tell you this piece of Eurodance is trashy, tacky, badly made pop. It is a paean to the eternal longing, the feeling of loneliness that somehow unites us all. It's Derek Jarman with a kickdrum. This is our story, we are all little guys, sitting in our blue houses, looking through blue windows. Da ba dee. Da ba die.