Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Rich Man" vs. "Rich Girl"

Perhaps I just like a good beat, but Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl" is catchy. But I hate, HATE, the song. As remakes and remixes go, this one must rank pretty high on the list of covers that miss the point of the original.

"If I Were a Rich Man" is perhaps the best-known song from Fiddler on the Roof. It is a poor man's dream of wealth, full of desires of leisure, with a little silly extravagance thrown in (particularly the staircase to nowhere). He imagines how money could help him become a respected and educated member of the community.

"Rich Girl" takes the tune and half a refrain, and remakes the rest of the song into a glorification of greed and consumerism (with a few torch song elements thrown in for good measure). Instead of more simple pleasures, Stefani sings the praises of high fashion and shopping. It's not a poor man's thoughts of money, but a rich person's thoughts of more money. Stefani isn't concerned with respect or culture or even leisure, but merely the accumulation of more stuff.

She even botches the grammer where the original got it right. "If I WERE a rich man" is correct. "If I WAS a rich girl" is not.

Sure, the secondary chorus is about how love is greater than wealth, but that doesn't have anything to do with the original song either. If Gwen wanted to sing a song about avarice and affection, there was no need to sully a classic to do so.


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