A Dutch Disaster
Crowdsourced song goes horribly wrong
By Sally McGrane
May 1, 2013
ONE DUTCH COMMENTATOR called it "shocking."
The writer Nico Dijkshoorn tweeted that he was all for stoning everyone involved in "this hideous mess."
A Dutch comedian compared the situation to North Korea.
"An attack on the Netherlands," asserted a concerned citizen.
When the National Festival Committee for the Succession of the Throne was making plans for this year's blowout Queen’s Day celebration, at which Queen Beatrix would officially turn the Dutch monarchy over to her son Willem-Alexander, they wanted to do something special to welcome the new king. The Committee, composed of the Netherlands' best and brightest, decided it would be nice if, among other activities, the Dutch people were to sing their new king a song.
But what should be in the song? To find out, they crowdsourced, putting out a call to the Dutch to share their dreams for the new king. Some thirty-three hundred people responded. Their dreams were compiled, distilled, and handed over to a team. Headed by the hit songwriter John Ewbank, the lyricists' job was to create a song that captured the essence of the Dutch people's good wishes using the following keywords: water, wind, rain, lions, and stew.
"It was a difficult task," the Committee admitted. The five-minute song, made up of lines sung by some fifty-one Dutch musicians, sent in and put together in a studio, was released on April 19th. It caused an immediate furor.
"This surpasses my most fearful visions!" tweeted Sylvia Witteman, a columnist for the well-respected Volkskrant newspaper. "It really makes you want to puke."
"The King's Song" begins with the wail of a bandoneón -- a nod to the new Queen Maxima's Argentine homeland, as well as the moment in her wedding when the same instrument brought tears to her eyes. However, things quickly turn, in the words of one editor, "sort of cheesy." The critic Robert van Gijssel describes what follows as having "all the allure of one of the less successful finales from a Disney movie."
Twice, the song veers into something kind of like rap ("probably for street credibility," said the same editor), which urges citizens to hold up three fingers in a "'W,' for Willem." ("I'm putting three fingers in my ears, to block out the noise," wrote one naysayer, online.)
The lyrics were also less than a resounding success. While anyone who has visited the Netherlands, particularly without an umbrella, will appreciate the significance of the offer being made in the lines "Through the rain and the wind/I will stand beside you," other sentiments, like "'W' for Willem/'W' for wake up/'W' for eating stew," apparently make as little sense in Dutch as they do in translation. The lyrics also contained so many grammatical errors that the minister of education suggested the song might be good in schools, where children could use it to test their linguistic skills -- a suggestion met with approval by members of the Dutch parliament.
Alternatives immediately appeared on YouTube: two students filmed themselves as they crooned to Willem-Alexander (formerly known as "Prince Pils"), "You are the boss of the gang."
"In one day, two students can write a better song than the official one," wrote a reader, in the comments section of a newspaper article about it. The columnist, Sylvia Witteman, started one of several online petitions to protest "this feeble-minded King's song." Within days, more than forty thousand people had joined her in saying "NO to stew dinner with three fingers in the air."
"It was definitely a national issue," said Alex Burghoorn, who is head of the national reporting desk at the Volkskrant. "It was on all the talk shows and in all the newspapers." On April 20th, Ewbank announced he was withdrawing the song.
Nonetheless, the National Festival Committee for the Succession of the Throne decided to go ahead with it. At 7:30 P.M. last night, at a stadium in Rotterdam, thousands of Dutch sang along with all fifty-one musicians onstage while Willem and his family looked on from Amsterdam as planned. In the evening sunshine, Maxima in particular seemed to get into it, smiling at one point as the song picked up speed.
For a moment, I even thought I saw the Queen do an infinitesimal bop, in her magenta ball gown.
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/c ... =obnetwork
Here's the song:
NOTE: the Dutch word for "stew" is stoverij.