Los Angeles singer/songwriter and celebrated film composer Randy Newman has always been one to appreciate irony — in fact, it’s the lifeblood of his art. The strange, mind-boggling anomalies of the sociological and political life of our fair country have always been his primary interest as a songwriter. By 1974, he had led an album with a song from the perspective of an “n”-word-slinging Louisiana bigot and alienated the dwarf community with his Top 10 hit “Short People.” In 1983, he scored another modest — and less directly incendiary hit — with “I Love L.A.,” a tribute to his fair city — but penned from the vantage of a narcissistic, Reagan-era, hyper-wealthy jetsetter.
To Newman, this was Lala Land’s quintessential citizen: the leisure-suit-wearing, finance-rich oaf with a gram or two of straight-off-the-boat coke in his breast pocket, in the back seat of a hiring car pointing out to his mistress out the window:
“Look at those mountains
Look at those trees
Look at that bum over there, man
He’s down on his knees”
His original video opens on a homeless man struggling to stay warm, in fact.
It’s hard to explain — in fact, I can’t explain it at all — but in 1985, the Kardashian family matriarch Kris Jenner and her extended family collaboratively rewrote the lyrics to Newman’s song and filmed a somewhat elaborate music video of their version. This was in celebration of Jenner’s 30th birthday. The title? “I Love My Friends.”
After Kris celebrates all the places in L.A. (and the world) she likes to visit — and her favorite rich person activities — the video launches into a montage of Kris and her famous pals, all the way from Michael Jackson to… a creepy-as-fuck O.J. Simpson. “Look at that bum over there, he’s down on his knees” became “Look at how [my friends] go to such chic places.”
The first video cropped on the internet around 2011, and caused a minor stir. This weekend, it reared its head again in a huge way, when her daughters Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney — who appear singing snippets and wrote the libretto for the first clip — debuted a totally new version of the song (with a new video) at Jenner’s Great Gatsby-themed birthday bash this weekend. Oh yeah, Kylie’s there this time, too.
Instead of picking a newer pop song — or just different song — the Kardashian clan just rewrote Newman’s song again. This time: with even more expensive taste, more celebrity friends, and weirder lyrics. You can see both the original and the new videos in the Kim-posted clip below.
Kris isn’t in this new one — it’s just the Kardashian sisters singing in flat-toned unison, sending up the treadmill shots and convertible-cruising scenes from their ‘85 version. Here, rhymes and natural word emphases are even more explicitly out the window.
The sisters intone, almost solemnly:
“She likes cocktails
Pretty soon Scott Disick, Justin Bieber, Kanye, and North West, a handful of fashion designers, and at the end, Caitlyn Jenner drinking champagne in a bathtub, show up to wish Kris well. “She loves you,” they all say, grimacing or smiling.
L.A. was, for Randy, home, and despite his healthy skepticism, there was a strange kind of affection for it — enough for him to not feel odd that the song had become a staple at Clippers games. The American Dream is dumb, but you almost have to love that we’re stupid enough to fixate on it. “There’s some kind of ignorance L.A. has that I’m proud of,” he told L.A. Weekly in 2001. “The open car and the redhead, the Beach Boys… that sounds really good to me.”
Like any of his colorful crew of protagonists, any Kardashian would no doubt be drawn with a sympathetic hand by Newman. And it’s time for him to write about them. They are, after all, essentially America’s First Family, and just Newman’s type of characters. There’s a reason so much of the world follows their every move: They’re a lot more honest than most of us dare to be. Maybe that’s what Kris Jenner likes about Newman’s realistic song, and hopefully what Newman would like about her versions of it.