The Fault in The Fault in Our Stars

“Unquestionably the funniest song you will ever hear about THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.” -John Green

This ain’t a book about a ballet dancer
No, it’s a book about a book about cancer
But there is something that is more important
This book mentions Natalie Portman
In 3 out of 25 chapters – I think she’s pretty scarce
That’s the fault in “The Fault in Our Stars”
Yeah that’s the fault in “The Fault in Our Stars”

If you do the math then you will see
22 chapters without Natalie
The ones that mention her are way too short, man!
John Green should have added way more Portman
It wouldn’t have been as difficult as landing a rover on Mars
That’s the fault in “The Fault in Our Stars”
Yeah that’s the fault in “The Fault in Our Stars”

At least the book doesn’t end in the middle of

Confession

Natalie Portman is actually mentioned in 4 out of 25 chapters. How embarrassing. Shame on me.

The Making of…

This song is a good example for lyrical revisions. After reading “The Fault in Our Stars“, I didn’t really consider making a song about it. There are already plenty of sad TFiOS ballads out there; no need to add my rumbling ramble to the choir. I didn’t ban the idea of a TFiOS song from my mind, either, just like I find that it’s never the wrong time to write a song about Natalie Portman. It took me one ride to work to consolidate the initial idea and to come up with the title. I felt so original! Fortunately, I went on to elaborate the lyrics. Had I looked up the title there and then I might have been discouraged by the fact that there were already a dozen or so videos on YouTube alone discussing the faults in “The Fault in Our Stars”.

The next day, I toyed around with a few lyrical chunks, again on my way to work. At first I wanted to build on the repetition (“The fault in the fault in…” and “A book about a book about…”), but I couldn’t come up with a third one (let alone a fourth). That evening I assembled a first draft, which looked like this:

Notebook with ideas for the lyrics

I didn’t know it was going to become a 52-second song at that point, although the format is very much in my blood. I had almost all the pieces in place when I picked up my guitar and started writing the music. I abandoned the initial refrain soon, because the melody line clung too closely to the chord changes. I tried various rhythms and keys until I settled with a nice shuffle feeling and happy chords (D and G). Adding a C suited the melody and spiced things up a little. I was still looking for a second verse and a proper chorus (and the Ark of the Covenant), when I realized that I already had enough lyrics for a 52-second song. In order to compress the arrangement I added h with a  descending bass that goes via E to the conclusion G, A, D. With the music pretty much in place it was time to flesh out the lyrics, especially the rhymes. Hardly anything rhymes with Portman, I thought, only to find that “important” comes sufficiently close. The opening line is weak. (It was partly inspired by the TFiOS FAQ.) I find that the very beginning is the best place for a weak link. It was going to be an upbeat song and most people’s attention span lasts at least three quick lines. So I focused on finding a nice rhyme for the chorus, instead. I chose “scarce”. Little did I know that it doesn’t actually rhyme. Coincidence had me watch a SciShow video in which Hank Green said the word. I decided to keep it after a short, futile search for an alternative.

The second verse was a mess of complicated sentences, stuff like “I did the math and I can tell you now, lo and behold, yadayada” and “22 chapters that are Portman-free”. I had to force myself to start from scratch and state everything as clear and as simple as possible. You can’t imagine how happy I was when I realized that I can replace “Portman-free” by “Natalie”. The “short, man”/Portman rhyme was there in the very beginning. It provided a nice way to make clear that it’s actually not the fault of the book, but the fault of its author. The Mars rover references was tricky, but I think I managed to find a bunch of words that make sense and fit the music. The last line was just an afterthought, because the song had to end at some point. Full disclosure: I sang “At least the book didn’t end in the middle of fishing boat proceeds.” Here’s the final draft of the lyrics:

Final draft of the lyrics

The recording started with the drums (on Saturday), which I had to record with my cameras mic (hence the bad sound quality). I didn’t use a click. I hadn’t played drums in months. I had only ten minutes before I had to leave for a family birthday. I first tried playing with brushes, but that sounded too vulnerable. It took me three more run throughs to find the actual patterns and then a couple of takes on camera, included one that took exactly 52 seconds. As I said, the format is in my blood now. A few days later (on Monday) I added guitars, keyboards (including the bass line), and eventually vocals. The footage in the video are the actual takes, so you can see that it was getting dark by the time I recorded the vocals. I doubled the last line of each chorus on piano (good idea) and I enhanced the snare and bass drum with MIDI drum sounds (questionable idea). Mixing was easy. It mainly consisted of turning the volume of the drums lower. Next, I assembled the video clip. Then I went to bed. And now this is my most viewed video on YouTube!

Leave a comment