By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Performed by the Magic City Loungers (featuring singing sensation Zac Vegas), the New Times staff created what one listener described as "something so unique it is unmistakably Miami." The history of the tune is already the stuff of legend. Last month the Miami City Commission adopted as the city's official song a ditty co-written and performed by former Miami Vice star Philip Michael Thomas entitled "My, My, My, MI AM I." Thomas's version was an upbeat, tourist-friendly little number that celebrated Miami's mythical qualities, perhaps best summarized by the opening lines: "It's hot, it's cool, it's a tropical jewel/Paradise here in the sun."
New Times had been unaware the city was looking for an anthem. So after the commission voted to accept Thomas's offering, the newspaper sponsored its own late entry, a slightly more realistic lullaby that began, "It's hot, you fool, there's a dead guy in the pool/Oh my my, where am I?/Paradise for those with guns."
Last week New Times gave local residents an opportunity to do something the city commission refused to do A allow the citizens of South Florida to vote for the song they would like to call their own. At great expense New Times Music, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of New Times Newspapers, made both tunes available for listening free of charge: a simple phone call, both songs, and a chance to leave a message expressing a preference.
More than a thousand people responded in the first couple of days alone, jamming the New Times telephone system. "Wow!" one fan exclaimed. "What can I say? I like the Loungers's version much better. Well, actually it's not very good, either. But I do like it better than that other thing."
"After listening to the Philip Michael Thomas song for about a minute, I had to hang up," confessed another caller. "But I made it all the way through your version, which must mean something. I guess being a native I can find the humor in the reality of Miami. Sometimes Miami can be the crystal blue waters full of wind surfers and sailors. But more and more frequently it's becoming just another dead guy in the pool."
"Living in Miami," another caller agreed, "we need a sense of humor."
A definitive vote count proved to be difficult because a number of comments were ambiguous. For instance, after listening to the Philip Michael Thomas version, a number of people left messages similar to this one from an astute woman: "Hey, he sings as well as he acts." We gave the former Vice star the benefit of the doubt in such cases.
Numerous people, while expressing support for the Loungers's version, said they were concerned that city commissioners might actually vote again and adopt it as the official song of Miami. And that, they feared, might scare off tourists. "Your song is better," one man explained, "but we don't want it for outside consumption. Just internal pleasure." One worried woman went so far as to compose her own song, which she gamely sang: "Oh my my, where am I, without the tourists around/This is Miami, a lot of people depend on having tourists around/I work in a restaurant and where would I be/If this song gets published, you see?"
While some respondents took issue with the references to murders, polluted waters, desperate refugees, cheap dope, and tourist shootings, quite a few callers thought the song didn't go far enough. "Nice try, but you left out so much," noted one woman. "How about the Everglades and the way the developers are taking over? Or the ridiculous glitz of South Beach? And what about the destruction of Coconut Grove?"
Offers to book the band streamed in, and already there is talk of a major recording contract. Ever-helpful fans were full of advice. "If you add a couple of dirty words and get that parental advisory sticker on there, you've got a gold album," said one admirer. Callers were particularly struck by the vocal stylings of Loungers lead singer Zac Vegas. "I've never heard anything quite like that before," gushed one enthusiastic caller. Another added, "It kind of sounds like he's doing a cross between Bert from Sesame Street and Harvey Fierstein, but it's still better than that other thing." One person did mention the obvious: "It's Steely Dan meets Weird Al Yankovic."
Some callers suggested other artists who might sing "Oh My My, Where Am I A Miami." Several nominated Elvis. Frank Sinatra was another popular choice, as was the famous rock band Dead German Tourist. For sheer fun, though, nothing could top this idea: "How about having the entire Miami City Commission sing your version and bring back Miriam Alonso to do lead vocals. Wouldn't that be special?" Indeed it would.
More than a few thoughtful callers chastised New Times for not taking an activist role. "I'd like your song a lot better," counseled one, "if instead of just knocking Miami, your song also came up with some solutions to the problems." Historically this has not been a very successful tactic (the last person to set policy papers to music was Walter Mondale in his 1984 campaign against Ronald Reagan), but New Times nonetheless is experimenting with several new problem-solving tunes, including one set to an old Paul Simon melody, tentatively titled "50 Ways to Better Govern."
Just raise a new tax, Max
Hire some cops, Pops
Pave a few streets, Pete
And listen to me
Then tear down the arena, Sabrina
Annex the Keys, Lee
Spray wackos with mace, Ace
To get yourself free
Of course, not everyone appreciated New Times's efforts, and a variety of callers left the usual threats of death and mutilation. "That song was an insult to the people of Miami!" screamed one woman. "If you don't like it here, get the hell out!" Another caller wondered, "I don't know why you smart-alecks in the media keep trying to bring this city down."
"Oh please," another woman sighed in disgust. "I definitely liked the Philip Michael Thomas version better. That other thing just sounded like a lot of little boys getting together and making some music in their daddy's garage." One cynic had this to say: "I don't like either version. I don't like Miami, either."
The vast majority of comments, though, were not only laudatory toward the Magic City Loungers but encouraging as well. "Why don't you guys do songs for all of the cities in Dade County?" asked one gentleman. The possibilities are endless. Songs such as "I Left My Wife for Dead in Hialeah" or "Have You Ever Been to Sweetwater?" seem like naturals. And what about this tune for homestead, set to the Southern classic, "Dixie":
Way down south in the land of Homestead
Good times there, they are forgotten
To safer land
Among the many hundreds of comments, all of them greatly appreciated, perhaps the most insightful came from one fellow who asked the musical question: "Who said Miami needed a song anyway