Answer Song

The answer song is, simply put, a song written as a response to an earlier song, differing from a Sequel Song in that it is written or performed by a different artist.

The tradition of poetry written in the form of a song contest or struggle, in which one speaker answers the other, dates back to the very beginnings of recorded literature, back to Sumerian times, and was a popular form in Classical pastoral poetry (as in the Idylls of Theocritus and Vergil's Eclogues). Since little distinction was made between poems and songs in those early days, the Answer Song can presumably be similarly dated to Antiquity. It was certainly in use by the time of the Middle Ages, when the debate poem was a popular genre among the troubadors, the exchange being denoted as a tensó, tenson, or tençó in Occitan, a tenzone in Italian, and a "flyting" in Scots English; many of these were definitely set to music (e.g., the opposed sirventes by Richard The Lion Heart and the Count of Artois that their men sang against each other).

In modern times, the Answer Song became widespread almost as soon as recorded music became available, generally losing much of its combative character and with the answering song often imitating the original very closely. The convention became extremely common in R&B and Country music, where it generally took the form of a reply to a song made by a member of the opposite sex. It's also common as dirt in Filk, where one singer makes a commentary on another's song, ranging from sarcastic to sad. Modern Hip-hop has returned to the scurrilous character of the medieval tensó, deploying songs of a distinctly angry nature in which artists denounce each other.

Compare Spiritual Antithesis


Examples:

  • Woody Guthrie's famous "This Land Is Your Land" was written as an answer to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."
  • Dodie Stevens' "Yes I'm Lonesome Tonight", to Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
  • Wendy Hill's "Gary, Please Don't Sell My Diamond Ring" to Gary Lewis and the Players' "The Diamond Ring".
  • Blue Öyster Cult's Spy In The House Of The Night is about a Pyro Maniac who gets his kicks from being normal on the outside but a secret arsonist by night. Tellingly it's also a Shout Out to The Doors song The Spy In The House Of Love, about a sexual voyeur.
  • The Pearlette's "Duchess of Earl" response to Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl".
  • One of the longest answer record cycles was started by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' 1954 R&B hit "Work With Me Annie", and its Sequel Song "Annie Had a Baby". Answer songs include "Annie's Answer" by the El-Dorados, "Annie Pulled a Humbug" by the Midnights, "Roll With Me Henry" by Etta James, and "I'm the Father of Annie's Baby", by Danny Taylor.
  • "Sweet Home Alabama" is Lynyrd Skynyrd's defense of the South, in response to Neil Young's criticism of racism in "Southern Man" and "Alabama." Young was supposed to sing the "Southern man don't need me anyhow" line in the former, but had a scheduling conflict.
    • Also, Warren Zevon wrote a pretty savage response to "Sweet Home Alabama", "Play It All Night Long".
      • Which was later subverted when Kid Rock sampled both "Sweet Home Alabama" and Zevon's own "Werewolves of London" on "All Summer Long."
  • Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" is an answer to Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain".
  • "Yes, I Am Experienced" by Eric Burdon and the Animals, was an answer to Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?"
  • Barry McGuire's 1965 left-wing protest hit "Eve of Destruction" was answered by the conservative, Vietnam War-defending "Dawn of Correction" by The Spokesmen. Both songs were hits. (According to John Madara, The Spokesmen received a What the Hell, Hero? for that song from The Byrds, and two years later the song had become sort of an Old Shame.)
    • A couple of little-known garage bands had their own right-wing answer songs to "Eve of Destruction" — the aptly-named Patriots with "The Prophet", and the Jayhawkers with "Dawn of Instruction". The former had a different melody and shouted lead vocals angrily decrying McGuire and his message, while the latter was sung to the tune of "Eve...", with the singer affecting a proto-Cookie Monster vocal.
  • Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Got a Job" was a response to The Silhouettes' "Get a Job".
  • The Beach Boys' "The Girl from New York City" from Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) was a response to The Ad Libs’ "The Boy from New York City."
  • Paul McCartney and Wings' collection of oblique jabs in "Some People Never Know" and "Silly Love Songs" answered John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?" from Imagine, which itself was an answer to McCartney's "Too Many People" from RAM. McCartney later recorded "Let Me Roll It", a more affectionate take on Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.
  • Reba McEntire's "Whoever's in New England" was a response to Barry Manilow's hit "Weekend in New England."
  • Jody Miller's "Queen of the House" was a response to Roger Miller's song "King of the Road."
  • "Oh Neil!" was Carole King's answer to Neil Sedaka's "Oh Carol!"; the pair dated briefly and remained good friends for decades after.
  • Neneh Cherry recorded a song called "Woman" in response to James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World."
    • The band Napalm Death released the song "It's a M.A.N.S World!"
  • "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" by Alicia Keys, was an answer to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind", which Keys featured on, singing the chorus. The song uses original verses by Keys but re-uses the chorus and bridge.
    • Mary Lambert's "She Keeps Me Warm" has similar origins - it's an extension of the chorus she sang on Macklemore's "Same Love". Where "Same Love" has a message of gay acceptance, "She Keeps Me Warm" is about a woman who falls in love with another woman and grows to accept her own sexuality.
    • Ditto for "Love The Way You Lie, Part 2" by Rihanna. Which is actually a cover of the original song that Eminem sampled by Skylar Grey
    • Interestingly enough, Katy Perry has mentioned that one of the inspirations for California Gurls was to do for the west coast what Empire State of Mind did for New York.
  • In 2009 the band They Might Be Giants released an answer song — "Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma)" — to their popular 1993 cover of Tom Glazer's 1965 song "Why Does the Sun Shine?." Both the original 1965 song and the 1993 cover state that the Sun was "a mass of incandescent gas." The Sun is more accurately described as being made of plasma, not gas.
  • The Satintones' "Tomorrow and Always" answers The Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" — at least in theory. In practice, it ended up as a blatant ripoff of the latter with a few lyrics changed. Unsurprisingly, the label which issued the record, none other than a then-young Motown, got slapped with a lawsuit rather hard.
  • Lady Gaga's song "Boys Boys Boys" was an answer song to Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls."
  • Liz Phair has claimed in interviews that her Exile in Guyville album was a song-by-song response to The Rolling Stones Exile on Main St...
  • The sentimental "Irish" ballad, "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" (1875) by Thomas P. Westendorf was written as a reply to the earlier "Barney, Take Me Home Again" by George W. Persley.
  • Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain" was answered with Linda Gail Lewis's "The Girl From Wolverton Mountain."
  • Travis Tritt's "Strong Enough to Be Your Man" is a response to Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough."
  • Older Than Steam: Sir Walter Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe traded life philosophies on the battlefield of poetry, namely, "The Passionate Shepherd To His Love," and "The Nymph's Reply To The Shepherd." Responses to these poems are still done today - but John Donne's statement is particularly fine.
  • Screeching Weasel's song "I Wrote Holden Caulfield" was a response to the Green Day song "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?"
  • Everybody Was in the French Resistance...Now!, led by Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos, do nothing but answer songs. "Billie's Genes", for instance, is a response to "Billie Jean" from the point of view of the bastard son, while "G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N. (You Know I've Got A)" is a response to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" from the very frustrated boy Avril was trying to catch the attention of.
  • Similarly, Esmé Patterson's concept album Woman To Woman is a collection of Answer Songs to famous songs about women, written from the point of view of the woman involved (also including an answer to "Billie Jean").
  • Bob Luman's 1960 hit "Let's Think About Livin'" was one of these, written as a kind of Take That to the many Teenage Death Songs of that era.
  • Madness lead singer Suggs has claimed that the band's hit song "Baggy Trousers" from Absolutely (which is about fond memories of school) was a response to "Another Brick In the Wall" from The Wall by Pink Floyd.
    • Especially sarcastic, since the Pink Floyd song is about kids being indoctrinated as conformist drones, while the Madness song's "fond memories" of school are all about pranking, fighting and vandalism. According to Suggs, all he heard in "Wall" was that Pink Floyd went to a posh school.
  • Camera Obscura's "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken" was a response to Lloyd Cole's "Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken."
  • In the Nineties, Italian pop group 883 topped the charts for months with their hit "Hanno ucciso l'Uomo ragno" ("Someone killed Spider-Man"). Some time later, obscure comedy band Tretriti recorded their answer, "È vivo l'Uomo ragno" ("Spider-Man Lives").
  • Eamon was very successful in 2004 with his "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)", about a failed relationship. Interestingly, an unknown singer named Frankee answered right away with her "F.U.R.B. (Fuck U Right Back)", pretending to be Eamon's past girlfriend (it wasn't true, of course), which was a moderate success. Neither of them was ever heard from again.
  • Obscure as it is, Napoleon XIV's novelty song "They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haa" had two answer songs, "I'm Happy They Took You Away Ha-Haaaa" by Josephine XV and ""They Took You Away, I'm Glad, I'm Glad"" by Teddy & Darrel.
  • "Nothing Can Replace A Man" from the musical Ankles Aweigh bills itself in its verse as an answer to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "There Is Nothin' Like A Dame."
  • Johnny Thunders' "London Boys" is a response to The Sex Pistols' "New York".
  • R.E.M.'s "Me in Honey" is a response to 10,000 Maniacs' "Eat for Two."
  • "Hot Rod Lincoln" is a response to "Hot Rod Race," and arguably the more well known of the two songs.
  • Pulp's "Common People" is a Take That at the general phenomenon in Britpop of middle-class people idealising and impersonating working class culture, but blur's "Park Life" is considered a particular target.
  • Done within the same band with Sloan: Chris Murphy's song "Ready for You" was answered by Jay Ferguson's b-side "I Thought That I Was Ready For You".
  • Taylor Swift 's "Better Than Revenge" is an answer to The Jonas Brothers 's "Much Better" which may have been an answer Swift's "Forever and Always".
    • The Jonas Brothers song "Turn Right" references "the never ending racetrack you call life", which may have been a reference to Miley Cyrus' song, "Full Circle" (Miley and Nick split as a couple around that time).
  • Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Nelly Furtado's song "Give It To Me" was one big answer where each artist attacks another. Furtado:Fergie Timbaland:Scott Storch Timberlake:Prince
  • Hip-hop group Sporty Thievz sometimes did answer songs to female-sung R & B songs, providing the male point of view - the best known example is "No Pigeons" (TLC's "No Scrubs"), but they also did two Destiny's Child answer songs: "No Billz (Why, Why, Why?)" ("Bills, Bills, Bills") and "Independent Men" ("Independent Women", naturally enough).
  • Bob Dylan's "Clothes Line Saga", a parody of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode To Billie Joe" was originally titled "Answer to 'Ode'".
  • Drake's "The Motto", known for the (in)famous YOLO, is an answer song to "If Today Was Your Last Day" by Nickelback.
  • Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" is equal parts Answer Song and Take That to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side Of Life".
  • The Roxanne Wars, which spawned possibly the most Answer Songs in history. The U.T.F.O. song "Roxanne, Roxanne", an insult track about a woman who wouldn't accept their advances, was responded to with "Roxanne's Revenge", in which a fourteen-year-old using the stage name Roxanne Shanté, claiming to be the Roxanne in the song, insulted U.T.F.O. The Real Roxanne's track "The Real Roxanne" also appeared, and this started a massive outpouring of songs from other Roxannes, Roxanne's friends, Roxanne's family members, etc.
  • In response to Jay-Z's and Kanye West's, "Niggas in Paris," in which the two bragged of their wealth, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) released "Niggas in Poorest," chastising them for parading their wealth while so many are suffering with poverty, violence, crime, and exploitation.
  • Billy Joel's It's Still Rock 'n' Roll To Me was a very deliberate response to the then-emerging Punk Rock and New Wave Music movements. In fact, the same can be said for Glass Houses, the album it came from.
  • Shortly after the release of Annie's single "Anthonio", an artist claiming to be Anthonio Mendes, who was really Sebastian Muravchik of the British synthpop group Heartbreak, released an answer song titled "Annie".
  • Comedy duo Scooter Picnic released a song about its members being mistaken for each other, titled "Kyle, Are You Ian?". Devo Spice teamed up with Shoebox of Worm Quartet for the parody "Devo, Are You Shoebox?". This inspired the Scooter Picnic song "I Noticed You Noticing Me", which Kyle explicitly calls an answer song near the end.
  • "Live Forever" by Oasis was written in response to both Nirvana's "I Hate Myself And Want To Die", and negative grunge music in general. Though it should be noted that Nirvana were being sarcastic with that song title anyway - the lyrics were more full of word salad than self-loathing.
  • After Erasure released their "Abba-esque" EP (four Abba songs done in Erasure's signature style), Abba tribute act Bjorn Again countered with the double A-side "Erasure-ish", two Erasure songs done in Abba's 70s pop style.
  • Worm Quartet expressed exasperation with Marc Gunn for releasing so many songs about cats, in a song called "Goddammit Marc Gunn, Shut Up About Your Cat". Gunn responded with a song of his own, called "Dear Worm Quartet".
  • "Gently Does It" is a tribute to the folk singer Alex Campbell by his friend Rab Noakes, about him having to slow down due to illness. The refrain features the line "And a few years ago, you'd been on this road so long", making it a reply to Campbell's "Been On This Road So Long".
  • "Gordon's Not A Moron" by Julie and Gordon is a reply to the spoof song "Jilted John" by Jilted John (Graham Fellows, later better known as John Shuttleworth), with its refrain of "Gordon is a moron/Gordon is a moron".
  • Associates released a reply to The Smiths' "William, It Was Really Nothing" called "Steven You're Still Really Something" (Steven being Morrissey's real first name; it's popularly believed that "William" was Associates lead singer Billy Mackenzie).
  • Joe Jackson wrote a slightly self-pitying song called Is She Really Going Out With Him? from Look Sharp, about how dull but worthy guys not blessed with good looks get outclassed by "gorillas" in the dating game - every time. It contains the lines
    Look over there! (Where?)There goes a lady that I used to know...
The Stranglers' Peaches can be viewed as an answer song written from the point of view of unscrupulous gorillas with a less romantic view of women; note the line
Look over there! (Where?)There! Is she trying to get out of that bikini/get out her clitoris? (depending on whether you're listening to the radio-friendly version)
  • Green Day's American Idiot, off of the album of the same name, was written in response to a Lynyrd Skynyrd song called "That's How I Like It."
  • Vocaloid: "Sayonara, Arigatou" ("Goodbye, Thank You") is an answer to "Kokoro" ("Heart"). The latter was written from the perspective of Robot Girl Rin, while the former is from the perspective of the Fatherly Scientist who created her.
    • Vocaloid composer Daijoubu-P wrote "The Face" (epilepsy warning) as a response to another song called "The Name". Neither really make much sense.
  • Finnish rap duo Fintelligens recorded a song called "Heruuks" ("Can I Get Some"), to which a female R'n'B artist Jonna responded by recording "Ei Heru" ("No You Can't").
  • Evanescence produced "Call Me When You're Sober" as a commentary on lead singer Amy Lee's recently-ended relationship with Seether lead Shaun Morgan. Seether responded with "Breakdown" telling Shaun's side of the story - the title itself an obvious reference to the song "Broken" which both sang in while they were together.
  • Punk act Against Me! wrote a song called "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," expressing the want to change the world but disappointment at finding the scene to be too hot-tempered and rigid, with the chorus "Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?" Rise Against, in turn, wrote "Architects," expressing disappointment at a youth scene that seems too diffident and uncertain, with the line, "Don't you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire? 'Cause I still am, and I still do."
  • The Animated Adaptation of Soul Music included a song "She Won't Change Her Mind" which was an answer to The Beatles song "You're Going to Lose That Girl".
  • "Oh No" from Frank Zappa's Weasels Ripped My Flesh is a Take That at "All You Need Is Love" from The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.
  • "There's No 'I' In Team" from Taking Back Sunday's album Tell All Your Friends is a response to Brand New's songs "Seventy Times 7" and "Mixtape". Those two songs were brutal Take Thats by Jesse Lacey of Brand New to John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday - the later had allegedly stole the former's girlfriend. "There's No 'I' In Team" was a response to those songs, showing Nolan's side of the story, and serving as a Take That. The song quotes a line from "Mixtape" ("I've got a twenty-dollar bill...") and a few lines from "Seventy Times 7":
    "Is that what you call tact?
    I swear, you're as subtle as a brick in the small of my back
    So let's end this call and end this conversation"
    • In Taking Back Sunday's next album, Where You Want to Be, they answer another Brand New song. TBS's song "...Slowdance on the Inside" opens with the line, "Passed out in our school clothes/so we'd wake up in our Sunday's best", which is similar to the opening of "Soco Amaretto Lime" by Brand New: "Passed out on the overpass/Sunday's best and broken glass". However, unlike "Mixtape" and "Seventy Times 7", the song "Soco Amaretto Lime" appears to have nothing to do with Taking Back Sunday.
  • Comedian and singer Minnie Pearl had a black sheep hit with one of these to Red Sovine's "Giddyup Go". The Pearl song, simply titled "Giddyup Go - Answer", was a Perspective Flip on the original's story.
  • Maddie & Tae's "Girl in a Country Song" criticised the objectification of women in 2010s "bro-country" music, with explicit lyrical allusions or answers to many specific songs, including Thomas Rhett's "Get Me Some of That", Chris Young's "Aw Naw", Tyler Farr's "Redneck Crazy", Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party", Blake Shelton's "Boys Round Here", and Florida Georgia Line's "Get Your Shine On".
  • Kim Gordon has stated that she wrote Sonic Youth's "Female Mechanic Now On Duty" as an answer song to "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks.
  • Nicki Minaj's song "Anaconda" appears to be one of these for SirMixALot's "Baby Got Back." It samples generously from both the song and its music video, and while Mix-A-Lot's original is about a man who unapologetically enjoys female anatomy, the answer song is a female who just as unapologetically enjoys certain male assets.
  • OK Go's "A Good Idea At The Time" is an answer song to The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", where Satan goes even further in pointing out that humanity makes all of its own problems and then blames him.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, Human!Twilight Sparkle's "What More is Out There" is this for Sunset Shimmer's Rainbow Rocks encore song "My Past is Not Today", and in turn, the two have an ending duet titled "Right There in Front of Me".
  • ZZT's 2007 minimal acid techno single "Lower State of Consciousness" is an answer to Josh Wink's 1995 acid breakbeat single "Higher State of Consciousness".
  • Remember Aqua's Barbie Girl? Some time later, unknown dance group The Compton Boys released "Action Man", a dance song about Barbie's Spear Counterpart toy that follows "Barbie Girl"'s exact same structure while saying "I'm not Barbie at all" and adding even more innuendos.
  • Mitch Benn's "Not Everybody Has to Imagine" is a reply to John Lennon's "Imagine".
  • One Direction's "Perfect" was written in response to a few songs that Taylor Swift allegedly wrote about her ex, One Direction member Harry Styles, in particular "Style" and "I Knew You Were Trouble"
  • Folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie's anti-war "Universal Soldier" got an answer song from Jan and Dean, who recorded the pro-war "Universal Coward". Dean Torrence was supposedly so upset with his bandmate's jingoistic decision to record the song that he did not participate, thus technically making it a Jan Berry solo.
  • Barely out of his teens, Bob Seger sang on Doug Brown and the Omens' parody song "The Ballad of the Yellow Beret", an answer song of sorts to SSgt. Barry Sadler's 1966 number one hit "The Ballad of the Green Beret". In here, he mocks draft dodgers as being cowards, but a couple years later, he had changed his tune entirely, releasing the anti-war "2 + 2?" with his new band, the Bob Seger System.
  • Before becoming an actress, Sissy Spacek was a teen pop starlet performing under the name Rainbo. In 1968, she released the song "John, You Went Too Far This Time," an answer song to the cover (if not the content) of the "Two Virgins" album from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. That album, in case you're wondering, was notorious for John showing off his Norwegian Wood on the cover.
  • Oh, it didn't take long for 20 Fingers' "Short Dick Man" to get an answer song. An artist simply known as The Big Man released a song, also in 1994, called "Big Dick Man".
  • Although she denied it, it's widely believed that Ellie Goulding's "On My Mind" was written in response to Ed Sheeran's "Don't". "Don't" was heavily rumored to be about her, and there are certain lyrical parallels: Compare "Don't fuck with my love" ("Don't") with "You don't mess with love, you mess with the truth" ("On My Mind").
  • Apoptygma Berzerk, as a B-side to their cover of Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)", recorded an answer song to it titled "Dead Air Einz".
  • Mario Winans' plaintive R&B ballad "I Don't Wanna Know" - the 2004 single which, due to copyright law dealing with sampling of other tracks, hilariously co-credits both P. Diddy and Enya - is sung by a man who suspects his girlfriend is cheating and just prays that she keep it secret because if he discovered it for sure it would break his heart. Shola Ama came back with a devastating response from the woman's perspective called "You Should Really Know," the gist of which was that if the guy was so in tune with the woman and so invested in the relationship he should know her damn well enough to know that she's not cheating. Oh, snap.
  • G. K. Chesterton had a whole series of "Replies to the Poets", parodies of and responses to poems, often from the perspective of their subjects. They were: "The Skylark Replies to Wordsworth"; "The Sea Replies to Byron"; "The Fat White Woman Speaks" ("To a Fat Lady Seen From a Train", Frances Cornford); "Lucasta Replies to Lovelace"; "By a Captain, or Perhaps a Colonel, or Possibly a Knight-at-Arms" ("When the Assault Was Intended to the City", John Milton); "From the Spanish Cloister" ("Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister", Robert Browning); "Dolores Replies to Swinburne"; "To a Modern Poet" (free verse in general); and "Post-Recessional" ("Recessional", Rudyard Kipling).
  • Wiz Khalifa got his first hit with "Black and Yellow" a song about Pittsburgh using the city's colors. Coincidentally, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the Super Bowl at the time. This caused Lil Wayne to write "Green and Yellow" about their opponent the Green Bay Packers.
  • "Sheriff John Brown" by The Coral is an answer song to Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff", which revealed that the Sheriff actually had a last minute Heel Realisation, and was in fact murdered by the evil town preacher for refusing to kill Marley's narrator.

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