I will not fight you! (You have no choice!)
I'll stand beside you! (I stand alone!)
You're still their hero! (Then they are fools!)
Call-and-response is a form of music sung by (or at least from the perspective of) two or more people. Rather than sing the same part or do different verses, one person sings a statement, the other gives a reply to it. While this usually goes on until the end of the song, sometimes only a few lines in a verse are done this way. Though it doesn't necessarily have to be, often the lines in question are a musical argument of sorts.
The form arose in Africa and was brought to America by slaves; it later found its way into jazz
, blues, and rock. One of the earliest popular musicians to use it was Cab Calloway
in his Signature Song
"Minnie the Moocher".
Nowadays it's usually considered a sub-trope of Let's Duet
, although some are also Crowd Songs
. Fairly common in Rock Operas
and Concept Albums
. Many military songs
are done in this style, too.
If possible, please elaborate a bit on your examples. While just the lines themselves are fine, having what's being talked about in them as well is better.
- Many songs by The Beatles. One good example is "With a Little Help From My Friends", in which Ringo sings lead and answers questions from John: "What do you see when you turn out the light?"..."I can't tell you, but I know its mine."
- The Beatles were inspired by Chuck Berry's use of call and response, though his was often between his voice and his guitar lines, as heard in School Days and No Particular Place To Go.
- The Who emulated the Beatles' harmonies in early hits like "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" and "My Generation".
- Also seen in 5:15: "(inside outside) Leave me alone/(inside outside) Nowhere is home/ (inside outside) Where have I been?/ Out of mine brain on the five-fifteen!"
- As the page quote shows, The Protomen's song "The Sons of Fate" is done this way. A few bits of "The Good Doctor" and "Father Of Death" from Act II are as well.
- DMX's "Damien" series of songs, with X providing both roles. The song Ready 2 Meet Him uses this trope as well, with DMX arguing with God, while providing both voices.
- Eminem and Dr. Dre's "Guilty Conscience" is sung in this style, with the two playing the two sides of a person's conscience.
- The Unfortunate Implications-tastic "Baby It's Cold Outside" (by Frank Loesser) alternates between a man ("the wolf") trying to convince his date to stay the night and a woman ("the mouse") trying to tell him she can't.
- Inverted hilariously by Liza Minelli and Alan Cumming covering it on "Carols for a Cure", with Liza on the "man's" part and Alan on the "woman's". Considering the sexual histories of both singers . . .
- Paradise By the Dashboard Light and part of I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) by Meat Loaf do this with a guest female singer.
- K-Rino's "The Debate" which is about evolution vs. creationism, with K debating both sides.
- The entire song is sung by just one guy, but "I Think I'm in Love" by Spiritualized can count. It has Jason Pierce singing by himself a line that goes like "I Think I('m) X", to which a chorus of Jason Pierces responds "Probably just Y", where Y undermines the X.
I think I can fly/Probably just falling
I think I'm on fire/Probably just smoking
- "If I Had $1000000" by Barenaked Ladies.
- "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel.
- Cab Calloway was on of the most famous forerunner of this in popular music, "Minnie the Moocher" being the most popular example. Other jazz singers of his time known for using this as a trademark include Louis Prima and Louis Jordan, among many, many others.
- "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues and Kirsty Mc Coll. Starts off as a duet about falling in love and finishes with a call and response about how much they hate each other.
- blur's song "Parklife" has verses consisting of spoken phrases with the singer shouting "Parklife!" after each one. Sometimes it finishes the sentence; sometimes it's just there.
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" from Queen has a section like this, with one side begging "Let him go!" and the other refusing.
- "Itchycoo Park" by the Small Faces:
What will do there?
I got high!
What will we touch there?
I touched the sky!
Why the tears then?
Tell you why!
- Crystal Castles's Courtship Dating:
Stove burns (on my hands!)
Show them (to my friends!)
Make you participate!
- The lyrics of Positive K's "I Got a Man" involve a man trying to pick up a woman and repeatedly getting shot down by her because she already has a man. The male character is performed by Positive K ... and the female character is also played by Positive K, but with the pitch of his voice electronically altered.
I'll treat you good
My man treats me better
I talk sweet on the phone
My man writes love letters
- "Ich Will" ("I Want" for all you non German speakers) by Rammstein was written because Till Lindemann could not get why audiences are so fond of call and response and audience participation. Ironically it's a call and response song itself.
Till: "Can you see me?"
Crowd: "We see you!"
Till: "Can you hear me?"
Crowd: "We hear you!"
Till: "Can you feel me?"
Crowd: "We feel you!"
Till: "I don't understand you."
- INXS's "Need You Tonight":
"How do you feel?"
"What do you think?"
"Can't think at all!"
"Whatcha gonna do?"
"Gonna live my life!"
- The Talking Heads song "Slippery People".
- Many Talking Heads songs are like this. For example, both "Once in a Lifetime" and "(Nothing but) Flowers" incorporate call-and-response elements. It is most likely due to the influence they drew from African music.
- "To Binge" by Gorillaz plays with this: it's not quite a dialogue, but two Star-Crossed Lovers describing the same situation from different perspectives, often overlapping.
"I'm lookin' from a distance and I'm listenin' to the whispers and oh, it ain't the same when you're... falling out of feeling and just rollin' in and caught again-"
- "Sex (I'm A...)" by Berlin features a sung exchange between lead singer Terri Nunn and songwriter John Crawford.
- The studio version "Scarborough Fair" by Simon & Garfunkel is a curious take on call and response. The call (and far older than the duo), Scarborough Fair, is a traditional folk song (UK), and the response, Canticle, overlaps as a modified version of Simon's "The Side of a Hill," a contemporary (circa 1965) anti-war ballad.
"Tell her to make me a cambric shirt"
(The side of a hill in the deep forest green)
"Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme"
(Tracing a sparrow on snow crested ground)
"Without no seams or needlework"
(Blankets and bedclothes, the child of the mountain)
"Then she'll be a true love of mine."
(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call)
- Cobra Starship is really fond of call and response songs between a guy and girl, including:
- "Good Girls Go Bad", between the lead singer and Leighton Meester. Saporta is the bad boy trying to convince Meester to dance with him. Meester is the shy girl who knows she shouldn't trust him, but can't resist anyway.
- "New Edition" with the band's keytarist, Victoria Asher, getting in a few lines. Asher is the girl looking for a serious relationship, whereas Saporta is the player who only wants a fling and needs some space. This leads up to...
- "Disaster Boy", where Victoria Asher is featured as the lead singer, with Gabe Saporta as the responder. Asher is is stuck in a relationship with Saporta, who plays the disappointing boyfriend. While they both agree that the relationship may not be the best for either of them, Asher sings more about staying by his side despite conflicting feelings, while Saporta retorts about being unforgivable for screwing up the relationship.
- "What Happens on the Dancefloor", an Alexandra Burke song featuring Gabe Saporta. Both parties sing about meeting at a club and having a fling, expecting nothing more than casual attraction, but end up falling for each other. The verses alternate with Burke or Saporta encouraging one to make a move on the other, even though it's made clear that "she got a boyfriend, but he ain't here tonight".
- "I've Got You Under My Skin", of all songs, has had this happen to it twice: once when Stan Freberg used it to lampoon a call-and-response version of "On Top of Old Smokey" that was a hit at the time, and again in a quite different way on The Muppet Show.
- Kanye West and Jay-Z invoke this trope relentlessly on their dual project album, Watch The Throne.
- Ray Parker Jr., not enthusiastic about having to rhyme the word "Ghostbusters", finally hit on using this type of song to get around it when he saw footage of the commercial scene. So you have artistic reluctance to thank for "Who you gonna call?"
- While it's not done throughout the whole song, Flight of the Conchords' "Carol Brown" has a bridge that involves a call and response between Jemaine Clement and a group of backup singers representing his ex-girlfriends:
He doesn't cook or clean, he's not good boyfriend material
Ooh, we can eat cereal
You'll lose interest fast, his relationships never last
Shut up, girlfriends from the past
He says he'll do one thing and then goes and does another thing
Who organized all my ex-girlfriends into a choir and got them to sing?
- "Spoiler Alert" by They Might Be Giants has John Flansburgh and John Linnell singing in counterpoint melodies, portraying two Too Dumb to Live drivers (Flansburgh playing an exhausted and delirious truck-driver, Linnel a writer who's trying to text and drive at the same time) who are unknowingly about to crash into each other.
- Almost every song you learn in Girl Scout Camp.
The littlest worm
The littlest worm
I ever saw
I ever saw
Got stuck inside
Got stuck inside
My soda straw
My soda straw
- Sound Horizon's "Hikari to Yami no Douwa (Märchen)" has Elise asking Märchen questions about the deserted village they're in
Why isn't there anyone in this village anymore? (That's because everyone died.)
Then why did the mother and her child still stay in the foresty villiage? (Because the wellnote called out to them.)
Then why does the well call out to people? (Calling out to people is what the well was born to do.)
- A common form for sea shanties—"Blow the Man Down" is probably the most well-known example.
- Lady Antebellum has done this several times, including "Lookin' for a Good Time", "Dancing Away with My Heart" and most notably, "Need You Now". In all of the examples, the song is a dialogue between lead singers Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley:
"It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone and I need you now..."
"Well, I said I wouldn't call, but I've lost all control and I need you now..."
- The song 'Mary' by the comedy band Dead Cat Bounce is a song about a man having some trouble getting in touch with the eponymous Mary by phone. Some of the responses include a wrong number to a Chinese restaurant, and an automated message informing the caller that he ran out of call credit.
"The number you have entered is 607790271.
Please hold, while we're retrieving your balance..."
"You have topped up by-"
"-Euro. Your new balance is-"
- "It Must Be Love" by Ty Herndon has an unusual question-and-answer structure, with Drew Womack and Doug Virden (then of the band Sons of the Desert) singing the questions and Ty answering:
Drew and Doug: Is she there in your dreams?
Ty: I don't know, I can't sleep
Drew and Doug: Is she breaking your heart?
Ty: Yeah, but isn't it sweet?
Drew and Doug: Does she know how you feel?
Ty: It's right on the tip of my tongue
Drew and Doug: Are you walking on air?
Ty: Well, I'm sure feeling tall
Drew and Doug: Does it trouble your mind?
Ty: There's no trouble at all
All: Oh, I don't know, but something tells me it must be love
- The verses to Shania Twain's "Party for Two" are a dialogue between her and labelmate Billy Currington. An alternate version exists with Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray doing the male vocals.
- Robert Ellis Orrall and Carlene Carter's "I Couldn't Say No" is a dialogue between the two, about the temptation of love. Throughout the song, one of them sings half a verse, then the other responds with the other half of the verse.
- There are plenty of hymns that alternate between the men and women. It usually sounds awesome unless one group can't sing or someone doesn't understand how the song works. Or unless you have an old guy complaining about these 'newfangled' hymns that are over a hundred years old in the middle of it.
- "You Are Holy (Prince Of Peace)" is one of these songs.
- Alter Bridge's "Words Darker Than Their Wings" has alternating sections sung by lead singer Myles Kennedy and lead guitarist Mark Tremonti. It works out as a conversation between the two.
- The last chorus of George Jones' "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair" has various country singers repeating each line.
- The country song "If I Were You", recorded first by The Oak Ridge Boys in 1991, features a dialogue between two men who each desire the life the other one has. The two singers alternate lines throughout the verses, and also sing separate parts on the chorus, which sometimes overlap. Chad Brock later recorded a version with Mark Wills singing the second part and Kenny Rogers recorded the song with Travis Tritt.
Steve Sanders: You've got it made. You've got real love, something you don't find every day.
Duane Allen: But you come and go, as free as the wind blows. I wouldn't settle down too soon, if I were you.
Both: If I were you
Steve:I'd be satisfied (Duane echoes)
Steve:I'm sure the grass is greener...
Both: on the other side. If I were you...
Steve:I'd stay by her side
Duane:I'd be running wild
Steve:I would never leave her
Both: That's what I would do, if I were you.
- Of Monsters and Men has two singers, so they naturally play with duets a lot. This comes up in one of their most famous songs, Little Talks.
Girl: I don't like walking around this old and empty house
Boy: So hold my hand, I'll walk with you, my dear
Girl: The stairs creak as I sleep, it's keeping me awake
Boy: It's the house telling you to close your eyes
Girl: Some days I can't even dress myself
Boy: It's killing me to see you this way
Both: Because though the truth may vary this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
- Several of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas include duets that are also Call and Response songs. For example, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Wake up, the voice calls to us) has two duet movements which are dialogues between the Vox Christi (voice of Christ) and a soul. The example given here is that of "Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil?", the third movement of the cantata and the first movement with a duet.
Soul: Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil? (When will You come, my Savior?)
Jesus: Ich komme, dein Teil. (I come, as Your portion.)
Soul: Ich warte mit brennenden Öle. (I wait with burning oil.)
Soul: Eröffne den Saal (Now open the hall)
Jesus: Ich öffne den Saal (I open the hall)
Soul: zum himmlischen Mahl. (for the heavenly meal.)
Soul: Komm, Jesu. (Come, Jesus!)
Jesus: Ich komme, komm, liebliche Seele. (I come, come, lovely soul!)
- The single and album release of Hank Williams, Jr.'s 1979 country hit "Family Tradition" didn't have it, but sometime after it became one of his concert staples, the crowd made it a call-and-response song:
Williams: "Why do you drink?"
Crowd: "To get drunk!"
Williams: "And why do you roll smokes?"
Crowd: "To get stoned!"
Williams: "Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?"
Crowd: "To get laid!"
- The Angels' "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?" became one via Memetic Mutation when the audience began responding, "No way, get fucked, fuck off!"
- "Remind Me" by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. Brad sings the first verse and chorus, with Carrie chiming in on the "remind me"s. The pattern is reversed on the second verse and chorus.
- "Don't Go Out" by Tanya Tucker and T. Graham Brown.
- Lacrosse have a few songs using this device to varying degrees and effects, notably "I See A Brightness"
If you wanna blame someone (I wanna blame someone)
You can always try me (Already blaming you)
An easy target, I don't mind (Why would you mind?)
As long as we're still friends (We're not friends anymore)
- Professor Elemental's "Cup of Brown Joy" has several call-and-response sections.
When I say "Herbal," you say "No, thanks!"
Herbal? (No, thanks!)
Herbal? (No, thanks!)
Live Action TV
- "Magic Dance" from the movie Labyrinth.
"You remind me of the babe"
"The babe with the power."
"The power of voodoo."
"Remind me of the babe!"
- The "Plagues" song from The Prince of Egypt is a back-and-forth between Moses and Rameses noting the way their relationship has changed, and Moses pleading for the Hebrews to be freed and Rameses refusing. The animation behind the song is a montage of Egypt being devastated by the plagues.
- "I'm Wishing" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has an interesting variant. Snow White is singing into a well, and it echos out her voice.
- A scene in Jeeves and Wooster had the titular characters attempting the call-and-response portion of the song, which was somewhat hampered by Jeeves' Verbal Tic of saying "sir" at the end of every line.
- Dr. Facilier's Villain Song in The Princess and the Frog, taking many cues from the aforementioned Minnie The Moocher:
I've got Friends on the Other Side! (He's got Friends on the Other Side!)
- From the Bleach Image Song CD featuring Ichigo and Zangetsu, we have "Zan," which features call and response from Ichigo and Zangetsu, then Hollow Ichigo and Ichigo.
- "Zydrate Anatomy" from Repo! The Genetic Opera. Slightly subverted, in that the responses become more dulled as the drugs take effect in the chorus.
- The Villain Song "Hellfire" from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a Call And Response Song with a Bilingual Bonus. While Frollo is insisting that he's not to blame, a chorus sings "Mea Culpa", negating what he says.
- "I'm Goin' North" (lyrics by Frank Loesser) from the wartime movie musical Thank Your Lucky Stars.
- "Tallahassee" (by Frank Loesser) from the movie musical Variety Girl.
- "For the Last Time, I'm Dominican" from the Scrubs episode "My Musical" is a tango between Turk and Carla that takes the form of an argument:
I've had it up to here
So let me make it very clear
Because I swear I'll never clue you in again
Every time that you profess
I come from Puerto Rico (Turk:
For the last time, Turk, I'm Dominican! Turk:
Let's not make a big to-do
I was simply testing you Carla:
Well, then, why'd you tell J.D. our baby's "Blaxican"? Turk:
Babe, you know I know the truth! Carla:
Well, I need a little proof So list all you know about me or no sex again.
- "Type Wild" from Pokemon. The call is most of the lyrics from the song, while the response from the chorus is "Type Wild".
- Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's duet in the The Colbert Report 2008 Christmas special uses this, with Stewart trying to convince Colbert to try Hanukkah.
- The Backyardigans had many of these.
- "Mahna Mahna" from The Muppet Show is an interesting example. Even though the song is complete nonsense, it is easy to tell what the argument is. The lead singer wants to improvise, and the backup singers want to stick to the original tune and lyrics.
- "Be Yourself/Just Like You" from the Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "Russell Up Some Fun." The lines alternate between Blythe telling Sue to just be herself and Sue insisting she wants to be just like Blythe.
- A type of Military marching cadence, known as "Jodies", are a variation of this. Starting with the US Military, these have been known to get a bit vulgar.
- Many religious services include a liturgy and other prayers which include a call-and-response dialog with the presiding clergy. One typical example:
Clergy: "The Lord be with you."
Congregation: "And also with you."
Clergy: "Lift up your hearts."
Congregation: "We lift them to the Lord."
Clergy: "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God."
Congregation: "It is right to give him thanks and praise."
- Some Protestant denominations – particularly contemporary African-American and Baptist churches – will have the clergy attempt to draw a response of approval from members of the congregation after making a key point, although some congregation members will do this on their own without a prompt. For example:
Clergy: "Can I get someone to say 'Amen'?"
- Unofficially, The Rocky Horror Picture Show's ongoing fanbase has made calls-and-responses around the linear songs.