Few things are more pleasing to our ears than Splash's hilarious personalized contestant walkout songs. And few things are more surprising to Splash supervising producer/in-house lyricist Rick Austin than the growing demand for them.
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"It's kind of crazy how much people love them," Austin tells TVGuide.com. "ABC had to start putting them up online [after each person's elimination]. The funny thing to us is that people might have them on their iPods, like they're actually real songs. You get people saying, 'Who wrote these theme songs? They're hilarious.' But there are also people who go, 'Who wrote these theme songs? They're terrible.' You kind of want to tweet them back and go, 'They're supposed to be terrible!'"
Like the show itself, the tunes are a cheeky, humorous riff on the contestants, more absurd than you can even imagine and short enough to keep us wanting more (the average length is 30 seconds). The most famous lyric, of course, is Brandi Chastain's opening verse: Brandi Chastain, do it again / She used to play soccer / Now she's hittin' the water. "We realized we were on to something when we started playing Brandi's on the set and you'd walk by crew members and they were singing it," Austin says. "These things are actually kind of catchy. We may have written songs that people actually like."
The songs were born out of necessity. Producers originally wanted to play a mainstream hit for the celebrities to walk out to — like, say, Lady Gaga for Kendra Wilkinson — but they quickly realized they couldn't stretch ABC's checkbook that much. "In order to clear those songs, we would've spent half the budget for the show," Austin says. "So we said, 'Well, we can get some lame library music to bring them on or why don't we write the song that we wanted to have to begin with?' We started throwing lyrics around making ourselves laugh in the office and we said, 'OK, this is a funny idea.'"
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With his co-producers and online rhyming dictionaries, Austin, who has no songwriting experience, penned the lyrics, recorded himself singing them on his iPhone and then sent them to Jingle Punks, a jingle-writing company, to create the music. "They must've been horrified at my singing voice and once they got over that terror, they sent back a demo of their own in two or three days," he says. "We were like, 'Wow, how did they turn that into a real song? It sounds like something you'd hear on the radio.' They were so great and funny. The songs were never meant to be serious ... because the show doesn't take itself too seriously. This is a pool party. The songs are meant to be intentionally bad, but at the same time, you want them to be fun."
Austin never gave any of the celebrities a heads up about the songs, not only to surprise them but to avoid getting approval on the tunes. Fortunately, everyone "loves" their song and gets the joke, he says. Unfortunately, after 11 individual songs (they had written one for Chuy Bravo before his withdrawal), four team songs and one "mystery song" for a mystery diver next week, Austin's songwriting days might be over... for now.
"When we heard that ABC was going to put them up on their Music Lounge, we were like, 'OK, now we've got to write a second verse, a second chorus and a bridge and a guitar solo,'" he says. "And of course we realized we're in the middle of producing the show and we don't have time to make these things real songs as much as we'd love to have them top the charts! One day. Season 2, we'll have full songs and remixes and 8-minute dance versions!"
So how did Austin come up with each song? Find out below and listen to the final product.
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"Keshia's famous for The Cosby Show. What was famous back then? New jack swing. Instead of getting 'Poison' by Bell Biv DeVoe, let's write one like it. We thought, 'Can we write one lyric and keep saying it?" We weren't sure how long the song would actually play on the show, so let's put all the punch at the beginning and keep saying it. So that's why we repeated 'Damn, girl.' Then how do you get The Cosby Show in there? This place about to blow / This ain't The Cosby Show."
Austin says: "You want to try to play around with Louie's size. It was a real challenge for him to be on the show. He's over 400 pounds. We didn't even know if he could perform any kind of dive, but he had a great attitude about his weight. He was having fun with it the entire show, so we decided, 'Let's do some old soul vibe as if it was from the '60s and make his weight a positive thing and call him Big Louie.' He ended up going off one platform higher the first time. People were rooting for him and the courage that he had."
Austin says: "[Webb's] was probably the first one we wrote and we played it very safe [with the lyric 'Whoa, what a beautiful woman']. Then we kind of got crazy with some of the other ones and looked back at Katherine's and said, 'We're just saying she's a beautiful woman and she's so much more than that.' We revised it and wrote about her being Miss Alabama and mixing diving with glamma and she doesn't look like your grandma. Then we ran out of things that rhymed with Alabama, so we stopped. We figured we'll cut away to her montage anyway, so let's stop."
Austin says: "We were trying to figure out what kind of pop-punk song would work for Rory and action sports and extreme skiing. What do those guys listen to? We started throwing out bands like Blink-182. We tried to make a song that sounds like what those guys would listen to while they're flying down the mountain. It's fun to work in their name when possible so you know that it's actually their song written just for them. Then it was about him having no fear, letting it all hang out."
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"Kareem's seems to be a lot of people's favorite. He needed a James Brown song. He's a huge jazz fan, so we said, 'Can he come out to something that sounds like Miles Davis?' And that just didn't work. When he started his career at UCLA and went to the Bucks, what was big? And it was James Brown funk. And it's a duet. We needed the backup singers there singing, 'He's got the skyhook.' Kareem's known for the skyhook and that's a shot that nobody else has been able to perfect. That's the shot that made him the highest scorer in NBA history and he has a company called Skyhook. It just seemed like a natural fit."
Austin says: "We took some liberties with Brandi's because [soccer and water] don't rhyme if you've noticed. It's probably the catchiest out of all of them. ... The other day, I witnessed a couple of the contestants sitting around discussing who had the better theme song. They decided Brandi had the best one. They were laughing how we rhymed soccer with water and got away with it on national television. Brandi also said to me, 'That has to be my ringtone.' So when you call Brandi Chastain, her phone is going to go, Brandi Chastain / do it again / she used to play soccer / now she's hitting the water."
Austin says: "Drake is probably the fiercest competitor on the show. He's way into it. He's competing like it's the Olympics. We wanted to almost give him a theme that a boxer would come out to at a heavyweight bout. His name is Bell, so it's like he rang the first round bell. We kind of wanted to put it in the world of Drake Bell's fans. He's a real musician. He's written pop songs. He's got a pop following of a lot of girls who are fans of Drake & Josh. It sounds like one of those teen pop songs."
Austin says: We went back and forth between the theme from Baywatch, "Eye of the Tiger" and '90s music because she was huge in the '90s. ... Her lyrics are kind of indicative of what she's been going through. She came in not really wanting to be seen in a swimsuit, she was a little bit heavier than she was in her Baywatch days and it was all about her trying to get back in shape. It was fun every week to hear that song and to see her become one of the best divers on the show. To me, the song became really unintentionally inspirational because her story is one."
Austin says: "We realized you can rhyme Ndamukong with Donkey Kong. I think, like, 15 years ago, 'Get it on like Donkey Kong' was a hip thing to say. We were sort of disappointed when the contestants with the better theme songs were eliminated early. Keshia had one of the better songs and she's gone after one episode and then Ndamukong left. It's like, 'I feel bad for Keshia, but I also feel bad because we don't get to hear that song anymore.'"
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Austin says: "Kendra needed to booty-pop to her song. She needed something that was sassy and in-your-face and had attitude. We talked about her days on Girls Next Door and her days with Hef. We started playing around with Playboy Bunny, but she's never been a Bunny. She's been such an independent spirit, so we looked for things to rhyme with 'bunny' and 'money' rhymes, so that's half your song."
Austin says: "We were so disappointed not only because Chuy wasn't able to compete because it would've been hilarious, but also because no one got to hear our Chuy Bravo song. It sounds like the Macarena meets Miami Sound Machine. Miami Sound Machine is his favorite band and he would've gone nuts had he walked out and heard his theme. I don't know if he's ever heard it. I got to play it for him."
Austin says: "We originally thought about doing a mash-up of both their themes, like a DJ remix, and it felt like a mess. For Drake and Katherine, and Rory and Kendra, we were able to use elements of their individual songs. Louie and Kareem, and Nicole and Brandi thought of their own team names. They thought of Team Mom, so when we heard that, right away we said, 'That's gotta be the song.' Jingle Punks ... had a great country singer and they sent me a track that sounded like a great Lynyrd Skynyrd song. We wanted it to sound like this down-home country song about good ol' American values. And of course we rhymed 'diapers' with 'divers.' ... 'Diapers' kind of sounds like 'divers.' It's like, 'What the hell? Close enough. If it's funny, let's do it.'"
Do you like the Splash theme songs? Which one is your favorite?
Splash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.
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