CHICAGO — It took three local musicians less than an hour to whip up “Paul Vallas Hates House Music,” the song that went viral in the leadup to the mayoral election.
The song spread quickly on social media as Vallas and Brandon Johnson battled for the top spot at City Hall. Johnson prevailed last week — which is just what creators Charlie Malave, Al Scorch and Hawk Coleman wanted.
As a lifelong Chicagoan, witnessing the mayoral race and the election of the city’s most progressive mayor in a generation was “near and dear to my heart,” Scorch said. Contributing to the moment with a song that people can dance to for at least the next four years is a bonus, Scorch said.
“It’s awesome to see a song like that take off,” Scorch said. “I’m from here. I love Chicago. I made a song for the city, and the city embraced it. That feels good. As a child of Chicago, I feel great about that.”
When asked if Paul Vallas actually hates house music, a spokesperson for his campaign declined to comment.
In the days before the election, a meme spread saying Vallas hated house music, which has its roots in the city. It made Scorch laugh, so he saved the idea in his back pocket, he said.
“What does that mean?” Scorch said. “What are the deeper implications of not liking house music, [which is] … one of Chicago’s greatest cultural contributions to the world?”
Scorch had planned to meet with Malave to make another “Get Out The Vote” song, he said. He’d previously made a voting video in 2015, when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel faced challenger Jesús “Chuy” García.
For this election, they first recorded “Let’s Vote, Chicago!” a song inspired by the “cringe 1980s ‘Let’s Save The Youth Center’ hip-hop tracks,” Scorch said.
After bouncing around more ideas for another song, Malave suggested they give Coleman — a close friend and longtime contributor — a call, Scorch said.
“As soon as [Malave] said, ‘Let’s call Hawk,’ I said, ‘We’ve got to make this house track,’” Scorch said.
Coleman, a pianist and singer, grew up jamming to Donna Summer, Prince and Al Green, he said. He plays in two electronic and psychedelic funk rock bands.
Scorch called Coleman and asked if he’d be down to record a “classic Chicago house track called ‘Paul Vallas Hates House Music,’” Coleman said. He made it to the studio in 20 minutes.
Coleman came up with the song’s lyrics “all on the fly,” he said.
“If the groove is going, I can throw storylines on the chart just like that,” Coleman said. “Chicago house always felt like it has a bit of edge, rawness and sassiness to it. I imagined what Paul Vallas wouldn’t turn on and went from there.”
Malave, “the Mark Ronson of Humboldt Park,” pieced the song together using classic noises from house music hits: the organ, a tambourine and electric piano, Scorch said.
Malave wrote in an organ piece with tambourine, and Coleman started singing “off the cuff,” Scorch said. Pulling inspiration from idols like Frankie Knuckles, “the godfather of house music,” Coleman found his place on the beat, he said.
Scorch heard Coleman’s coos over a Chicago house bouncy bass beat and knew he had a hit on his hands.
The song worked because everyone had a good time making it, Scorch said. You can feel the “joyous collaboration” when you listen, he said.
“It was really fun, beautiful and spontaneous,” Scorch said. “One of those things where we set aside the time, and in that time, we got to make a song a lot of people liked and got a message out. It was fun and joyful. It’s not mean. It’s kind of poking fun, but it’s not disparaging. It’s pretty low stakes.”
Scorch recorded a music video for the song at a March 30 rally for Johnson hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, he said. He went with a Bluetooth speaker and a poster board saying, “Want to dance? Paul Vallas Hates House Music. Be In Music Video.”
In the video, residents — and a cat — move to the house beat. A man who was once crowned Lollapalooza’s best dancer breakdances. Alderpeople gather in a circle and do a two-step for the camera.
If the Johnson administration is looking for a team to make a victory inauguration track, they can give Scorch a call, he said. But Scorch, Malave and Coleman will team up for another song, regardless.
“This is a super successful creative project that has raised a lot of people’s spirits and given people a lot of energy and hope,” Scorch said. “That is the ultimate reward.”
The next song might be a Chicago house track, Scorch said. Once the three reunite in the studio, “the best thing will rise to the top,” he said.
“After the last three years of everything that everyone’s been through, I think a lot of people just want to dance, move and forget about the news cycle for a minute,” Coleman said. “There’s nothing like club music that makes you forget how terrible things can be. People just want to dance more than ever.”
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