It’s been almost exactly twenty years since Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson unleashed “Whatzupwitu,” one of the weirdest, most terrible-yet-wonderful songs of the 90s. The title alone should tell you something’s wrong. It’s pronounced “what’s up with you,” but it’s spelled in a funky way. Because you know what makes a song cool? Funky spelling!
But the title is just the beginning. This odd little trinket also delivers inspirational lyrics about saving the world. I think. I think that’s what the lyrics are about. I mean, the song starts with a woman saying, “The elephant is dying,” so that’s probably about Greenpeace. Here’s a sample verse:
We can’t stop this world
‘cuz it’s not our world.
We can just jack each other up.
Heavenly Father, You’re mighty patient.
He’s got your number.
Pick your disease.
I mean… that’s about the plight of humanity, right? It’s hard to focus, honestly, because Michael Jackson keeps distracting me with his nonstop hooting. And speaking of: I know that Eddie Murphy was in Michael’s “Remember the Time” video, but why did MJ agree to do this?
Oh, wait. I know. It’s because he wanted to be in this amazing music video:
MTV might have fronted years later and said this was the third-worst video in history, but I remember 1993. I remember that every time MTV showed this thing, it got introduced by a title card that said “breakthrough video.” So at some point, someone was convinced that animated hearts flying around Michael Jackson’s head and music notes zooming around while Eddie imitatesd MJ’s dance moves was a true step forward for the culture.
And really… that’s the truth. Because the world was a little different after this magical freak show entered our lives.
By the way, the reason Eddie Murphy was even allowed to record this song was because he had a big hit in the 80s called “Party All the Time,” which was written and produced by Rick James.
That was a wild period in the 80s. Don Johnson, Bruce Willis, and Eddie all had top 5 singles. But only one of them followed that success with the mind-bending conundrum of “Whatzupwitu.”
True confession: Mark Blankenship actually bought the cassette single of “Whatzupwitu.” He still has it. If you’d like to comment on that, you can tweet him at @IAmBlankenship.