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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!)
Mega Man (Proto Man), "The Sons Of Fate"

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.

Examples of Call-and-Response Song include:


  • 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 Beatle's 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.
  • "Anything You Can Do" from Annie Get Your Gun is a classic example- both singers sing-argue about who can do anything better than the other.
  • 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.
  • "America" from West Side Story uses this. In the version revised for the movie, the characters taking turns being the Caller and Responder. The original version just had Rosalia as caller and Anita as responder.
    • To be more specific, the movie basically divides it into men as the callers and the women as responders (or vice versa, depending on the stanza).
  • "I'm Past My Prime" from Li'l Abner.
  • 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 . . .
  • "Make A Miracle" (by Frank Loesser) from Where's Charley?.
  • "Type Wild" from Pokemon. The call is most of the lyrics from the song, while the response from the chorus is "Type Wild".
  • Part of I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) by Meat Loaf.
  • 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.
  • K-Rino's "The Debate" which is about evolution vs. creationism, with K debating both sides.
  • There are plenty of church 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.
  • "The Name of Love" from the Musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Rosa Budd and Jasper sing their lines one after the other, making sense when read out, but only rhyming in context:

 "I call it lust." ("You think me just")

"I call it lewd." ("a bit too crude.")

  • 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

 I've got Friends on the Other Side! (He's got Friends on the Other Side!)

 ARE YOU READY?! (NO! I'm not ready at all!)

  • "Confrontation" from Jekyll and Hyde. Notable, in that the two characters singing (Jekyll and Hyde) are performed by the same singer, forcing him to switch voices from one sentence to the next.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Several instances in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, but the one that really stands out is "God That's Good", involving a crowd, Toby, Sweeney, and Mrs. Lovett.
  • "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!

 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

  • 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.
  • "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."

 "How do you feel?"

"I'm lonely!"

"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.
  • "Zydrate Anatomy" from Repo! The Genetic Opera. Slightly subverted, in that the responses become more dulled as the drugs take effect in the chorus.
  • "I'm Goin' North" (lyrics by Frank Loesser) from the wartime movie musical Thank Your Lucky Stars.
  • "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-"

"I'm caught again in the mystery - You're by my side, but are you still with me? The answer's somewhere deep in it, I'm sorry that you're feeling it but I just have to tell you that I... love you so much these days. Have to tell you that I love you so much these days, it's true."

  • "Sex (I'm A...)" by Berlin features a sung exchange between lead singer Terri Nunn and songwriter John Crawford.
  • "Magic Dance" from the movie Labyrinth.

 "You remind me of the babe"

"What babe?"

"The babe with the power."

"What power?"

"The power of voodoo."

"Who do?"

"You do."

"Do what?"

"Remind me of the babe!"

  • The studio version "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and 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)

 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 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

etc.

  • 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 how did they all die? (There was a plague called The Black Death.)

Then why did the mother and her child still stay in the foresty villiage? (Because the well[1] 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's "Need You Now".

 "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..."

  • Used a lot in the czech musical Pied Piper, where most of the songs are conversations between one or more people.
  • "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:

 Carla: 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: Yes?)

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.

  • 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-"

"Twenty!"

"-Euro. Your new balance is-"

"Twenty!"

"-Euro, and-"

"Twenty!"

"-cents!"

  • "It Must Be Love" by Ty Herndon features a "call" from Drew Womack and Doug Virden, then-members of Sons of the Desert:

 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 Billy Currington. An alternate version exists with Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray doing the male vocals.

Notes

  1. the word used (イド) can be used to mean id, as in the Freudian term. Yes, that's important.
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