Sometimes a whole new world opens up before your eyes. Somehow I missed Tones and I’s Dance Monkey and its promotional video. Since Dance Monkey spent the most weeks ever at the top of the Australian singles chart (24 non-consecutive weeks), spent 11 weeks at the top of the UK chart (the record for a female artist), and hit #4 in the US, I guess that many Music Man readers know the song & video.
I was introduced to Dance Monkey by Josephine Alexandra’s fingerstyle guitar cover of it, so I had a gentle introduction. With its auto-tuned vocals & its odd, unforgettable video, the original is a novelty song, albeit one that is rooted in Toni (Tones and I) Watson’s hard-won experience as a busker. It’s an earworm that I suspect can bore as deep as Baby Shark. Here is Alexandra’s cover:
In the YouTube comments, Ahmad Nadhor makes an observation that recurs in evaluations of Alexandra’s playing: “One instrument can cover all 3 instruments (guitar, bass & drum) at the same time, and play it flawlessly; so clean and perfect, wow.” Critics, including Sam Roche of Guitar World, also tend to mention her ability to evoke the vocal melody. As Rose xc90 expresses it, “Either this guitar is singing through her fingers or someone is secretly singing there. She is such a talent!”
Such is her ability to capture the vocal parts, Alexandra includes the lyrics to her instrumentals as subtitles (the toggle is the CC icon under the video). Tones and I has said that she wrote the lyrics to express the pressure to hold people’s attention when busking. “If you replace: ‘dance for me, dance for me’ with ‘sing for me, sing for me,’ it’s pretty literal,” she said. If you haven’t seen the Tones and I video I will rectify that omission at the end of the article. First, some more Alexandra:
That was Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome To The Jungle in a video that looks like it could be set in the Indonesian jungle, but was more likely shot in a lush tropical suburban garden. Sam Roche, of Guitar World, writes that most YouTube guitar covers of the iconic song play it as faithfully as the player is able. Then, he says, occasionally a guitarist is able to re-interpret it. He gives the example of Josephine Alexandra, “who recently rearranged the entire song for fingerstyle guitar, playing almost every single part in one take.” With her Taylor PS12ce 12-fret acoustic, he continues, “Alexandra displays her formidable fingerstyle ability as she glides through the track, effortlessly overlaying the melody of Axl Rose’s vocal lines on top.”
Born in May 2001, Josephine Alexandra is from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. She was introduced to classical piano before she turned four and classical guitar when she was seven. When she was eight, her parents created a YouTube channel to show her piano ability. By the time she was ten, Alexandra’s interest in instruments expanded. Through a combination of watching YouTube videos and taking courses, she could soon play the saxophone, drums, violin and bass. At the age of eleven she started learning fingerstyle guitar and has never looked back.
Josephine Alexandra’s YouTube channel has 2.15M subscribers, her video of Dance Monkey has 17M views, her cover of Welcome to The Jungle has 1.2M views and her most popular video, Charlie Puth’s Attention, has 25M views. She is represented by the G7th Agency.
As promised, here is Tones and I with Dance Monkey. If you’ve never heard it, be warned. The song is very catchy and the farcical video, with Toni (Tones and I) Watson in disguise, is a hoot. A whole new world may open up before your eyes.