The Best "Pants on the Ground" Covers
When civil-rights legend “General” Larry Platt arrived at the Atlanta auditions for American Idol, he “just wanted to get the pants up,” as he told The View on Monday. After being turned away for being a little bit too old for Idol (Platt is 62; the cutoff is 28—but age is just a number, as anyone who watched Platt do a split can attest), it seemed like his message might never get out. But Platt’s deeply, satisfyingly catchy composition was featured on the show’s audition episode last Wednesday—and almost overnight dozens of remixes and covers had popped up all over the Internet, spreading a message of cinched belts and cuffed legs worldwide.
We took a sampling of some of the best and worst, and graded them based on how well they conveyed Platt’s pants-up, hat-straight, anti-gold-tooth message:
Larry Platt’s Original
Platt’s original, marked by consummate professionalism, bare-bones structure, and impressive dance moves, had such an instinctively catchy rhythm that millions of people woke up the next morning wondering “why am I singing ‘Pants on the Ground?’” And then, inspired, pulling their pants up.
Targeted to: Young people, rapscallions, the guy Platt saw with his pants on the ground.
Pants: Neatly pressed trousers, not on ground.
The Next Generation of “Pants on the Ground”
Of course, there is probably no one better to bring General Platt’s ideas to the youth of today than an actual young person. Miley Cyrus? Dakota Fanning? Suri Cruise? How about 4-year-old Owen, who enthusiastically belts out “Pants on the Ground” with his pants actually kind of near the ground? Anyone able to watch this and keep their hat turned sideways has a heart of stone.
Targeted to: The Teletubbies, residents of Park Slope, Dora the Explorer.
Pants: Pajama bottoms, around thighs.
'Pants on the Ground' Hoedown
Though Larry Platt’s song was big on scolding, it didn’t have much in the way of advice. How, exactly, should one keep one’s pants off the ground? Bluegrass trio The Sweeney Family Band has a suggestion or two—try Skeeter Sweeney’s simple and effective suspenders, for example. Or you could go whole hog like Nub Sweeney and just wear overalls. Problem solved! Either way, the consummate professionals in the band demonstrate that visuals are as important as lyrics and music.
Targeted to: County fairs, people who own the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, Lil’ Abner.
Jimmy Fallon and Randy Jackson Jam Out
And here you thought Randy Jackson’s only talent was saying “Yeah, dawg,” and getting gastric bypass surgery: Turns out the guy can play a mean bass. Jackson stopped by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon the other night and was convinced to strap on a a bass to play with the band—without telling him what the tune was going to be. But Jackson—who’s played with Carlos Santana, Stevie Nicks, Bruce Springsteen, Charlie Daniels and Bob Dylan—was more than up to the task.
Targeted to: Fanatic Randy Jackson fans, people who live for bass solos, Paul McCartney.
Pants: Whatever they are, about 6” smaller than they were pre-operation.
Brett Favre Sings “Victory Chants on the Ground”
Brett Favre, who is probably about Larry Platt’s age, took the General’s song all the way to the final four on Sunday after routing the Cowboys 34-3. Leading a crowd of exuberant Vikings—all with their pants pulled up, their mouths gold-free, and their hats facing front—in the chant, Favre showed that winners don’t look like fools. Except when they’re singing “Pants on the Ground.”
Targeted to: Minnesotans, people unsure about retiring, Aaron Rodgers.
Pants: Padded pants, near waist.
Pants on the Ground, DEATHCORE Version
What is “deathcore,” you ask? Well, we don’t really know, and if this is what it sounds like, we’re not sure we want to know. We can say this: as an intimidating tactic to scare you into keeping your pants off the ground, it works. Even though the band that recorded this is apparently in middle school.
Targeted to: Disaffected teens, people who think Norwegian Death Metal is “too quiet,” the
Angel of Death.
Pants: Leather, around thighs.
Brent Morgan’s Oh-So-Smooth Lite-Rock Version
Thought Larry Platt’s performance was just a little too harsh? Brent Morgan’s exceptionally smooth rendition may be just for you. In the fine tradition of white-bro-on-an-acoustic-guitar legends like John Mayer and Jason Mraz, Morgan encourages his listeners to pull their pants up via multitracked vocals and an oh-so-light touch. But is the General’s message actually getting across, or are people just getting lulled to sleep? The guy doesn’t even try to do a split!
Targeted to: Frat boys, radio stations with names like “MAGIC” or “THE WAVE,” Jennifer Aniston.
Pants: Pre-worn khakis, at knees.
Jesse Miles Does Dave Matthews Doing “Pants on the Ground”
Since the General’s debut on national television, millions of Americans have been asking themselves the same question: “What would it sound like if Dave Matthews sang that song?” We may never have the full answer, but YouTube mimic Jesse Miles gives us the next best thing. Miles’s pained face and Muppet-sounding verbalizations are quintessential Matthews, and who knows? He may encourage a new generation of DMB fans to pull their pants up.
Targeted to: People wearing hemp necklaces, people who use the word “jam” to describe music, Bela Fleck.
Pants: Abercrombie & Fitch Khakis, near waist.
Pull Your Pants Up, Eh?
The “pants-on-the-ground” epidemic isn’t contained to the United States exclusively, of course. Canada, too, is afflicted by the fool-looking, sideways-hat-turning, gold-in-the-mouth-sporting subjects of General Platt’s composition. Luckily for Canadians concerned about their country’s future, Vancouver radio hosts Kiah and Tara Jean took to the streets and rendered “Pants on the Ground” using instruments that will resonate particularly well with hippie-populated Vancouver: a zither and bongos. We’ll give them points for originality, but still… it’s a zither and bongos.
Targeted to: Reed grads, drum circle enthusiasts, Trey Anastasio.
Pants: Hemp pants, near ground.
MI Produktions’ Southern-Style Remix
The only problem with General Larry Platt’s performance of “Pants on the Ground” at the American Idol auditions was that the show’s strict rules prevented him from having the bad-ass backup track he so richly deserved. Maximum Impakt Produktions set out to change that, and fit the good General’s lambasting lyrics to a brassy, Korg horn-propelled, Mannie Fresh-style beat. You’ll want to pull your pants up, if only so you can dance.
Targeted to: Southern rap fans, bedroom producers, T.I.
Pants: Denim shorts, near waist.
The Beatbox Hitman Adds a Beat (and Some Spit)
As the General seems to recognize, sometimes simpler is better. A talented YouTuber calling himself “the Beatbox Hitman” decided that all Platt’s admonishment anthem really needed was some good old-fashioned, spittle-inflected beatboxing. With lyrics as powerful as “looking like a fool/with your pants on the ground,” who needs “instruments”?
Targeted to: A cappella groups, subway buskers, Doug E. Fresh.
Pants: Baggy jeans, around thighs.
Pants on the Ground, the Instrumental
We’d never deny that Larry Platt’s composition is strong enough to survive any performance. But, we ask, why turn the piece into an instrumental when the genius so clearly lies in the lyrics? We’re sure that everyone who watches this instrumental variation will be moved by the inspiring tune, but without the message, their pants will stay on the ground, their hats will remain sideways, and they will continue looking like fools.
Targeted to: Snobs, grandparents, Glenn Gould.
Pants: Tuxedo pants, on the ground.
Rock Out with Your Pants Up
Need more proof of the international universality of “Pants on the Ground”? Look no further than this interpretation, by Malaysian rockers Jeremy, Alex, and Ralph, for whom the stirring sartorial advice of General Platt clearly resonates. Will their message be heard? Well, if you can’t listen to three Malaysian high-schoolers, who can you listen to?
Targeted to: High-school garage rockers, guitarists, Pete Doherty.
Pants: Skinny jeans, near waist.
“Neil Young” on Jimmy Fallon
“Neil Young” stopped by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last week to continue his series of covers of American classics. Though, we can’t say his take on “Pants on the Ground” topped his revelatory cover of “The Fresh Prince Theme Song”, the rock legend and (we’d guess) avid belt-wearer was clearly committed to Platt’s important message. Unfortunately, a harmonica solo doesn’t exactly scream “pull your pants up.”
Targeted to: Record collectors, baby boomers, David Crosby.
Pants: Beat-up jeans, around knees.
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