Why is the Bluey opening theme music so freaking catchy? The gleeful tune is infectious for kids and adults alike, but there are also a few mysteries. From the exact time signature to the instruments used, this theme music has had hardcore Bluey fans of all ages trying to break down every note and chord progression in this piece. Turns out, composer Joff Bush loves reading all the theories and is ready to set the record straight. For the occasion of the release of the new just released — Bluey: Dance Mode! — Bush spoke to Fatherly about that now-famous earworm, and why the music of Bluey is the way it is.
Dance Mode is the second Bluey music compilation released overall, and features an eclectic variety of styles, tones, and tempos that fans will recognize from their favorite episodes of the second and third seasons. It starts out energetic but mellows out as the songs progress, an intentional choice by the music makers.
“We did the same structure as the first one, where the album was almost going to be called Games and Stories,” Bush tells Fatherly. “So Side A was the games and Side B was the stories. This time, the first half is dance games, and Side B is more story-driven tracks from the show.” This includes touching tracks from episodes like “Grandad” and “Rain,” which also has a lyrical rendition titled “Boldly in the Pretend.”
“That was a really special one for me because I wrote that episode with Jazz D’Arcy,” Bush says. “She started as my assistant and quickly became super integral to the team and had brilliant ideas in the spotting sessions. When we got to this episode, we wrote the music together, and then she wrote some beautiful lyrics to all these songs, too.”
This album includes a remixed version of the Bluey theme, one worthy of airtime in a dance club. This also reignited the chatter around the opening melody, sparking more interest than ever. Bluey’s intro wasn’t the first song Bush worked on for the series (that was actually for “Yoga Ball”), but it went through many iterations before landing on the final version.
“The thing that really unlocked it was Joe Brumm (creator of Bluey) told me I’ve got to make the titles a game of musical statues,” Bush reveals. “And so, then it was like I know what to do now.”
This, of course, leads us to the strangeness and simplicity of the Bluey theme. A song that is way more minimalist than casual viewers probably realize.
“I have to tip my hat to Joe for even approving it because it’s a pretty weird song!” Bush says. “If you think about it on paper, there’s no drums – it’s melodica and hand claps. It’s something people are dancing to, but there’s no steady beat throughout...There’s no lyrics other than shouting the characters’ names There's some good mystery in there, and a lot of structure. I think of it as the breaks between each shout, it felt as like ‘3-2-1- Bluey,’ like a countdown to Bluey where the voices come a little bit earlier each time. But at the same time, you can treat it as a fermata.”
At the end of the day, Bush doesn’t really have a preference for how the theme is interpreted. “I'm just stoked people are talking about it and like it. That's amazing to me. I don't think any of the kids care,” he adds with a laugh. Over on Romper, he made it clear that the style of music in Bluey favors an interiority that is designed to be from a children’s point-of-view.
“With Bluey, we often take a more internal approach. So it’s more about the kids’ perspectives. “I think there’s often with film scoring, particularly for children’s TV shows, there’s an approach of doing music that has an external point of view that’s telling you, ‘this is a bad guy, this is a good guy.’ And it’s very much about reinforcing what the storyteller wants you to think about people,” Bush said in that interview. “With Bluey, we often take a more internal approach. So it’s more about the kids’ perspectives
Recently, music YouTuber Adam Neely addressed the Bluey theme discourse and noted it used the “Bo Diddley beat”, a rhumba beat that’s been adapted into rock and roll music known for its 3-2 clave (think “Shave and a Haircut” to get the most basic idea of how it sounds).
“I just love that groove,” Bush confirms when asked about the rhythm. “It kind of worked with the percussive claps and that very handmade sort of feel to it.”
Turns, out the original versions of the theme sounded closer to rock according to Bush, but with a similar sound akin to the final cut. The elements that inspired this version also came from an unlikely source.
“I had just finished doing a show called “The Family Law”, which probably hasn't aired anywhere about Australia, but it's a really beautiful show...The musical thing about it was I wanted to get a really homely sort of vibe, so I was using old upright pianos and $20 guitars and things like that, and, and just recording them in a way that felt warm and personal, leaving little mistakes and things like that. When it came to Bluey, it sort of just evolved from there.”
The theme’s signature sound is the melodica, a handheld instrument that looks like a small piano, powered by blowing into a tube connected to its top section. “It’s almost like a schoolyard instrument in that it's easy to play,” Bush says. “It's flowy, and it felt Bluey to me. What little animation I saw of it was so clean as well, it felt like it needed a little bit of a rough edge, but also humanity to the recording.”
Clearly, adding those imperfections made the theme catchier, and helped propel the Heelers into a household name around the globe.
Bluey: Dance Mode! is out now. A special version for Record Store Day 2023, drops on April 23.
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