Words by: Matthew Griffiths
Who knew a song called ‘My Favourite Fish’ could link together 90s culture, evoke Michael Jackson comparisons when it is at its core just a song about his girlfriend Jess.
Let’s say you’re alone in your room one evening before bed, headphones on, about to enjoy a newly dropped song from an artist you’ve never listened to before. You hit play and let the sounds soak in – “Okay, this is different.” you tell yourself. The song ends and you decide to call it a day. You go to sleep, and forget about the whole experience.
Skip forward 2 or 3 years, and you’re driving out of town with some friends. You’re vibing, busting jokes, maybe snacking on some samosas, and the friend who has arguably the best music taste out of everyone in the car has the AUX (well, Bluetooth). One song ends and another one begins – but this next one grabs your attention. It’s Gus Dapperton‘s ‘My Favorite Fish’. Firstly, it grabs your attention because everyone in the car has immediately begun bobbing their heads. Secondly, you realise you have questions.
Haven’t you heard this song before? Why didn’t you save it? Why does it now sound incredible? And why does it sound like a Michael Jackson song?
You begin bobbing too as the luxurious groove of ‘My Favorite Fish’’ rests within you, while you gaze dreamily out of the window in bewilderment.
Some songs just hit different in the car, I guess.
Gus Dapperton and MJ
There’s a few things about ‘My Favorite Fish’ (and even its music video) that are strangely reminiscent of Michael Jackson.
For instance, the way that Gus Dapperton pronounces words when singing is unique, and fans have noticed.
“Diction”, in music, is the way a singer pronounces or enunciates the words of a song. I first heard diction being discussed on The Voice UK (mostly by Jessie J). Looking back, it seemed like a fancy word that the judges would throw around to make viewers feel more intelligent than they would feel if they were watching X Factor.
But something will.i.am said as a rebuttal to Jessie J, who had been unsatisfied with a contestants diction one year, really struck me – “But Michael Jackson didn’t have perfect diction – He said ‘chamone’ instead of ‘come on’.”
The production on ‘My Favorite Fish’ is simplistic, starting with a gentle warbling guitar over a laid back kick-snare pattern with some shakers. It’s not until Gus gets into the first verse that the MJ-ness really kicks in.
“Back on the sea and the scenery.”, he sings while relaxing lime green-haired with matching pants on a luxurious-looking but modest motor boat. Like Michael, Gus’s voice is sharp yet delicate, and paired with the stripped back plucked acoustic guitar, I’m reminded of similarly produced MJ songs like ‘Best of Joy’, ‘Speechless‘, and ‘Much Too Soon‘.
Gus Dapperton and The 90s
Gus Dapperton’s aesthetic is extremely 90s. It’s bold, vibrant and filled with colour. The music video for ‘My Favorite Fish’ is largely composed of the 3 primary colours – red, yellow, and blue (like the old MTV logo).
The video’s intro title is written in big yellow graffiti style letters, like 90s hit show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
You could even argue that the part where Gus jumps off the side of the boat (0:50) is a 90s reference to movies like Forrest Gump (remember Lieutenant Dan? 6:25) or Titanic, when Rose jumps off the lifeboat to be with Jack…
But probably not.
Gus Dapperton and…His Girlfriend
What are the lyrics “Jess will lead the way ’cause she can mimic the motions” really telling us?
The song is evidently about Gus’ girlfriend, Jess Farran (not Kate Winslet), who appears to be in control of the boat at Gus’ moment of exit. Gus positively paints her as a woman who is steady, in control, and somebody worth following. Behind the 90s aesthetic and Michael Jackson – esque levels of cool, is a song about love, and surrendering to it with a person you can rely on – someone who will keep driving the boat for you, even when you feel like diving off.