Single Review: Christina Aguilera & Missy Elliott “Car Wash”

Car Wash
Album: Shark Tale soundtrack
Year: 2004

“Disco was too great and too much fun to be gone forever, it’s got to come back some day. I just hope it will be in our life times,” said Josh, a character from one of my all-time favorite movies, Last Days of Disco. Disco hasn’t gone out of style. It just changed it’s name to dance-pop.

In 2004, disco was revisited again with the 1976 Rose Royce hit “Car Wash” for the animated flop Shark Tale.

In the original “Car Wash,” lead singer Rose Norwalt is disillusioned about her career choice. She’s trying to convince herself it’s a decent job and thinks of a job she rather not be doing. However, she’s trying to look on the bright side: anyone could come and perhaps offer her a better life. (“You might not ever get rich/Let me tell you it’s better than digging a ditch/There ain’t no telling who you might meet/A movie star or maybe a common thief”).

In the chorus, she simply states her job: “working at the car wash.”

The work isn’t pretty. It’s actually sweaty in the summer and freezing in the winter. If people are looking for Hollywood connections, they are working at the wrong place. There are some perks, though. She has an easygoing boss. (“Come summer the work gets kind of hard/This ain’t no place to be if you’re planning on being a star/Let me tell you it’s always cool/And the boss don’t mind sometimes if you’re acting like a fool”).

In the bridge, Norwalt hates her job, though and rather be somewhere else (“Well those cars never stop coming…Keep those rags and machines humming…My fingers to the bone…Keep on and can’t wait till it’s time to go home”). She beckons customers with the specials with sadness in her voice: “Hey, get your car washed today/Fill up and you don’t have to pay/Hey, get your car washed today/Fill it up, right away.”

In the 2004 cover, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott are optimistic about their future working at the car wash. A rap has been added in the beginning. Elliott lets people know the song is exclusive to Shark Tale and can’t be found anywhere else. Elliott is cocky, however calling herself “one big catch” and devaluing the others she works with as “small tuna fish.” (” Y’all small tuna fish, I’m one big catch/This is a Shark Tale exclusive”).

Aguilera harmonizes with herself, which also quite different from the original. Rose Royce only provided background vocals for the chorus and bridge. For Aguilera, it’s like her first job and she’s earning money for the first time in her life. She also doesn’t mind the work. (“you might not ever get rich/let me tell you it’s better than digging a ditch”).

Aguilera recongnizes it’s hard work and likes the how the boss lets them goof off in the second verse (“come summer the work gets kind of hard…”) Aguilera also likes the busy pace of job. However, after working an eight hour day, she wants to go home (“Well those cars never stop coming…”). Aguilera’s enthusiastic and cheerful when she tells customers about the specials (“hey, get your washed today/fill up and you don’t have to pay…”).

Elliott, however, sees work as a chance to preen and get noticed by customers (“Sharks in the water make they jaws lock/When I swim through the grim, I’m too hot/Shark’s lair, bow down playa/’Cause this right here will be your worst nightmare”). Elliott knows she has to work to get money and in order for her to be a superstar, she’s going to have to start anyway she can (“9 to 5 I got to keep that fat stack coming…Washing cars ain’t no place to be a superstar man…That’s why I work, and work”).

Without the unnecessary rap, the 2004 version would top the original. The cover updates the disco elements with modern dance pop. Both of different points of view. Norwalt has been there for years while Aguilera and Elliott have plans find another job.

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