NPR

Why Club DJs Love 'Barbra Streisand'

In every major dance club across Europe, DJs are spinning the new track from the producing duo Duck Sauce. It's near the top of the charts across the continent -- at No. 1 in Belgium. The radio version has just one simple lyric that doubles as the song's title, and it's spoken, not sung: "Barbra Streisand."

The video for "Barbra Streisand" became a huge viral hit, and it features cameo appearances from Kanye West, Ezra Koenig, ?uestlove, Pharrell, DJ Premier and others.

Canadian DJ Alain Macklovitch, also known as A-Trak, is one half of Duck Sauce. He says the song has nothing to do with the singer.

"There really is no relation nor rational reason behind the lyric and the title 'Barbra Streisand,'" he tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "We just thought it would make people laugh."

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Transcript

(Soundbite of song, "Barbra Streisand")

GUY RAZ, host:

In every major dance club across Europe tonight, DJs will be spinning this track you're hearing. It's near the top of the charts across the continent, number one in Belgium and in the U.K., and it has just one simple lyric.

(Soundbite of song, "Barbra Streisand")

Unidentified Man: Barbra Streisand.

RAZ: Once again, the song's only lyric...

(Soundbite of song, "Barbra Streisand")

Unidentified Man: Barbra Streisand.

RAZ: Barbra Streisand. It's the name of the song by two of the most famous DJs in the world, Armand Van Helden and A-Trak. Together, they're known as Duck Sauce. And if you think the song is a little weird, wait until you see the video. Every minute or so, another superstar artist, like Pharrell or ?uestlove or the lead singer of Vampire Weekend or Kanye West pops up to simply say...

(Soundbite of song, "Barbra Streisand")

Unidentified Man: Barbra Streisand.

RAZ: A-Trak from Duck Sauce joins me from New York now. A-Trak, getting ready for Saturday night, I presume?

A-TRAK (DJ, Duck Sauce): Actually, tonight I have a night off, which is a treat for a DJ.

RAZ: So let me ask you this question - I guess the obvious question - why Barbra Streisand? Is there anything about this song that's about Barbra Streisand?

A-TRAK: There really is no relation nor rational reason behind, you know, the lyric and the title, "Barbra Streisand." It's just something that we thought would make people laugh.

RAZ: Are you a Barbra Streisand fan?

A-TRAK: Yeah, to a certain extent. Sure. As any Jew would be.

RAZ: As any Jewish person from Canada like yourself...

A-TRAK: Exactly, yeah.

RAZ: Okay. So it has nothing to do with Barbra Streisand but it just worked, right?

A-TRAK: Yeah. I mean - like, it's very simple that when Armand and I were working on the song, we originally had all the music done. So you can imagine the song without that lyric. You know, originally to us, the catchiness of the song was just going to be the kind of sing-along melody. But we just felt that it was missing a little vocal sample or some sort of...

RAZ: Oh, A-Trak, can I interrupt you for a second?

(Soundbite of song, "Barbra Streisand")

Unidentified Man: Barbra Streisand.

RAZ: Okay. Go ahead. Go on.

A-TRAK: And so we were, you know, we were brainstorming as to, you know, what to add to the track and we just came up with this idea that it'd be funny to say someone's name.

(Soundbite of song, "Barbra Streisand")

Unidentified Man: Barbra Streisand.

RAZ: Do you know what Barbra Streisand actually thinks of it?

A-TRAK: I have never spoken to Barbra Streisand. I would love for her to hear the song. We have no idea if she's heard it.

RAZ: A-Trak, you were Kanye West's personal DJ for several years, so I imagine you know a lot of people in the music industry. But, I mean, seriously, you had - in the video for this - you had Kanye West, Pharrell, Questlove. How did you get all those guys and then others to be in the video?

A-TRAK: These are all people that I've met at one point or another in my career and established some sort of relationship with. And I rarely call in favors. That's probably the key to why we were able to pull off the video. This was the video where I called in all the favors at once.

RAZ: Did you guys ever think of, like, Engelbert Humperdinck or maybe even like Neil Diamond instead of Barbra Streisand?

A-TRAK: Those were the two other names that we had on our short list. The thing about Barbra Streisand is it just had the right cadence for that little opening in the music.

(Soundbite of song, "Barbra Streisand")

Unidentified Man: Barbra Streisand.

RAZ: That's Alain Macklovitch, the DJ better known as A-Trak, talking about the hit disco house single he's co-produced called "Barbra Streisand." You can see the video at our website, nprmusic.org.

A-Trak, thanks so much.

A-TRAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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