The wide-angle shots of Sam Phil, refrain of “some say PA”—each word stretched out several syllables—and footage of Phillips Academy administrators rapping have found an audience beyond Andover hill. With over 88,000 hits on Youtube in little more than a week, some might say that “The Andover Song” has reached the ears of “youth from every quarter” or, more precisely, critics from every quarter.
“The Andover Song,” a seven minute video directed and produced by Michael Kontaxis ’11, aims to capture “essence of Andover” with satirical rap performances. Kontaxis said he wanted to show off the school’s population and eliminate stereotypes.
With its format as a rap song and parody, the video first gained popularity with Phillips Academy students, faculty and alumni. The video was later picked up by the Boston Barstool, Deadspin, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and other news outlets.
The video has received mixed reactions—on some webites, like the Boston Barstool, commenters railed against Andover, prep schools, and the video itself. Other sites have prefaced the video with tongue-in-cheek praise, with Gawker writing the video comes with “the depressing realization that this video’s production values are much higher than those on many videos by ‘real’ rappers.”
The student and alumni reaction has been extremely positive, Kontaxis said. Over 1,500 alumni shared the video link over Facebook within the first two days it was available.
Kontaxis created the video after his college counselor, Jonathan Nicholson, encouraged him to create a video which would answer the question “What is Andover” for college scouts.
Basing the video on his previous music videos and drawing on other school’s examples, such as Yale University’s “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” he adjusted the audio of students and faculty rapping and singing with Auto-Tune, a technique Kontaxis felt would make the music video more unique.
Kontaxis said, “I also think that the artistic merit of rap has been given, frankly, a bad rap…I figured that if my video was going to touch on people’s unjustified misconceptions about [Phillips Academy] that it might as well do it in a manner that breaks down another unjustified misconception these same people probably have about rap.”
After Kontaxis wrote the music and lyrics, Charlie Danner ’11 produced the instrumental version of the song. Jeb Roberts ’11, Ricky Marcotte ’11, Casey MacQuillen ’11, Jakob Rohwer ’11, Kristina Rex ’11, Khalil Flemming ‘12 and Danner performed sections in the song.
Kontaxis also approached several faculty members to participate in the video.
Head of School, Barbara Chase, Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, Kevin Graber, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Aya Murata, Pine Knoll Cluster Dean, Kathleen Pryde, Chair of the of Physics Department, Max Alovisetti, Director of Graham House Counseling and Brad Silnutzer, Interim Director of Community Service appeared in cameo roles throughout the video.
Kontaxis said the shoot itself was quick, recording the rap in Danner’s studio in Barlett Hall and then filming each participant for ten to twenty minutes.
The video initially spread from Kontaxis’ posts on Facebook and Chases’ email to the Phillips Academy Community. All incoming Phillips Academy students received an email with a link to the video.
Kontaxis said he wasn’t fazed by the variety of comments about the video, but was surprised by the how quickly the video caught on.
“I expected that those who loved Andover would love it, and the alumni response has validated this. I thought that those who had pre-established biases against prep schools wouldn’t “check their eyesight” as the video suggests…but what I didn’t anticipate was that the video would become this big this quickly. That’s been a pleasant surprise,” he said.
Kontaxis explained that the most essential features of the video, its rap and its satire, have generated the most discussion.
The Slate Group, published by a division of the Washington Post Company, criticized “The Andover Song” for reinforcing stereotypes about arrogant and condescending prep school students.
Ricky Marcotte ’11, said, “[Michael and I] both agree that the people that have negative opinions of it are just playing into all the prep schools stereotypes. They don’t understand the video was made for fun and as a favor, rather than to act like pretentious prep school students.”
The Huffington Post’s website praised students on creating such a popular video but felt that the video was still really a recruitment video.
The Village Voice, however, admired the video’s attempt to be parody a music video and interviewed Kontaxis about his filming process. The article wrote that although the video was not perfect, it displayed the large diversity of the school’s population.
Kristina Rex ’11 said, “The only hurtful comments are the ones targeting specific people in the video, but I really think Andover kids are confident enough that they can laugh at people’s silly comments and find them amusing… one comment even said ‘Did you hire that black kid?’ It’s hilarious, because racial diversity is one quality PA prides itself on.”
“I hope the video continues to receive the positive attention, and that those ‘haters’ see its time to drop the act and admit they like it. On Barstool Sports, which is notorious for obnoxious criticism, there was a comment among all the rude ones that simple read ‘I thought it was pretty good,’ and I think that says enough,” added Khalil Flemming ’12.
View the video below: