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Florida of the Day: A tale of two odes to Jacksonville, Florida

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definitely floridaAlthough this was released in December 2014, nearly a year after my move to Florida, I was unaware of the above ode to Jacksonville, Florida until yesterday, when my friend and Jacksonville native Hampton Catlin posted it to Facebook. Shot at Jacksonville Landing, a terraced open-air shopping mall by the St. Johns River and overlaid with tourist brochure photos, the video is acoompanied by some unremarkable elevator jazz, and then drowns it with out-of-sync vocals that sound like karaoke night with your co-workers who’d staved off stage fright by downing a few rounds of sickly-sweet shots (most likely buttery nipples, and they couldn’t stop giggling while placing the order):

According to a December 2014 article in the Florida Times-Union titled Video, song promoting Jacksonville draws negative reviews, it wasn’t put together by the city, the local chamber of commerce, or even a group of local businesses, but some amateurs who wanted to share their civic pride. The ringleader behind the effort is Laurence Walden, whom they describe as “a veteran entertainment professional who once was a producer and director of theme park shows at Disneyland”:

He’s lived in Jacksonville since 1999 and said he thought the city needed a theme song.

Walden said Thursday that he used Broadway show tunes as an inspiration for the music for the song. He used his own experience in Jacksonville as the inspiration for the lyrics which tout everything from the Jaguars to the Beaches to the arts and other cultural scenes and beyond.

“I wrote it about nine years ago,” Walden said. “It’s a theme song, not a pop song. … It appeals to a diverse audience.”

People who are not Walden have described said appeal with comments like “That is more than cringeworthy. It’s tragic,” and “I’m sure there was good intention, but that was bad.”

A far better song about Jacksonville is Duval Ditty (a nickname for Jacksonville, which is in Duval County), released 4 years earlier in 2010. It wins on every front, from the tune to vocalists who can keep time, to better dancing, to not showing generic chain businesses you can find outside Jacksonville, such as chain hotels and grocery stores, which were featured in the Jacksonville, Florida video. It’s even more impressive when you find out that it was made by students at Jacksonville’s Paxon High School.

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