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Hanni El Khatib: Singing Along To A Murderous Threat

In "You Rascal You," Hanni El Khatib shows that revenge is best served with the volume on full blast.
Courtesy of the artist
In "You Rascal You," Hanni El Khatib shows that revenge is best served with the volume on full blast.

To the list of pop music's great expressions of menace — a skin-crawling tradition that includes songs as various as Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talking" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Run Through the Jungle," among others — it's now necessary to add Hanni El Khatib's cover of "You Rascal You." El Khatib has stripped the jaunty big-band veneer from Louis Armstrong's original, leaving little to obscure the dire implications of its words. The result is a rare occasion: a murderous threat suitable for singing along.

The song's instrumentation is spare and heavy: While a loop of handclaps sets the tempo, El Khatib's guitar playing provides a steady chop beneath the verses. The marriage of sound and lyric is absolutely direct. First, the singer recounts the scoundrel's crimes: "You asked my wife to wash your clothes / You rascal you / You asked my wife to wash your clothes / and something else, I suppose." Then, El Khatib wishes him death: "I'll be glad when you're dead / "You rascal you." Finally, he uses his guitar to back up his point, and while the particulars aren't clear, all that reverb doesn't bode well for a rascal's health.

Rock fans may recognize something of The White Stripes in the form, but the absence of anything resembling a wink makes for a key difference in content. There's a steely quality to El Khatib's delivery: You never doubt that he's speaking in earnest, and if that's a little scary — honestly, it is — it's also fun. Who hasn't fantasized about a little payback now and again? In "You Rascal You," Hanni El Khatib shows that revenge is a dish best served with the volume turned up to full blast.

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