By The Numbers In this music parody, songs with numbers in the title are rewritten to be about things related to those numbers.
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By The Numbers

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By The Numbers

By The Numbers

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Thanks, Jonathan. Before the break, we met our contestants, Molly and Daniel. Our next game involves numbers. They're like letters, but they go on forever. Molly, you and your fiancé love museums, and you have a goal right now to see all of the Met because someone said it is impossible to see all of the Met.

MOLLY RUBIN: And I said, I take you on that challenge.


RUBIN: And not only am I seeing all of the rooms. I'm doing it in numerical order, which is an incredibly difficult task. It's been about two years.

EISENBERG: Two years.

RUBIN: I have modern art and 19th century European paintings left.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I feel like there is a common thing. People go into the Met. They're like, Temple of Dendur or whatever, like, and then they're out, right?

RUBIN: Oh, yeah, totally.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I think the first time I ventured downstairs - and I was like, Frank Lloyd Wright lives here?


EISENBERG: Daniel, you are chess-obsessed.

DANIEL VARGHESE: Yeah, sure. Yeah.

EISENBERG: It's a new thing.

VARGHESE: It's a new thing, so with all new obsessions, it's burning bright right now.

EISENBERG: Yeah. How long have you been playing chess?

VARGHESE: Well, I mean, I played in elementary school.


VARGHESE: And I was horrible, and then I stopped, which is what you do when you're bad at a thing.


VARGHESE: You just kind of give up. And then I was just hanging out with a friend, and there was a chess table nearby, like, a year and a half ago. And we picked it up, and I, like, crushed him. Like, I obliterated this man. Like, I - we played three games, and I won, like, so handily that I started playing online and immediately started getting crushed again...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) OK.

VARGHESE: ...Which has been great actually. It's been, like, nice to kind of try to grow as a person and also study and get better...


VARGHESE: ...Slowly.

EISENBERG: Your next game is a music parody game called By The Numbers. Win this game, and you're in the final round. If you lose, your number is up.

COULTON: We changed the lyrics of songs with a number in the title and made them about things related to that number. So guess the thing that I'm singing about, and if you're correct, for a bonus point, you can name the original song or the artist who made it famous. You ready?




COULTON: Here we go.

(Singing) Start with any note, babe (ph), A, B, C or D. Find a higher note, babe. Let's double the frequency. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. The span between these notes, babe, is called a what?



RUBIN: A musical scale?

COULTON: That's a fine guess. That's not what we were looking for. Daniel, do you know the answer?

VARGHESE: Is it a whole step?

COULTON: Also not what we were looking for. We were looking for octave...



COULTON: ...Because, of course, the song is...

RUBIN: "Eight Days A Week."

VARGHESE: It's "Eight Days A Week."

VARGHESE: Yeah, that's right. No points for either of you, I'm sorry.


RUBIN: Bummer.

COULTON: Here's your next one.

(Singing) A little due process feels so nice. You're my favorite part of the Bill of Rights. Self-incrimination makes me blue. But I don't have to testify thanks to you.



RUBIN: The Fifth Amendment.

COULTON: Yeah, that's correct, Fifth Amendment.


COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the original song or artist?

RUBIN: "Mambo No. 5."

COULTON: Yeah, that's right - Lou Bega.


COULTON: Here's your next one.

(Singing) When I sing these lyrics, your ossicles quiver so you can hear what I said. They're named for the shapes of the tools they resemble. They vibrate inside of your head.

Don't look at me like that.


COULTON: Daniel.

VARGHESE: Is it a synapse?

COULTON: That's a good guess, but that's incorrect. Molly, do you know the answer?

RUBIN: I feel like you're talking about nose hairs, but I don't know the number that goes with nose hair.

EISENBERG: Like, how many nose hairs...

RUBIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...The average person has?

RUBIN: I don't know.

COULTON: No, everybody has the same number of nose hairs. You didn't know that?

EISENBERG: You're born with the same number of nose hairs that you die with. Did you know that?

COULTON: (Laughter) That's right. It's actually just one hair. It goes in and out.

EISENBERG: It's very long.


COULTON: It's actually not nose hairs. We were looking for the bones of the middle ear.

RUBIN: Oh, all right.

VARGHESE: That's not a number.

RUBIN: Yeah, what's the number?

COULTON: Well, there - don't - guys, don't yell at me.


COULTON: There are three bones in the middle ear, and that was "Three Times A Lady" by the Commodores. OK.

(Singing) I'm going to see them all. Always keep my telescope pointing up at Ursa Major, y'all. It's a curved handle on a giant cup.



RUBIN: Constellations?

COULTON: Can you be more specific?

RUBIN: The Big Dipper?

COULTON: Yeah, Big Dipper. It's what we're looking for.


COULTON: Can you name the original song or artist?

RUBIN: "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.

COULTON: That's right. And there are seven stars in the constellation of the Big Dipper. This game totally makes sense even if you guys think it doesn't.

EISENBERG: But I like it when we work together.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah, it's good. We're putting on a show. It's great.

EISENBERG: We'll lead you.

COULTON: Here's your next one.

(Singing) My language skills are strong. In second grade, I wrote a poem - 5, 7, 5. It was just three lines long but in Japanese just to show them - 5, 7, 5.



RUBIN: Haiku?

COULTON: A haiku. That is correct.



COULTON: For a bonus point, can you name the song or artist?

RUBIN: Fleetwood Mac. I'm blanking on the name.

COULTON: I'm sorry. It's - technically, it is not Fleetwood Mac.

RUBIN: Oh, is it Stevie Nicks?

COULTON: It is Stevie Nicks. And that's called the "Edge Of Seventeen" for the 17 syllables in a haiku.

EISENBERG: Such a relief when someone says, can I read you some of my poetry? And you're like, uh. And they're like, it's a haiku. You're like, all right.


COULTON: Oh, yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead.

(Singing) I'm a match for you. My antibodies fight for a transfusion. I'm an A, not O or B or AB, so there's no confusion.



RUBIN: Blood type?

COULTON: Blood types, that's right. For a bonus point, can you name the song or artist?

RUBIN: "Slave 4 U" by Britney Spears.

COULTON: Yeah, you got it.


COULTON: Four basic blood types, and there is a number four in the title of the song.

EISENBERG: It's good.

COULTON: Just to let you know the consistency of the game making sense throughout.




COULTON: All right. This is your last clue.

(Singing) The answer is there inside your wallet, I would guess - that stack of crisp Ulysses Grants that you possess. Yes, it's a large denomination. I'm impressed. But won't you please just pay for your kombucha?


COULTON: Daniel.

VARGHESE: Is it a $50 bill?

COULTON: It certainly is. You're correct.


COULTON: Bonus point if you can name the song or artist.

VARGHESE: I don't know the song.

RUBIN: "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover."

COULTON: Yeah. That's right, Molly - "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon.

EISENBERG: Great game, both of you - fantastic. And after two games, Molly is going to our final round.


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