The Fascinating Musical History Behind that Song at the End of Mean Girls
We all know and love the smash 2004 hit comedy Mean Girls for its writing, its realness, its performances and its quotability. But to top off that list, there was yet another element to this film that is noteworthy, and that’s its soundtrack.
From iconic early 2000s songs like “Milkshake” by Kelis and “Pass that Dutch” by Missy Elliot, to DJ Samantha Ronson’s heartfelt “Built This Way,” to the revisiting of classics like “One Way or Another” by Blondie, the soundtrack was incredibly memorable. But to me and quite a few others, the song that stood out the most was the one that played at the very end of the film. And I’m not talking about The Donnas’ cover of “Dancing With Myself.” Although that one is awesome too.
At the end of the film, when Cady is explaining what each individual character went on to do following the mess that was their junior year of high school, a wispy song builds up in the background until the reveal of the credits, when its beat drops. Quickly after that, it gets cut off to make room for that Billy Idol cover. Check it out in the clip below at the 5:10 mark!
Years after the movie had come out, I finally did myself a favor and researched this song that I always admired after countless viewings of the film. And despite it not having an official spot in the Mean Girls soundtrack, I finally tracked it down: “Halcyon + On + On” by a musical group called Orbital. Check out the song in its entirety down below. The beat drops around the 2:30 mark.
I ended up loving the entire song as much as I loved that snippet of it from Mean Girls. But as time went by, I realized that there was much more to this catchy club tune than met the eye. It actually had a fascinating musical history behind it that showed me just how much one song can evolve over time when it inspires another artist.
Let’s look into the strangely intricate history behind Orbital’s “Halcyon + On + On.”
It’s a Fine Day (1983)
If you haven’t noticed yet, “Halcyon and On and On” has no true lyrics. Just a unique set of remixed la’s and da’s that somehow come together to form a very thoughtful dance number. But the vocals are actually sampled from another song entirely: a cover of a 1983 a cappella song called “It’s a Fine Day,” written by English poet and musician Edward Barton, and performed by his friend Jane Lancaster.
It’s a very simple song with a uniquely somber tone to it. Some say they get an eerie feeling from it due to its vocal stylings and deliberate use of a cappella. At times, when first hearing this song, I felt the same way. And it doesn’t help that it has been associated with an old Japanese Kleenex commercial that many Americans rumored was haunted, complete with completely fake stories of all of the actors in the commercial dying and people who watch it getting haunted beyond belief. Oh internet…
But the creepy feeling I got from the song made more sense when I first watched its 1983 music video, which depicts a housewife and mother saying her goodbyes to her husband before he goes off to war. He presents their child with a brand new toy car and is presumably never seen again. Suddenly, the vocals of the song, its a cappella style, and its deep yet mundane at times lyrics start to make sense to me. While it’s all open to interpretation, it all translated to me how sometimes the seemingly simplest of days can secretly be the most distressing. And how much you wish you could go back to a mundane day when your world is falling apart. Suddenly how lonesome her voice sounds in the song without instrumentals makes it all the more convincing that she herself is feeling alone and vulnerable.
“CONFIDE IN ME” BY Kylie Minogue (1994)
We’re going to take a quick detour in this timeline to skip to 1994 and talk about how “It’s a Fine Day” influenced the Kylie Minogue song, “Confide in Me.” Barton was credited - under the name Owain Barton - for co-writing the song. Barton was quoted saying “I woke up one afternoon and switched on the radio. I thought, "That's a good tune. In fact that's my tune.” You can hear the influence of his song in the video below at the 49 second mark.
“Halcyon” BY Orbital (1992)
The same year that Opus III released their version of “It’s a Fine Day,” English EDM duo Orbital got inspired to remix it into a dance song known as “Halcyon.” The group is made up of two brothers, Phil and Paul Hartnoll and the song was dedicated to their mother, who suffered from an addiction to the tranquiliser Halcion.
Being that Kirsty Hawkshaw’s “It’s a Fine Day” vocals were being used in the song, she also starred in its music video. The video pays homage to the Hartnolls’ upbringing, as Hawkshaw plays a typical housewife doing her daily chores under the influence. It was even shot in the Hartnolls’ home. The video gets to be very heartbreaking as you watch her slowly descend into madness, imagining images of people’s faces on her dishware and a man rising out of the water in her sink, while her two young sons try to get her attention.
This meaning behind the song, while sad in many ways, also gives a lot of depth to what seems like a fun song to dance to at the club. This music video has stuck with me ever since I first saw it years ago.
AND On and On (1993)
In 1993, Orbital released a more “melodic and upbeat” version of “Halcyon,” which they named “Halcyon + On + On,” after Ariston washing machine company’s slogan, “Ariston + on + on.” This version of the song surpassed the original version in popularity due to its use in multiple films.
MORTAL KOMBAT (1995)
The most well-known use of this song in a film has to be the 1995 film Mortal Kombat. It’s used at the end of the movie during its resolution. Check out the use of the song in the clip below at the 30 second mark. That same year, it was also used in the 1995 film Hackers.
Mean Girls (2004)
Finally, in 2004, it was used during yet another resolution scene. This time, that of comedy classic, Mean Girls. It’s been fascinating to watch a song that was originally about regret and loss be turned into a club hit that sounded uplifting, inspire a song about addiction, and then ultimately turn into something that movie makers wanted to use to convey resolution and closure. It just goes to show that when someone creates truly inspired art, that it can inspire others, take on new meaning and live on in infamy for many years. I personally always found these songs to have a twinge of both sadness and hopefulness. I think whether you get an eerie feeling from them or a calming one, you’re completely correct. I think what stands out to me about both “It’s a Fine Day” and “Halcyon” is that they’re both complex in sound, which makes them perfect for many different moods. Because life itself is complex, and we need art around us that reflects that.
I’m so happy to have fallen down the rabbit hole of these two songs and hope to make more fascinating music discoveries in the future. Let me know what you think of these two songs and where you first heard them from. Until next time!