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An Accidental Hit 'Begins To Shine' — And Only Because Of 'Teen Titans Go!'

Aug 25, 2017
Originally published on August 25, 2017 8:47 pm

Scan the Billboard rock charts for the week of August 26 and you'll find the usual suspects: Imagine Dragons, Foo Fighters, Portugal. The Man.

But snuggled in at No. 23 is a new entry to the field: a song called "The Night Begins to Shine" by a band called B.E.R.

How'd this unknown song, written more than a decade ago, break into the charts? The answer: the cartoon Teen Titans Go!

While 'toon-based singles often get onto the charts only because of corporate overlord plotting, the success of "The Night Begins to Shine" was actually unplanned.

A snippet of the song first appeared on the cartoon in 2014. Peter Michail, a director and producer on Teen Titans Go!, was directing an episode called "Slumber Party" when he came up 10 seconds short.

It's important to note that Teen Titans Go! does not have its own composer. There's no person on the Warner Brothers lot conducting an orchestra along to the cartoon. Instead, directors have to score their own stuff using whatever they can find in their in-house music library.

"That whole episode, I was scoring it with an '80s vibe," says Michail. "So I literally went into the '80s rock genre and [was] rummaging through these albums and found ["The Night Begins to Shine"]. I was like, 'Aw dude, this song's awesome!'"

And that's how you get Cyborg — one of the Teen Titans — singing along to B.E.R. in the beginning of the episode. He sings a few lines — and then promptly turns out the lights and goes to bed.

That was it. It was, the producers admit, a throwaway joke to fill time. But fans heard it differently.

"Off that episode, people started saying, 'What's this song? Is this a song I've heard before?'" says Teen Titans Go! executive producer Michael Jelenic.

So the show's producers decided: You know what? This song rules. B.E.R. rules. In the next season, it became Cyborg's favorite song — even if fellow Titans didn't agree with his taste.

The song's popularity grew online. On YouTube, fans started playing the song over other cartoons. Next came remixes, and that sure-sign symbol of an online hit: hour-long loops.

This month — and here's where that corporate overlord plotting starts to kick in — Cartoon Network decided to go all-in and air a four-part series about the song. They released an EP. They commissioned covers from musicians like CeeLo Green and Fall Out Boy.

And that's how B.E.R ended up on the rock charts, beating out radio rock bands The Lumineers and Muse.

Carl Burnett, the "B" in B.E.R., helped write and produce the song. He's the one who got the assignment in 2005 to write an '80s-style song for a music library. And he's as surprised as anyone by its success. "Who would think it from a song that has its roots as a music library track?" he says.

I asked him what it was like to have an accidental hit — which, admittedly, is probably not the best way to phrase a question to a songwriter. Luckily, Burnett wasn't offended.

"Hmm, accidental," he says. "I would say that it's miraculous."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The August 26 Billboard chart for hot rock songs has the usual suspects - the bands Imagine Dragons, Linkin Park and Weezer. But snuggled in at No. 23 is a new entry to the field, a band named B.E.R., a cartoon band.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NIGHT BEGINS TO SHINE")

B.E.R.: (Singing) The night begins to shine. The night begins to shine. The night begins to shine. When we're dancing the night begins to shine.

SIEGEL: As you may imagine, the name of that song is "The Night Begins To Shine." It's from the animated TV series "Teen Titans Go!" NPR's Andrew Limbong has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NIGHT BEGINS TO SHINE")

B.E.R.: (Singing) Shine.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: While most toon-based singles getting a chart position is the end result of some corporate overlord plotting, this song was never meant to be a hit. "The Night Begins To Shine" was written over a decade ago, but it didn't break out until 2014.

PETER MICHAIL: I was directing an episode called "Slumber Party" and it was coming up 10 seconds short.

LIMBONG: That's Peter Michail, a director and producer on the show "Teen Titans Go!," a show that, importantly for this story, does not have its own composer. There's no person on the Warner Brothers lot conducting an orchestra along to the cartoon. Instead, directors have to score their own stuff using whatever they can find in their in-house music library.

MICHAIL: That whole episode, I was scoring it with an '80s vibe. So I literally - I went into the '80s rock genre and started rummaging through these albums and found it. You know, and I was like, oh, dude, this song's awesome.

LIMBONG: And that's how you get Cyborg, one of the Teen Titans, singing along to B.E.R. in the first few seconds of the episode. That is, until...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TEEN TITANS GO!")

KHARY PAYTON: (As Cyborg) That's enough. (Yawning) Bed time.

LIMBONG: And that's it. It was, the producers admit, a throwaway joke to fill time. But fans heard it differently. Here's "Teen Titans Go!" executive producer Michael Jelenic.

MICHAEL JELENIC: Off that episode, people started saying, what's this song? Is this a song I've heard before?

LIMBONG: So the show's producers decided, you know what? This song rules. B.E.R. rules. And the next season it became Cyborg's favorite song even if fellow Titans didn't agree.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TEEN TITANS GO!")

PAYTON: (As Cyborg) Hey.

SCOTT MENVILLE: (As Robin) Cyborg, we need to talk about the song.

GREG CIPES: (As Beast Boy) You seriously need some variety in your playlist, bro.

TARA STRONG: (As Raven) It's time to give it a rest.

PAYTON: (As Cyborg) Just the beginning?

MENVILLE: (As Robin) No.

PAYTON: (As Cyborg) I'll just skip to the best part.

MENVILLE: (As Robin) No more. The night is done shining, Cyborg.

LIMBONG: The song's popularity grew online. On YouTube, fans started playing the song over other cartoons. Then remixes and that sure-sign symbol of an online hit, hour-long loops. This month - and here's where that corporate overlord plotting maybe starts to kick in - Cartoon Network decided to go all in and air a four-part Teen Titans series about the song. They released an EP. They commissioned covers from folks like CeeLo Green and Fall Out Boy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NIGHT BEGINS TO SHINE")

FALL OUT BOY: (Singing) When I look at you I see the story in your eyes.

LIMBONG: And that's how B.E.R. ended up on the rock charts, beating out actual radio rock bands The Lumineers and Muse.

CARL BURNETT: And who would think it from a song that has its roots as a music library track?

LIMBONG: That's Carl Burnett.

BURNETT: And I am the B in B.E.R.

LIMBONG: He was one of the writers and producers of the track. And he's the guy that got an assignment in 2005 to write an '80s style song for a music library.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NIGHT BEGINS TO SHINE")

B.E.R.: (Singing) I saw you dance.

LIMBONG: I asked him what it was like to have an accidental hit, which admittedly is probably the wrong way to phrase a question to a songwriter.

BURNETT: Accidental? You know, I would say that...

LIMBONG: He thinks of it as something more godly.

BURNETT: It's - it's miraculous.

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NIGHT BEGINS TO SHINE")

B.E.R.: (Singing) When I look at you I see the story in your eyes. When we're dancing the night begins to shine. The night begins to shine. The night begins to shine. The night begins to shine. When we're dancing the night begins to shine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.