Wait, is ‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher’ actually any good?
The breakout star of Netflix’s The Witcher isn’t a person, it’s a song. “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” the tune that the bard Jaskier composes for the witcher Geralt, has become a hit to the point that it even has its own Wikipedia page. It’s also now (finally) on Spotify, much to fans’ delight.
The song is one heck of an earworm, but now that The Witcher has been out for over a month, it’s time to take stock. Is “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” actually a good song? Or is it a bad song that’s cruising on the power of one really good chorus?
To help get to the bottom of the question, the Netflix Twitter account for Australia and New Zealand posted a thread on the creation of the song. Written by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli with lyrics by Jenny Klein, the song went through numerous iterations, including a rap version. The final version settled somewhere between modern and medieval — just like Jaskier himself, played by Joey Batey, whose haircut and demeanor are more in line with a modern hipster despite his medieval clothing.
Belousova and Ostinelli created half a dozen different versions of ‘Toss A Coin’, ranging in style from medieval to more modern renditions - including a rap.
In the end, they decided go with something a little more in keeping with @LHissrich ’s incredible vision for the series.
— Netflix ANZ (@NetflixANZ) December 30, 2019
While that explains why “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” sounds more akin to a modern pop or rock song than a historically accurate bard’s ballad, that doesn’t account for the song’s lyrics, which are ridiculous. For your perusal, with annotations:
When a humble bard
Graced a ride along
With Geralt of Rivia
Along came this song
“Ride along” is contemporary slang; it gets the point across as to Jaskier accompanying Geralt, but it’s definitely not medieval terminology.
From when the White Wolf fought
A silver-tongued devil
His army of elves
At his hooves did they revel
This verse just doesn’t have good mouthfeel in terms of rhythm. Just try reading it out loud and you’ll see what I mean.
They came after me
With masterful deceit
Broke down my lute
And they kicked in my teeth
While the devil’s horns
Minced our tender meat
And so cried the Witcher
He can’t be bleat
I’ll give “mince” to Jaskier as embellishment (to mince means to cut or grind into small pieces, and no pieces of flesh fall off of either man in the show) but I can’t abide by “bleat.” It’s a play on word in reference to the goat-man the pair encounter, but it’s not a substitution that makes sense. Also, calling yourself “tender meat” is questionable.
At the edge of the world
Fight the mighty horde
That bashes and breaks you
And brings you to mourn
He thrust every elf
Far back on the shelf
High up on the mountain
From whence it came
This is clearly a reference to the Christmas fiend the Elf on the Shelf, which might be funny for viewers, but doesn’t make any sense for the audience that Jaskier would actually be playing this song for. It’s also just absurd, though arguably the whole of The Witcher is, too.
He wiped out your pest
Got kicked in his chest
He’s a friend of humanity
So give him the rest
The rest of what???
That’s my epic tale
Our champion prevailed
Defeated the villain
Now pour him some ale
Let’s be real, this story is not very epic. The Witcher season 1 could be called epic, but “Geralt and Jaskier encounter some bandits” can not.
The chorus repeats after that, which is really the song’s saving grace. Unlike another bard, William Shakespeare, Jaskier’s words aren’t particularly evocative, nor do they fit within iambic pentameter or, for the most part, any other set meter.
The power contained in the refrain of “toss a coin to your witcher,” however, is undeniable.
To drive home what a banger ‘Toss A Coin’ is, the composers made Jaskier’s older songs extremely, well, not good.
Keep an ear out for different versions of it throughout the series, especially when Geralt and Jaskier hit up a pub for an ale. #WitcherNetflix is streaming now.
— Netflix ANZ (@NetflixANZ) December 30, 2019
The Netflix thread also notes that Jaskier’s other songs were made “not good” on purpose, and it’s a purposeful difference in quality that proves the chorus’ power. No other songs have broken out of the show, while “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” is inescapable. “It’s the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard,” Batey said. “Everyone’s been listening to it for a week or so now, and humming it. I’ve had that in my head for eight months.”
Here’s to another eight months of humming the song — or maybe even more, as we wait for The Witcher ’s second season to deliver us another bop.
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