The Dazzlings Get Too Meta For Their Own Good

by forbloodysummer

Chapter 1: Daniel Ingram Chapter 1

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Come on. You can do this. Just stop stressing about it and start doing it.

They’ve never asked this much of me before, though. A live orchestra. Eight songs, two of them with a grammy-nominated singer who’s sold millions of records. And this is the movie; it’s taken seven years of Friendship Is Magic bucking all the trends (oh, not too stressed out for puns, huh?) for Hasbro to greenlight a My Little Pony movie, because they still remember how badly the last one did 31 years before. This is a big deal. I can’t get it wrong. And that’s a lot of pressure to deal with when trying to feel creative.

“I don’t think it matters what song we play, as long as we play it together as friends!”

...What was that?! Where did that voice come from? Why is there a random woman’s voice in my head?

“You mean, maybe there’s more to making good music than just having fun? Could it possibly be an art form, requiring years of practice and understanding?”

And she’s... lecturing me? It’s Twilight’s line, if I remember rightly, but that’s not Tara’s voice...

“That to become truly good at it requires not just inspiration, but critical self-evaluation and a dedication that most music students will never live up to? It would be a bit ironic if you wrote a moral about music being as simple as the magic of friendship, and then hit writer’s block when you forgot all the other things it needs.”

“Kazumi?” I ask, “Is that you?”

I thought she was off recording for one of her other shows this week. And where’s her voice coming from? And, since we’re on the subject, what’s she on about?

“Close,” the voice answers. “She plays me on TV.”

...Right. Hearing real voices just isn’t crazy enough, huh?

It’s ok. I’ve been stressing about having to write the songs for the upcoming movie, and I haven’t slept well in days, that’s all. Hearing voices doesn’t automatically make me Sour Sweet. I’m just really strung out right now. Might as well embrace it – goodness knows other musicians have managed to find inspiration from far less healthy sources, and I’ll do anything to provide just a flash of suggestion about how to begin.

“...Octavia?” I ask.

“Very funny,” comes the flat reply. “The cellist can’t help you now.”


“Of course. I’m a siren. Where else would I be, but in a composer’s head?”

Was that deep? Or was it nonsensical, and nothing to do with the original Greek siren myths?

“Awww, you’ve internalised Adagio Dazzle,” a second voice contributes out of the blue.

“And to think, you watched the movie hoping she’d internalise you,” adds a third. That would be Aria, then, with the audible sneer. Well, I guess they always were a three-piece. Also, hey!

“...You didn’t tell Kazumi that bit, I’m guessing?” Aria finishes.

“That would be awwwwkwaaaaard,” Sonata giggles, singing the last word in a way that wouldn’t really work in reality, since her speaking and singing voices came from different actresses. Here it blends seamlessly, though, just as it would were she real and had only one larynx to use for all vocal functions.

I try to abandon the line of thought about what it must be like to have two different voices before it gets too weird. Weirder than the three voices I have in my head already, that is, plus my own, which is fairly crazy to begin with.

But I’m not crazy, I tell myself, just stressed. Although having Sonata Dusk in your head is probably enough to drive anyone loopy.

“Anyway, you’ve got bigger problems,” Adagio brings me back to the moment.

“Who, me?” I speak up.

“Yes, you. That’s why we’re here.”

“That’s not strictly true, though, is it?” Aria cuts in before I can respond.

“Yeah, we’re, like, always here,” Sonata agrees. “It’s pretty much where we live.”

I take it back – maybe I am crazy. The voices in my head all seem to think so. And given how crazy that argument sounds, maybe I should see a doctor tomorrow.

“Well, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned there, Daniel,” Adagio purrs. “We are meta-villains, you know.”

“...There’s no such thing.”

“Sure there is. The first Equestria Girls movie wasn’t terribly well-liked by the MLP fans, receiving criticism for Sunset as a villain, and her instant redemption at the end.”

“And of course for Flash Sentry,” Aria adds.

“Exactly,” Adagio continues. “And so Rainbow Rocks gave Sunset an almost entirely new personality, and revealed early on that no one else at CHS had bought into her redemption or forgiven her.”

“And while Flash was still in it,” Aria picks up their call-and-response thing, “it would have been weird if he vanished entirely.”

“So they kept him to a minimum, and made him hostile more often than not.”

You’re welcome, fanbase,” Sonata contributes annoyingly loudly.

“But there was another criticism the first movie received,” Adagio continues, “from outside the fandom. Look at its Wikipedia page and you’ll see the big paragraph dedicated to complaints that the humanised character designs were overly sexualised.”

“All those concerned parents...” Sonata says, and you can hear her shaking her head with her eyes closed in completely insincere concern.

Adagio carries on, as if Sonata’s addition were planned just so Adagio had a relaxing moment to take a breath. “The writers addressed all the other complaints the second time around, but they were already tied into the character designs, they couldn’t really alter the animation style. And suddenly they needed to come up with a new villain. Hmmm...”

Aria says, “...And suddenly Little Miss Hair & Hips is making children confused and parents uncomfortable the world over.”

“Body image issues?” Adagio scoffs. “No one on Earth could achieve hair like mine.”

“And the world is all the sadder for it,” I can’t help saying.

“You’re finally admitting it then? You know why we’re here?”

“Because you three – one of you in particular – are my muses as a composer.”

“And what lesson can we learn from this?”

Aria snorts, and suggests her own answer before I think of one. “If you’re asked to write songs for meta-villains, don’t give them the highlights of your whole arsenal.”

“Maybe we just inspire the best in him?” Sonata asks, and I feel a flash of gratitude to her.

“Probably,” Adagio says. “That’s what muses do.”

“But we set out to make the world adore us...” Aria says.

“...And thanks to you,” Adagio finishes, “it worked.”

“So you might say we owe you.”

“That sounds ominous,” I reply hesitantly.

“It needn’t be,” Adagio says, “especially not now you need us.”

“I see what you did there,” I say.

“Although we were a bit miffed by your tweet of 2015 being the year of the villain, having written three villain songs.”

Sonata, in a voice that implies a pout, says, “There were just as many in our film the year before.”

“Four, if you count Trixie’s,” Aria grunts.

“Ooh, I liked that one,” Sonata agrees. “You’re from the past, I’m from the space age.”

“Meh, too many funny vocal noises at the ends of phrases, especially in the bridge.”

“Better than we gave it credit for at the time, I’d say,” Adagio says.

“Yeah,” Sonata says, “but we didn’t get to hear the really good bits in the movie, just the repetitive chorus.”

Adagio says, “Kind of sad though. I hate to break it to you, Trixie, but in many respects the space age is the past. Mankind hasn’t stepped on the moon in nearly half a century.”

“Maybe that’s the point?” I suggest, defending the intent of a song I co-wrote. “For all the boasting she does, sometimes she isn’t very good at it. And besides, we send more into space than ever before, just not humans beyond orbit.”

“It’s not quite the same, is it?” Adagio laments. “I keep thinking of Luna up there during her banishment, when, after 959 years, someone finally makes a small step and drops in to say hi, and yet after 1972, they stop visiting.”

But then Aria says, “Think we might be getting a little off-topic here, Adagio.”

“Maybe, but it’s a beautiful image," Adagio replies.

“I have a hard enough time as it is keeping Sonata’s tangents under control, I can’t handle yours too.”

“Anyway, I preferred the villain song from the year after, Say Goodbye To The Holiday.”

“You liked that one, huh?” I say. Figures.

“It was a bit Disney, not terribly subtle for my tastes.”

Aria interjects, again before I can think of any response other than ‘ouch.’ “Cough, ‘listen to the sound of my voice, soon you’ll find you won’t have a choice,’ cough.”

“I didn’t write the lyrics for that one!” I say quickly.

“Oh, we know it was Meghan,” Adagio says, and I find myself unsurprised. Even if they weren’t in my own head, Adagio strikes me as the type to just know, with no explanations offered. “And what she lacked in the verses she made up for a hundred times over in the rest of it.”

Sonata starts singing, almost to herself. “We’ve got the music, makes you move it, got the song that makes you lose it, that’s just the best.”

“It really is a very good line,” Adagio agrees, voice shining with pride.

“It’s suddenly got rather self-aggrandising, this whole exchange,” I say, “hasn’t it?”

“Seriously,” Aria ignores my protest, “that prechorus and chorus is the best thing the two of you have ever written.”

“The melody alternating between just two notes at the start,” Adagio says, “while the chords provide the movement around it, before the tune jumps up on ‘song’ and ‘lose,’ drawing attention to the most important line.”

Aria again, “The arrangement with the raw clean guitar and the clap snare – I cannot believe you let them bury that guitar in the stereo mix of it for the soundtrack album; I had to record the audio from the front channels of the 5.1 DVD mix to get the sound I loved from the movie.”

“Although that was so everyone could hear your backing vocal arrangement, Aria, which was both staggeringly pretty and a technical masterclass.”

“Yeah, but it worked better when it was quieter. That was the whole point; it underpinned the main melody without ever distracting from it. If it had been meant to be heard as a tune in its own right, I’d have sung it more forcefully.”

“True. Anyway, I meant the music for Starlight’s song was a bit Disney, not the lyrics.”

“But then, they all are these days, aren’t they?”

Sonata adds, “All the villain ones at least.”

“And you already did that,” Aria jumps straight back in, “Chrysalis blew every Disney song out of the water back in season two.”

“A duet with herself...” Adagio says as if fantasising out loud, “she really was exceptional. And despite both parts having same melody and instrumentation, you can always tell which Cadence is singing.”

“I wish she’d had a song in her later appearance,” Aria grumbles.

“We all do. That was the festering crown atop a bitterly disappointing return.”

“Up until that point, we’d been quite keen on coming back ourselves sometime.”

“Think how much better Legend Of Everfree could have been if we’d turned up at the end,” Sonata says.

“...Again, somewhat self-aggrandising here...” I have to point out.

“But now?” Adagio ploughs on. “All Chrysalis’ return did was take from her. It didn’t add anything.”

Aria says, “Unless you can actually improve a character by bringing them back, or at a bare minimum, have them be every bit as good as before, then they shouldn’t be brought back.”

“They got it right with Trixie,” I protest.

“And Gilda before her.” Sonata agreeing with me is the quickest way to make me doubt myself.

“Absolutely,” Aria says, and somehow I’m a bit comforted by being backed up by a voice from my own subconscious. “But Chrysalis? And on the back of that, I don’t trust the writers to handle our return.”

“I mean,” Adagio muses (much as you would expect a muse to), “how could we be as good as before? Rainbow Rocks was built for us from the ground up – of course you pick us as the adversary for a singing contest, we’re sirens!

“...Jesus,” I breathe, “this whole thing is just you stroking your own ego...”

“But really, what other movie setup would musical villains fit into?” Adagio continues. “We’re like Sweet from Once More With Feeling. How else would we squash three songs into the plot, two of which were on-stage performances, in a way that makes sense in-universe?”

Aria says, “And that was the problem with following us, wasn’t it? You couldn’t find a way. That was why you broke the world.”

“Can we not talk about this?” Adagio says wearily, “It made me angry for days.”

“I broke the world?” I ask, perplexed.

Aria wastes no time answering, “How can you squeeze half a dozen songs into an hour and a half of movie, with the characters singing on-screen, in a movie that’s about anything other than people singing on-screen?”

“Must we bring this up?” Adagio says quietly.

“It works for a movie about a battle of the bands, sure,” Aria carries on regardless. “But what about, say...”


“...A sports competition?”

How, when she’s just a disembodied voice, can I still hear Adagio facepalming?

And that’s when Aria’s fury hits me, impossible to hide from when sharing a skull with her.


“I don’t know what you...” I stutter.

“Oh, don’t you dare,” Adagio cuts in without hesitation, every bit as accusatory as her sister. “How do they all know the words?”

“How are the Shadowbolts singing in unison or harmony, when they’ve never heard the tune before?” Aria rages on.

“There is no way they could have predicted Twilight needing to unleash the magic, and so no way they could have planned a song about it in advance.”

“And yet there they go, improvising it collectively on the spot, each knowing exactly what the others will sing.”

“I’ve written about 80 songs for the series,” I try to defend, “this is hardly the first time that’s happened...”

“In Equestria it’s fine!” Aria snaps.

“Rainbow Dash even jokes about how unrealistic it is,” Sonata adds, and even she sounds sardonic. Sonata Dusk is treating me like I’m an idiot.

“But it isn’t unrealistic when there’s literally magic in the air,” Adagio says.

“Which there is not in Equestria Girls,” Aria emphatically points out.

Adagio begins, “There are two big differences between the worlds of the series and the movies.”

Sonata picks up half way through, suggesting that either they’ve had this conversation many times before, or those gems they wear sync up far more than just their singing. Or they’re all in my head, so of course they each know what the others are going to say. “They’re all human, and go to school together...”

“...And there is no magic!” Aria finishes.

Adagio says, “That’s the main plot point of all four movies to date: what happens when magic is introduced to a world without it?”

The crown, the gems, the things from Equestria, and the stuff in the forest; yeah, they might be onto something there.

“And so you broke that world,” Aria says, “when you made it a musical with no in-context explanation.”

“But even in the previous Equestria Girls movies, there are plenty of songs,” I say. Just because they have a point about there being no natural magic there, that doesn’t mean they’re right about no songs in the franchise. No suggestion of magic in Phantom, after all, but still songs; sometimes being a musical is just a staple of the medium, and intrinsic part of the premise requiring no explanation.

“All the ones in our film were sung by characters either rehearsing for or performing in the battle of the bands,” Adagio says immediately.

“Every instrument heard is shown being played on-screen by someone who really can play that instrument,” Aria follows without hesitation.

“And none of the songs are spontaneous,” Adagio says.

“They even discuss Rainbow and Fluttershy writing songs in advance, and show the group trying to come up with one together for the counterspell.”

“Ok,” I concede, “but the first movie? Did you forget the cafeteria song?”

“Believe me, I tried to,” Aria says, and I remember who I’m talking to all over again.

“Oh, I quite liked that one,” I say, berating myself for walking into her last line.

“Me too!” Sonata says. “Although I liked it more when Ke$ha did it first.”

“There’s an on-screen explanation for the song, though,” Adagio says.

Aria explains in full, “They start of banging trays and clapping their hands, yes, but once the song comes in properly, Spike is shown switching on an mp3 player.”

“And we have no idea how much time passed between the previous scene and the cafeteria,” Adagio says.

“So they could believably have had time to write and learn a song together.”

Sonata happily adds, “And record the instruments.”

“God dammit, Sonata!” Aria bursts out, before reining herself back in, “...Yeah, that might take longer, that’s true.”

Adagio comes to the rescue, saying, “But unless half of CHS were at Sugarcube Corner in the middle of the school day sometime before lunch, then the cafeteria scene could have taken place the next day, giving them a whole night somewhere to prepare it.”

“Really?” I ask doubtfully, “The plot of the movie also makes strong mention of the limited time window. And it’s seen as new when Princess Twilight has a sleepover at Pinkie’s in your movie.”

“Ok,” Aria says, “so they hang out somewhere like Sugarcube Corner during the evening, write and learn their song, and then everyone goes their separate ways for the night.”

“With Twilight assuring them she has somewhere to stay, and then slinking off back to the school library,” Adagio agrees.

“And the time window?” I ask.

“Luna says they have three days, but we only see Twilight spend one night there, from what I remember,” Aria says, “so they should be able to spare a day.”

“Ok, and what of Twilight’s lonely piano song earlier in the movie?”

“It’s just her involved,” Adagio answers, “so it can feasibly take place entirely in her own head.”

“But isn’t there one where they’re getting dressed for the Fall Formal, too?” Sonata says reluctantly, probably afraid Aria will stress out at her again.

“You never see any character sing, just hear their voices,” Aria replies calmly. “So it’s no weirder than anytime there’s singing on a movie soundtrack.”

“Ever get the impression you’ve over-thinking things?” I say, finally exasperated with Aria enough to ask the ultimate creator-fan question, especially for a show about candy-coloured ponies.

Aria’s response is spirited, to say the least.


“It’s not his fault!” Sonata argues. “He had to do something to distract everyone from how horrible human Twilight was in that movie!”

“That was nothing to do with me!” I say, feeling a bit guilty for selling the people it was something to do with down the river, but confident that they’ll never find out, what with this whole thing taking place in my own head and all. “I’m a songwriter, not a scriptwriter.”

“But you wrote the songs,” Adagio says, leaving me no refuge. “You knew how they’d be used, and you wrote them anyway.”

“You could’ve taken a stand, man,” Sonata says, sounding like every hippie film character ever, although for some reason the one I’m most reminded of is the photographer from the end of Apocalypse Now. ...Yeah, I’m not sure either.

“Instead you sold them the munitions and sat back to watch them slaughter the villagers,” Aria says disparagingly, and not in the best of taste.

“If I’d refused,” I wearily reply, “they’d have fired me and hired someone else.”

“That doesn’t excuse what you did!” Aria snaps.

“Angry. For. Days,” Adagio says.

“The backing vocals were pretty catchy, though,” Sonata says in my defence, but I worry it’ll only set the other two off again.

“Yes. They were,” Adagio says. “But, Sonata, so is avian flu.”

Aria follows quickly, “And that doesn’t make it a good thing!”

“You never complained when I made your songs catchy,” I say, wondering if that’s pushing them too far, but I don’t think it’s an unfair point to make.

“No,” Adagio says, all patience and grinding teeth.

“But they had other things going for them, too,” Aria says, starting up her back and forth double attack strategy with Adagio again.

“And, indeed, one can admire the biological purity that makes a pathogen so contagious.”

“But that’s no defence when it ruins the world!”

“...Remember when you guys said you felt you owed me?” I say, “Whatever happened to that?”

Author's Notes:

At the last minute I thought maybe 9,000 words was too long for a chapter in a comedy, so I split the story into three chapters that follow immediately on from each other.

Next Chapter: Daniel Ingram Chapter 2 Estimated time remaining: 23 Minutes
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