Saturday, May 4, 2013

Post 10: On Gum, Bubbles, and their application Re: Pop music

   Ok, I have a confession to make. Sometimes (more often than I am entirely comfortable with admitting in a public space, to be honest), I like to listen to really stupid pop. Let me be clear here; I'm not just talking about classic 80's schlock like Wham!, at least not exclusively (although who doesn't love Wake Me Up, am I right? ...Please tell me I'm right). I'm talking Venga Boys and Aqua. Yes, that Aqua. I'm talking about bubblegum pop in the purest, most literal sense of the word: the type of music that is not only absurdly sweet and leaves a faintly nauseating aftertaste, but that miraculously manages, somehow, to actually SOUND neon pink. I remember once seeing a an aphorism that said something along the lines of "there should be no such thing as guilty pleasure music. If you like something enjoy it and don't feel bad." Frankly, I disagree. I honestly and unironically enjoy the songs I'm about to share with you, but I am not proud of that fact. Just because a jelly doughnut with ice cream on it sounds DELICIOUS does not mean that if I saw you eating in public, I would not judge you. I would absolutely give you the judgement you so richly deserved, and then I would ask for one, because I'm really hungry and that sounds kind of amazing.

-Fair warning, this is mostly going to made of objectively terrible 90's pop, because these are my most deeply buried guilty pleasures. I do like some more recent stuff, but I don't feel like there's any real value in introducing people to Lady Gaga. Either you've heard of her, or you have somehow managed to steer clear of all popular culture for the last five years, and have more pressing concerns.-

   I would feel frankly remiss if I didn't start the list off with, naturally, Aqua. Aqua is as central to my perception of bubblegum pop as hideous bleached tips and choreographed dancing (both which Aqua had in spades, not coincidentally). Their most iconic piece is Barbie Girl, of course, but they actually have a couple of others that I really like. Most notably, Dr. Jones and Candyman. Looking back at these with the jaded glasses of maturity, it's depressingly obvious that every song I'm talking about was made as absolutely filthy innuendo, but that's all part of the joy. If you don't feel like you need to rinse out both your mind and your ears after coming off an Aqua binge, you're doing it wrong.

   Next up is Ace of Base. Also 90's, also featuring lots of promo shots of bleach haired dudes singing with their razor sharp cheek bones, but with twice as many female vocalists (for a total of two) and switching out the neon music videos for artful bloom effects and atrocious green screening, the other favorite staple of 90's music videos. I listened to a ton of their stuff growing up, but my favorite song was always Beautiful Life, because who doesn't love three chords, a keyboard and a drum set? I've also always loved Cruel Summer and All That She Wants.

   This next one is slightly less well known and a bit more recent, but he's also one of the most ridiculously fun listens I know of. Mika is very much a spiritual successor of Freddy Mercury, basically a more androgynous, higher pitched and glam-oriented version. I think we can all agree that this is awesome, and the music backs it up. The first Mika song I heard was Grace Kelly, and it's still one of my favorites, but he's got several singles worth checking out, like Lollipop (which, now that I think about it, feels kind of like a spiritual successor to Aqua, complete with an over the top music video and some innuendo that has all the grace and subtlety of a root canal from Andre the Giant). Another particular favorite of mine is Big Girl (You Are Beautiful), which is a delightful tribute to the classic Queen song Fat Bottom Girls, basically just Fat Bottom Girls 2: Fatter & Friskier.

   And last of all, this may be the greatest song ever made to sing along with. I Believe In A Thing Called Love is awesome, it will always be awesome, and this is one song that I will never feel guilty about loving, because it's FANTASTIC. I mentioned it in a previous post, wherein I also mentioned my love of leaping falsettos, and this song may be the root cause of that obsession. It's the best. THE BEST. If you get nothing else from this post, get this: Never feel bad about loving I Believe In A Thing Called Love, because if you can't love it, you'll have a hard time finding any joy in your life.

   Also, here's a bonus song! I've been a bit of an oldies kick recently, and rediscovered the Hollies. They were  an interesting band; they had an unusual ability to make lots of good songs that range all over the soundboard, so they end up being easy confuse with basically everyone else. I thought Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress In A Black Dress was a Rolling Stones song until I was like 18. Nonetheless, Carrie Anne is probably my favorite of their songs. It's got good harmonies and a simple sweetness that'shard to pull off without being cloying and saccharine, but I think it manages nicely.


  1. We frequently play "name that group" while listening to the Radio in the car--and the Hollies are the default (safe!) answer! My favorite is "The air that I need", and I always thought "Long Cool Woman" was by CCR!

  2. The Hollies were like the 70's version of Collective Soul. That band where you love all their songs, but you don't connect them until you've been listening to them for years.