Friday, April 30, 2010

The Conspicuous Use of Humor in Simon and Garfunkle's "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is arguably one of the best ballads ever written, and for good reason. The opening piano melody and lyrics “When you're weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all” are fantastic. However, a couple of weeks ago I was sketching fighter jets on the back of a program during a piano recital, when it occurred to me that most people fail to recognize the humor in this brilliant song. It might be that “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is one of the best songs written about anal intercourse since Morrissey’s “Hand in Glove.” Consider the following lyrics with particularly apt attention to the words “darkness” and “pain”: “I'll take your part/When darkness comes/And pain is all around/Like a bridge over troubled water/I will lay me down.” The reference is deliciously unnerving. One of the things this verse does is isolate some ways in which anal intercourse shapes the fate of the song’s narrator. Looking closely at the emphasis on anal intercourse as a thematic device in this song as well as others may be central in better understanding this complex album. Simon uses intricately rendered details in order to illustrate how mysteriously the experience will unfold. The presence of whomever the narrator is speaking to is bestial, a presence of power, embodying the forces that may well do him harm, perhaps even through volition. Did anyone else catch this? I went home and right away sat down at my computer and wrote Morrissey a fan letter thanking him for his songs and early work with The Smiths.

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Nancy & Frank Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid"

Is there anything more precious than a father's love for his daughter? No, there is not; at least that's what I've been told by people who know people with female children. So, clearly, this is the case. As a result, there was probably not a more remarkable chart-topping recording from 1967, that tumultuous year that, coincidentally enough, brought us "The Summer of Love," than Nancy & Frank Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid." The legend of Frank Sinatra -- "The Chairman of the Board" -- need not be repeated here. Epitomizing the "rags to riches" chapter of the American Dream epic, this blue-eyed Italian American from Hoboken, New Jersey -- blessed with the silkiest voice of the 20th Century -- became one of the era's most recognizable singers and actors, notable as much for these qualities as his cavorting with the most desirable actresses in the world ... and the Mafia. His daughter, Nancy, on the other hand, was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. But once that silver spoon was removed, her mouth could make sweet music as well. After a string of her own hits beginning with 1965's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," the two decided to collaborate on "Somethin' Stupid."

Contrary to the title of the song, there's nothin' stupid about it, as it is drenched in the waters of genius. The song's musical backdrop, co-produced by the brilliant Lee Hazlewood, is a whimsical medley of understated strings, a classically strung acoustic guitar, and lightly brushed drums. Father and daughter then sing in tandem, throughout the entire recording. They open it with the lines: "I know I stand in line until you think you have the time to spend the evening with me." Their night of catching up, without the the distraction of having to deal with Mia Farrow (Frank's wife at the time) or Tina and Frank Jr. (Nancy's siblings), is then rendered awkward in the cutest way possible as the two sing, "We drop into a quiet little place and have a drink or two / And then I go and spoil it all by saying somethin' stupid like 'I love you.'" How charming! While "I love you" might be the three hardest words to say for new couples, they are the three easiest for family. Why else would politicians fight so hard to institute legislation to preserve the sanctity of "family values"? Later, the two sing, clearly from Frank's perspective, "The time is right, your perfume fills my head, the stars get red, and oh the night's so blue / And then I go and spoil it all by saying somethin' stupid like 'I love you.'" Is there anything sweeter than a father complimenting his daughter, especially on a new perfume she just bought? These are the tender moments that make family family.

Now some cynical people out there claim the song is slightly disturbing at best, invoking things like Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus the King or French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss' notion of the "incest taboo" as their primary objections to this song. Just because a father and daughter are singing TOGETHER a song about meeting in a publicly intimate setting, alone, getting tipsy on the aphrodisiacal effects of alcohol, discussing being tired of insincere smooth talk, noting the intoxicating pheromones generated by a sexy perfume, and feeling anxious about letting one's true romantic feelings be known perhaps too early during the courtship process, in no way implies there is anything vaguely incestuous about them singing this song. It's simply a testament to their power as singers and their firm commitment to the sanctity of family bonds. Like they say, the family that sings together ... um ... prays together (?). "Somethin' Stupid" proves that "love" is indeed an abstract concept -- with a multitude of meanings and interpretations -- and is perhaps the strongest abstract concept of them all. For these reasons, and about 632 others, "Somethin' Stupid" is easily a jewel in the crown of soundtrack of "The Summer of Love."*

*--So what if it was released in the Spring of that year?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"We're Not Above Reviewing Leaks": The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever

When news of Franz Nicolay's departure from The Hold Steady landed on the internet, the first thing many of us wanted to know was what his absence would mean for The Hold Steady's music. The reasoning for Nicolay's departure was fairly straight-forward--he had other projects he wanted to focus on, and felt that he'd exhausted his potential playing piano and singing back up for Craig Finn and co. While these are all fine and perfectly rational reasons for someone to leave a band, some of the band's fans, myself included, began to wonder if Nicolay's decision might negatively impact The Hold Steady's new material or, worse, if he was leaving because the new material wasn't particularly engaging. In retrospect, these kinds of conversations only exist because of message boards and music fans' need to speculate endlessly over shit they know nothing about. As it turns out, though, this time, the obsessive music fans weren't entirely wrong. In other words, The Hold Steady's latest album, Heaven is Whenever, ahem, isn't particularly engaging.

The biggest problem with Heaven is Whenever seems to be boredom. The album is full of songs that could be considered "rockers" but very few of them rock with the verve or passion of The Hold Steady's finest moments. Songs like "Soft in the Center," "The Smidge" and "Rock Problems" coast by, with barely a hook or memorable lyric between them. For a band that made two albums of nothing but hooks--Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America--and two albums with their fair share of hooks--...Almost Killed Me and Stay Positive--this new album's lack of excitement is not just disappointing but downright shocking.

When The Hold Steady released Stay Positive in 2008, the album clearly didn't live up to its predecessors, but it was still a solid album that demanded repeat listens. Though the record represented a dip in quality, the decline was quiet enough that it felt like nothing more than a slight mis-step or, at worst, a settling into solid, workman-like craftsmanship that wasn't as immediately stirring as what came before, but was still worthy of our time. If Heaven is Whenever is any indication, the last album's dip in quality may have been more foreboding than we ever might have guessed. Here's to hoping that by the next album, The Hold Steady find whatever it is that they lost.

Ah, but finally, there is a bit of hope. While Heaven is Whenever boasts one near-classic Hold Steady style anthem in the infectious "Hurricane J," it finds some fine moments in a more toned down, mellower rock approach. Album opener, "The Sweet Part of the City" is really the biggest cause for hope, here, as it layers acoustic and slide guitar beneath Finn's weary, more-adult-than-ever vocals to produce a warm, rootsy rock sound that could turn out to be a promising new direction for The Hold Steady. When Finn delivers the lyric, "We used to meet underneath the marquis/We used to nod off in the matinees," the song's speaker sounds crushed by nostalgia, until we find out that this isn't a song about missing a better past, but of escaping the its oppression: "But it's a long haul to the corner store from the center of the universe/When you can't get your car off the curb." And maybe that's why the song is so effective--for once, it's not about cast away characters fetishizing their youth, or the youth of others. It's a song about people who got complacent and shook off the oppression of comfort to tour and play music. Similarly warmer, slightly more grown up approaches can be found in "The Weekenders," "We Can Get Together," and the pleasantly dramatic album closer "A Slight Discomfort." In these songs, we see The Hold Steady growing up and hinting that they still know how to put a compelling song together even if most of the album's rockers feel more Mellencamp than Springsteen. They may have lost a valuable member when Nicolay decided to move on, but if The Hold Steady can tap into the warmth and passion of this album's few standout tracks, then perhaps we can look forward to celebrating their next album as a much needed return to form.


The Hold Steady's Heaven is Whenever is available 5/4 from Vagrant Records.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"We're Not Above Reviewing Leaks": Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

In Retrospect, Broken Social Scene's 2002 break-out album, You Forgot It in People, must have been the product of a confluence of events and influences falling perfectly into place. On that album, Broken Social Scene sounded like their name--the songs bristled with a loose immediacy. The album as a whole sounded like a heap of loose threads woven together into ecstatic pop songs, acoustic jams, and delicate interludes by an informal collection of music-junky friends locked in a studio for months--and that was a good thing. You Forgot It in People thrived on its organic flow and style, becoming one of last decade's most loved albums. It was an underdog album, a surprising collection of songs that showed up, seemingly out of nowhere, and seduced us with its messy sprawl. I bring these points to my discussion of Broken Social Scene's newest album, Forgiveness Rock Record, because I'm trying to understand why, despite a slew of excellent songs, this new release never quite manages to become the engaging record it appears to be on paper.

To be honest, most of the songs on Forgiveness Rock Record are excellent. Lead-off track "World Sick," combines low-key chiming guitars, driving floor-toms, and a simple vocal melody into an epic, but reserved anthem for the damaged but optimistic. Kevin Drew's opening lyrics establish the problem: "We got a minefield of crippled affection." This problem is more directly named, then, in the songs messy, and dramatic chorus: "I get world sick every time I take a step." And while the lyrics appear, on paper, as hopelessly negative, the delivery paints the song as an affirmation of sorts, an acknowledgement of our damaged circumstances and a promise to make them better. The song's large-scale group dynamics and sing-along feel remind us exactly what Broken Social Scene are capable of. Elsewhere, "All in All," featuring what I believe is Lisa Lobsinger's first lead vocal since joining the band's core, succeeds thanks to the elegant vocals and rich arrangement that combines rapid pulsing electric textures with lush backing vocals and, eventually, some subtle violins. What both of these songs have in common--and what they share with other outstanding tracks like "Art House Director," "Ungrateful Little Father," and "Sentimental X's"--is that the arrangements have a chance to breathe, to become fully formed environments for the listener to inhabit.

In essence, Broken Social Scene's songs work best when they are spacious. That's why You Forgot It in People was such a wildly successful artistic statement--the album was full of arrangements that provided plenty of space for the listener. This allows songs to become something more than melody and lyrics--they become landscapes, ideas, collections of textures and inspired moments lovingly arranged and layered so that listeners can enter into songs instead of merely hearing them. This is something that the band continued to do successfully through their 2005 self-titled album. Unfortunately, that album was a bit too sloppy and unfocused to live up to its predecessor. Now, like with those albums, Broken Social Scene still excel at creating songs that give us this imaginary listening space, but the album suffers from its more conventionally arranged songs that, not only don't quite live up to the gorgeous production that defines Broken Social Scene's best work, but actually impede the album's flow--instead of a giant, open-roofed warehouse, Forgiveness Rock Record is a long hallway with a room for each song. Some of the room's are connecting. Some are huge. Others might as well be coat closets.

How does this tie back to the atmosphere of the first album--that sense of kairos that made You Forgot It in People such a wonderful record? It is in the albums' sense of becoming--the prior album felt like the musical equivalent of a collective--each part, each layer, each texture arrived at and positioned naturally. And, while the best songs on Forgiveness Rock Record feel the same way, a number of good songs--"Chase Scene," "Forced to Love," and "Romance to the Grave," for example--feel too crafted and closed off. While they're good songs in their own right, they don't fit the tone or feel of the highlights, ultimately disrupting the album's dramatic development.

As I re-read what I've written above, I can't help but feel that this review reads harsher than my actual feelings toward the album. Allow me to reiterate--almost every song on this album is good to great, and fans of Broken Social Scene, or just excellent indie guitar pop, in general, will find plenty to love about Forgiveness Rock Record. That being said, when a band has a masterpiece under its belt, it's only natural to consider a new work's relationship to the band's previous greatness. In short, then, Broken Social Scene's latest is an excellent album--easily their second best--but it isn't able to consistently live up to their finest moment. That's a tall order, though, especially when the bar is set as high as it is for Broken Social Scene. That being said, forget about that bar and enjoy this record. Who cares about my own convoluted reasoning for why this album isn't quite as good as one of the standout masterpiece of the 00's. It's an enjoyable and worthy album--not a masterpiece (and I feel like an ass for hoping for one, but why not?) but enjoyable none-the-less.

Broken Social Scene's Forgiveness Rock Record is available on 5/4 from Arts&Crafts.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me"

In 1926, George and Ira Gershwin wrote the standard "Someone to Watch Over Me." It is a gentle song about a woman who longs to find a man who will "watch over" her. There's nothing sinister or creepy about it. The lyric is about one necessary pillar of true love: care. She simply wants a man who will be there for her through good times and bad. But something strange happened along the way. Our culture lost its purposeful, carefully constructed innocence, and the notion of "watching" subtly transformed from an important part of courtly romance and everlasting love to voyeurism, scopophilia, and omnipresent surveillance. The end result is a cultural paranoia which some yahoos with college degrees have dubbed "the post-post-post-postmodern condition," which is essentially the historical moment after post-post-postmodernism.

No other artist from our era has perfectly captured the transformation of the gaze from a private act with loving intent to a public act of psychosexual control more than Rockwell in his monumental 1984 blockbuster "Somebody's Watching Me." Where in the old-fogey days of the Gershwin brothers, this would have been something sentimental and pure, Rockwell's lyric, set against a digitized distortion of Johann Sebastian Bach's organ piece "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," communicates fear and paranoia. The narrator fancies himself to be "an average man," but wonders why he always feels like he is "in the Twilight Zone." He is similarly afraid that his phone calls are being monitored and that the "people on TV see me." These warped perceptions become mortal thoughts when he discloses that he now fears taking a shower because it "reminds [him] of Psycho too much." Amazingly, in just a few lines, Rockwell undoes years of film theory by suggesting that the movies are, too, watching him. He's the subject of the cinematic gaze, not vice versa. Finally, now fearful that his neighbors and Mr. Postman are watching him, he comes to the conclusion that it's "the IRS" that's watching him. Rockwell's narrator cannot even escape the ever-present eye of the State. He cannot get off the grid. Compounding the sense of a disembodied, far-from-altruistic gaze watching over him is the voice of The King of Pop hovering over Rockwell during the chorus. Michael Jackson, friends with Rockwell (nee Kenneth William Gordy, son of Motown founder Berry Gordy), was in on the deal, his golden voice, an ever-present part of the marketplace in the early 1980s, serving to make "Somebody's Watching Me," and its important message, a #2 Billboard hit in 1984.

"Somebody's Watching Me" not only perfectly captures this societal transformation, which happened quickly over the course of sixty long years, but it prophecies the explosion in morally un-Constitutional surveillance that would soon follow its unintentional advertisement of an unnatural inversion of Ralph Waldo Emerson's notion of the "transparent eyeball." Look at what has happened since then: the Internet, caller ID, un-manned drone aircraft, web browser cookies, spyware, web cams, street cams, Obamacare. Rockwell's unlikely hit is easily one of the most important snapshots of the human condition in flux in the history of ever.

Below is the equally genius music video for the song:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"In Defense Of...": LCD Soundsystem - "Drunk Girls"

Despite Pitchfork's support of "Drunk Girls," the lead single from LCD Soundsystem's upcoming album, This is Happening, many fans of James Murphy's previous material are less than enthused. Truth be told, I was skeptical of "Drunk Girls" status as the album's first single after hearing the song a few weeks ago. My initial response was one of disappointment and unease for the album to come. "Really?" I thought to myself. "This is the best they could come up with?" Thankfully, with repeated listens, "Drunk Girls" grew on me. The song is short, sweet and raw in its energy. Early comparisons placed it alongside "Daft Punk is Playing At My House" from LCD Soundsystem's self-titled debut, and "North American Scum" off of what will now be dubbed "the middle album," Sound of Silver. Truth be told, "Drunk Girls" may be better than both--the songwriting is funnier, and catchier, and the arrangement--down to the ascending "Drunk Boys" harmony, guitar solo, and key board counter melodies--is nice and thick without overwhelming the song's momentum. What really gives "Drunk Girls" its edge, though, is James Murphy's assured but raw, unhinged to the point of almost--but not quite--losing control vocal delivery. The song is easily among his most playful and engaging performances. On the merit of Murphy's singing alone (and kudos to the back up vocals as well--even though they mostly sound like Murphy, too) "Drunk Girls" is an excellent addition to the LCD Soundsystem discography.

In a way, the song was both a brilliant and awful choice for lead single. On the one hand, the song will immediately appeal to many fans of pop music, dance music, and indie rock. It's catchy, immediate, fun, and great to play loudly in the car while driving around town. On the other hand, it wasn't the best choice to entice fans of the band's previous work. Sound of Silver brought a ton of new fans into the fold, in large part on the strength of the album's epic one-two punch of "Someone Great" and "All My Friends," songs that considered mortality and relationships in ways that this kind of music isn't supposed to do. "Drunk Girls" doesn't really do either, and its easy to see how fans of Sound of Silver might be a bit put off that "Drunk Girls" is the first glimpse into Murphy's upcoming album. In that respect, perhaps "I Can Change" would have been a better choice of lead single.

But it wasn't, and that's fine. Those who appreciate LCD Soundsystem's previous work will check out This is Happening, and they won't be disappointed. They'll probably even spend some time with "Drunk Girls" and realize how awesome it is...

Until then, I'll leave you with the video for "Drunk Girls" (note: for those who haven't heard the song yet, the video features sound and singing that aren't part of the song--it's awesome-fun though, so watch it):

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"We're Not Above Reviewing Leaks": Caribou - Swim

Back when Caribou's Dan Snaith was still making music under the name Manitoba--back before colostomy bag Handsome Dick Manitoba, in a fit of good old fashioned American arrogance, got upset at Snaith for using his name, despite the existence of, you know, a Canadian province named Manitoba--he made one of the best albums of the previous decade, Up in Flames. What made Up in Flames such an exceptional album was its vibrant sonic palate--Snaith incorporated psychedelic samples, sick beats, and sun-drenched melodies to make one of the most beautifully explosive "electronic" albums of the last ten years. Since then, Snaith, carrying on as Caribou, has continued to work within the boundaries of dance and electronic music, always exploring new sonic territory and doing so, more often than not, exceptionally well. 2005's The Milk of Human Kindness was a dense, almost claustrophobic affair, while 2007's Andorra superficially returned to the sunnier aesthetic of Up in Flames, but in a way that was slightly haunted by the specter of 60's pop, the album's atmosphere and melodies invoking The Left Banke and, more directly, The Zombie's summertime masterpiece Odyssey and Oracle.

On his upcoming release under the Caribou moniker, Swim, Snaith keeps things summery, but in darker and more aggressively dancier ways than anything on Andorra or Up in Flames. While those albums were a bit haunted and sunny, and ecstatic and bright, respectively--each capable of sounding perfectly at home on a hot day at the park or beach--Swim feels a bit more like summer alone at a cabin in the woods, at least when we're talking about atmosphere. The production is a bit denser than the previous albums, and the beats heavier. While opening track "Odessa" rides a slick percussion and bass groove, the subdued vocals and key flourishes gives the song a peculiarly solitary feel. Even more immediately bright songs like the accessibly dancey "Sun," conjures scenes of humid, foggy evenings at dusk.

One of the key's to Swim, it seems, is the anchoring of Snaith's sunnier elements with thicker beats and electronics, resulting in something that sounds both from the future and otherworldy, beautiful and exciting, but shot through with an uncanny current of quiet solitude. "Found Out" opens with warm keys and Snaith singing "While she waits she holds her breath/And thinks about the things he said." The nervey synths pulse beneath Snaith's voice as he describes the song's subject attempting to sing a not entirely familiar song. Already, the song's mood has been set as contemplative and a bit dark. When the beats kick in, and Snaith introduces new sonic layers, the song builds towards an unsettling sense of confinement, but never arrives, managing to keep itself anchored in the song's initial delicate sadness.

Elsewhere, "Bowls" rides a hard street beat percussion groove, while album closer "Jamelia," comes off as a cool down lap, albeit one with occasional stabs of strings and keys, re-asserting the album's slightly unsettling aesthetic. In the end, Snaith has, once again, progressed his art, pushed his sound to someplace that makes sense, but that we didn't necessarily see coming. The songs are still lush and accessible, but the production is richer, perhaps, than anything he's yet released. While Swim doesn't quite match the consistent heights of Up in Flames, its healthy balance between a dance foundation and eerie psychedelia easily places the album among Snaith's finest work.

Swim will be available on 4/20 from Merge records.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Insane Clown Posse's "Miracles"

In his 1748 philosophical treatise An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, noted skeptic David Hume writes, "A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined." Clearly Hume was a Debbie-Downer, unable to appreciate the miracles that life offers us daily, hourly, even minutely. Miracles, Hume never learned, cannot be measured quantifiably. For example, just because there are nearly seven billion people on this planet doesn't mean that each of those precious lives is not completely miraculous. The fact that 4.2 babies are born on this planet every second (according to Wikipedia) in no way cheapens the meaning of the term "miracle." If anything, that one-fifth of a baby that follows those first four born every second proves there are miracles!

The rappers Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J of the revolutionary rap crew Insane Clown Posse reveal what a pure stick in the mud Hume and people like him truly are in their 2009 cult classic "Miracles." The ICP, as I like to call them, is a rap group that has been rendered notorious by their crude lyrics and their adoption of the sartorial code of the fraternity of juggling circus clowns. Their followers, known as Juggalos, are, indeed, a miracle, just as the ICP proclaims them to be in this very song. Interestingly, if we follow the musical etymology of the track, we will note that another hard-edged group with a strong subcultural following, the Jefferson Airplane (later known as Jefferson Starship), would also release a similarly uncharacteristic balladic soft pop hit called "Miracles" in 1975. Following in their footsteps, the ICP diverge completely from their usual sound and lyrical content with "Miracles," a song so earnest in its appreciation of life's sublime "magic" little mysteries that it's without question one of the most pure musical expressions in the recorded history of our species (even if the group drops a few "f-bombs" in here and there to placate veteran Juggalos).

The musical backdrop of "Miracles" consists of a simple, booming hip-hop beat that rattles the bones fused with synthesized strings and a mature-sounding Steinway and Sons grand piano. Shaggy and Violent J proceed to rap about a litany of miracles: oceans, stars, mountains, trees, the Seven Seas, aquatic life, lava, snow, rain, cats, dogs, giraffes, large crowds, childbirth, the solar system, rivers, plants, Niagara Falls, the Pyramids (the song does not specify if they are referring to the man-made structures or the geometrical shapes), rainbows, a fish being fed to a pelican that tried to eat a cell phone (the song does not specify if it was the pelican or the fish that tried to eat said phone), music, water, fire, dirt, FUCKING MAGNETS, solar eclipses, bad weather, fifteen thousand Juggalos in a confined space, the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, that their children look just like them, and crows. Sure, all of the things mentioned in the song, with the exception of UFOs and ghosts, can be explained by science. But, as the ICP reminds us, "I don't want to talk to a scientist; y'all muthafuckas lyin', and gettin' me pissed." A bitter old crank like Hume might think this egregious and epic misuse of the word "miracle" may very well disprove my theory and actually prove the existence of miracles. Thanks to the life-affirming "Miracles," the Insane Clown Posse have re-ordered the perception of their listeners. For instance, I now know that each time I press my fingers to the keyboard to type this, I am letting my fingers create little miracles. They also remind me that these momentary epiphanies cannot be taken away from me by scientists, with their science-y science. For this, we should all be thankful to this insane two-manned posse of clowns for gloriously confusing the sublime with the miraculous.

Included below is a link to the mesmerizing video for this song:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy"

While we often make light of sex, it is a serious matter. Without it, none of us would be on this planet. It's so important that even God is quoted as saying, "Be fruitful, and multiply" in his most famous literary work, The Holy Bible: The King James Version (Genesis 1:22). At least he didn't command us to "Be multiple and fructify." That would probably hurt.

However, people willingly torture themselves in a variety of ways in an effort to procure sex. They will lift heavy inanimate objects over and over, have all the hairs simultaneously ripped from the areas surrounding the genitals and anus, wear leather pants in public, willingly, and get really drunk for the sole purpose of intentionally lowering their standards. These strange rituals are socially accepted forms of becoming sexy, something we all want to be.

But what if one was TOO SEXY? Right Said Fred ask this important question in their 1991 hit "I'm Too Sexy." The group's lead singer, Richard Fairbrass, singing atop a musical backdrop of infectious House beats, observes, "I'm too sexy for my shirt / so sexy it hurrrrrrrrrrrts." This is a metaphysical problem most of us don't anticipate. What would happen if you were so sexy it literally hurt? Would you have to go to the doctor? Would you be dehydrated? Would your blood pressure go through the roof? He's also "too sexy for Milan, New York and Japan" (it's "Japon" in the Spanish version!). Well, if he's too sexy for the hippest, most urbane, fashion capitols in the world, would he have to make like an astronaut and get in a spaceship whose destination was the mythical Sexy planet rumored to circle Alpha Centauri? After the song's bridge, which features an exceptionally faithful homage to The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Third Stone from the Sun," Richard Fairbrass extends the state of being "too sexy" to its logical, and ultimate, destination, as he sings, "I'm too sexy for my cat / Poor pussy, poor pussycat." I'm not even going to comment on this one.

Right Said Fred accomplishes something quite extraordinary with "I'm Too Sexy": it is THE most depressing dance anthem in existence. If we were so sexy that we were beyond sex, then humanity would be destroyed. Perhaps this is just one of the main reasons why "I'm Too Sexy," and not, let's say, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," My Bloody Valentine's "Only Shallow," and Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back," is easily the greatest song of the early 1990s.