Thursday, July 14, 2011

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Men Without Hats' "The Safety Dance"

Societies demand safety. That's a fact. Why do you think prisons exist? Long before Michel Foucault examined the prison as a metaphor and tool for authoritarian control of the populace in his highly influential study Surveiller et Punir (Discipline and Punish) in 1975, America's first goth kid, Nathaniel Hawthorne, was making similar observations. In his cheery piece of fiction, The Scarlet Letter (1850), his narrator makes the following statement: "The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison." While this is unmistakably true, because Hawthorne was NEVER wrong, one thing Utopias have long overlooked, for some unknown reason, is dancing kids. According to our society's elders, these spastic little jerks have been wreaking havoc on the world since they first decided to swivel their hips and gyrate in sexually-suggestive ways. History is filled with examples of dancing kids messing things up. William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet is fully based on the notion of these fools and their disruptive, lascivious ways. Years later, Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise brought this tale to the big screen in the form of West Side Story (1961), which filled with racist, finger-snapping kids with social diseases. In 1978's blockbuster Saturday Night Fever, dancing kids who are into disco get into more gang fights, have unprotected sex, rape a woman, do more racist stuff, commit suicide, and wear horrible shoes. Fortunately, the geniuses in Men Without Hats provided an alternative, a social salve, if you will, when they unleashed "The Safety Dance" on the great unwashed dancing masses in 1982. Because it championed safety in the art of the dance, it instantly became the greatest song of the 1980s, even better than Joe "Bean" Esposito's "You're the Best."

With its throbbing, minimal bassline and infectious hook, Men Without Hats, led by the great Ivan Doroschuk, found a simple way for kids to dance without unleashing their homicidal, herpes-infected ribaldry upon the poor proles who just want to go to their jobs in peace, drink the weekend away, and continually ruin their credit scores. Doroschuk's solution: an enclave for dancing kids away from the rest of society. He sings, "We can go where we want to / A place where they'll never find / And we can act like we come from out of this world / Leave the real one far behind." Furthermore, if you don't dance, then "you're no friend of mine." Soon, the powers that be took notice of Men Without Hats' brilliant scheme. By establishing dancing "zones," or what the Reagan administration would soon name "dance clubs," these "imbecile(s)" who are always "out of control," according to Doroschuk, could fraternize with each other, frolic, and basically do their thang all over each other. The most brilliant thing about Men Without Hats' "The Safety Dance" is that comes across as pure anarchy in dance, giving it an edge for all those would-be nonconformist dancing kids. Really, though, the dance is all about safety, as the title suggests, because the main move in the dance involves "look(ing) at your hands." Clean hands help reduce sickness and The Safety Dance, with its insistence upon hand-looking, reduced instances of the common cold by one million percent, according to the Wikipedia entry on hyperbole. Because of "The Safety Dance," the tyrannical terrorism of dancing kids has been blotted out completely ... Well, unless you count Footloose, or the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.


  1. S--A--F--E--T--Y. Safe---dance. Boo-boop-do-duh-doo-boop-da-doo-dah-doop.

  2. Dancing is never safe. Not under any circumstances. I mean, look at this. He could really hurt himself.

  3. It's about damn time you did an entry on this song!