Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)"

Monogamy is a tradition that extends all the way back to 3989 B.C., when the first humans began to begat. The concept of fidelity is codified in Exodus 20:15: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This concept is elaborated on a few verses later: "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." As such, coveting ass, from thy neighbor, or from Ashley, has been socially taboo ever since. The "free love" movement of the 1960s attempted to put a few dents in monogamy's armor, but ultimately failed. However, in 1979, a French philosopher from France by the name of Jean-François Lyotard, in a book title La Condition Postmoderne, defined postmodernity as "incredulity towards metanarratives." Oh no he didn't! But, seriously, yes, he did. Deal with it. Not coincidentally, that same year, the brilliant singer-songwriter Rupert Holmes exemplified Lyotard's erudite maxim in glorious yacht rock technicolor when he problematized the entire notion of monogamy--and to a certain extent, the self--in his masterpiece "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)."

Holmes, who cut his teeth writing the only Billboard Top 20 Hit about cannibalism some ten years earlier, had touched on some of life's meatier topics in the intervening decade, such as drinking, rum, getting lunch, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Therefore, it was not surprising when he cut a single that addressed three issues with heavy moral and metaphysical implications: 1) that promiscuity, if properly executed, can be a whizz-bang idea; 2) that contrary to earlier scientific discoveries, one can cheat on their significant other WITH their significant other; and, 3) that piña coladas and champagne are a perfectly reasonable means for getting adult humans tore up.

The narrator is a man who is bored with his "lady." He decides to emotionally stray from her by examining the personal ads. He finds one that tickles his fancy, and by fancy, I mean the cockles of his heart, which, for the record, are now warmed. She happens to be looking for a man who likes "piña coladas," "getting caught in the rain," and "making love at midnight," while at the same time being not particularly fond of "yoga." The narrator sees himself in this description and writes back the following poem:

Yes, I like Pina Coladas,
and getting caught in the rain.
I'm not much into health food,
I am into champagne.
I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon,
and cut through all this red tape.
At a bar called O'Malley's,
where we'll plan our escape.

Exquisite! This poem makes William Shakespeare's sonnets seem like a fishy flu fart in comparison. I mean, come on: GAME OVER. Rupert Holmes' real coup though is the song's twist, which reportedly inspired the ending to every single M. Night Shyamalan film. When the narrator goes to meet up with this date, it turns out to be, GET THIS, his current girlfriend. What?! At this point, the foundation of Enlightenment culture begins to erode. Can somebody cheat on their girlfriend with their own girlfriend? Is it even cheating? Is this just a strange Ouroboros loop? Is it possible that bears can read minds? Rupert Holmes incredulity toward the metanarrative of monogamy--as well as faithfulness, "the keys to a successful relationship," and girly drinks--in "Escape" is without question the single act of artistic expression that ushers in the postmodern age.

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