And we got nothing to be guilty of… (Part 6)

OK, d’you know who we can all agree were terrible? Aqua, that’s who. “Barbie Girl”. “Doctor Jones”. The sub-Roxette ballad one… They were unmitigated shite, weren’t they? And I, as a man of taste (if not wealth), took great pleasure in despising them. Nasty, cheap, synthetic rubbish. Pah.

But then they released “Cartoon Heroes”… and, well, it wasn’t so very awful. Preposterous, yes. Marred by big baldy bloke’s sub-Einar honking (is it the law that Scandi bands include a ‘comedy’ chap making noises only a mother seal could love?). But pretty damn catchy – and in less herpes-like, “get it gone!” fashion than their previous hits. I must admit, I own a copy. (This may well not surprise you.)

After that, I didn’t hear anything more of them. And I can’t say I was disappointed. I happily let them slide out of my consciousness, along with Whigfield, The Vengaboys and The Fast Food Rockers.

A few years later (2003 to be exact), I started hearing rumours of a solo single from Lene Nystrøm, Aqua’s erstwhile singer. Or Lene, as her marketing people now wished her – somewhat optimistically – to be known. Tsk. Even Kylie needed a couple of albums before dropping the Minogue. (That is not a euphemism. Although it’d make a great one. “Come on girls! Drop your Minogue, pull on your gold-lamé hotpants, let’s BOOGIE!”) But I digress…

Apparently, the song wasn’t half bad. Intrigued, I sought it out. And kind of loved it. Curse you, stupid-but-clever Danish pop lady! Who was expecting you to come up with a funny, raunchy call to sexual-empowerment arms? A song that pissed all over the meaningless Girl Power slurry the now-defunct Spice Girls had produced. (Zig-a-zig-arse.) An equal opportunities, tits-out, balls-out slammer of a track in the tradition of all those fab shouty, cheerleader-y songs of yore: Toni Basil’s “Mickey”, Shampoo’s “Viva La Megababes”, Republica’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous”, Daphne & Celeste’s “Ooh Stick You”…

Weirdly, though, what it has always reminded me of more – lyrically at least – is Billy Bragg. Billy Bragg at his most gauche, admittedly. The Billy Bragg of “Sexuality”. What a cringeable record that is, isn’t it? Well-meaning, but so trite lyrically as to border on offensive: “And just because you’re gay, I won’t turn you away…” Gee thanks, Billy. What does that even mean in the context of the rest of the song?! You contemplating shagging me? I doubt it. And yes, I’m sure we could find some common ground. As long as you put that bloody football away.

In contrast, how much more free-and-easy with the concept of sexuality does Lene sound?

Ooh, straight or gay
You swing it either way
You’ve got to whip it up
Into a frenzy
Ooh ooh, it’s what you feel
Get the flesh out for real
Flash it, it’s no big deal

You tell ’em, girl! She doesn’t care; she just knows everyone should be free to enjoy themselves in the way that comes naturally to them. Oh, and how good is the line:

Handcuff up your boss, yeah, and be rough
He might like it, like it
He’ll get a rise, you’ll get a raise
Don’t tell his wife about it…

I wish I could be that witty… Ladies and gentlemen, thank you – as ever – for humouring me. Here is the lovely Lene with “It’s Your Duty”.

20 thoughts on “And we got nothing to be guilty of… (Part 6)

  1. Way back, when I used to listen to Capital Radio in the mornings (before Sean Keaveny became my preferred morning wake-up call; on non-work days, it’s Radio 4), Chris Tarrant told an outrageous lie about Kylies being Australian slang for incontinence pants. Then you really could drop your minogues.

  2. The Lene tune was pretty enjoyable, but it was blended in with “Jazz At Massey Hall” coming from the record player at the same time……which may have given it some extra gravitas….!

  3. “It’s your doody, doody, to shake that boody, boody.” Wise words indeed. Didn’t I read that first in The Female Eunuch? Probably not. It may, however, actually be in the recent Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim, which is severely depressing.
    How about an antidote of Kirsty MacColl’s What Do Pretty Girls Do?

    • Bless you, Chris. I do appreciate you persevering with this sh*t even though you’re unlikely ever to like any of it. I suppose that line could be kind of depressing – I’ve always just read the whole thing as a bit more tongue-in-cheek, “anything goes” than “use your sexuality to get ahead”. I was kind of tempted to read that Honey Money book – interesting or just depressing?

      Ah Kirsty, someone we can agree on!

      • I wish I could resist, bish!
        I haven’t read either book, if I’m honest, but the Honey Money one sounds more than a little retrograde (well, in Guardian reviews it does).
        As a heterosexual male, I’d love to have women shaking their bits at me, of course, but, as that has never happened (and never will), my feminist tendencies must be driven in part by envy, I’m sure. But I do find facts such as the ambition of the majority of young Italian women is to be a TV showgirl godawful.

    • A spot of Kirsty MacColl is always welcome.

      Incidentally, I have read The Female Eunuch, and I have to say that, immensely worthy though it is, I remember it as being rather hard going, extraordinarily strident, and very much of its time.

  4. No… not really doing it for me… I think our record collections’ spooky connection got its lines crossed with this one.

    Although I feel it is my “doody, doody” to inform you all that the shameless Sheddi is actually quite fond of Aqua (although he bought the album for “Barbie Girl”, he can’t decide whether “Doctor Jones” – Aaaargh! – “Turn Back Time” or “Around the World” is his actual favourite). A quick skip through Aquarium (carefully skipping straight past “Doctor Jones”, which I personally find abhorrent) reveals a surprising range of tuneage, with at least one of the less dancey ones reminding me of The Bangles.

    “Barbie Girl” deserves a paragraph of its own. It’s a novelty song – obviously – but I do, sort of, like it. Possibly just because of the way it pokes fun at the whole fashion doll thing. And I do sort of like some of the simplistic rhymes. Our kids, however, take it at face value. Both son and daughter found the video and the song enthralling, and we have often been treated to exhortations for Barbie to “Let’s go party!” from both son and daughter.

    Definitely agree with you about the cringeworthiness of Billy Bragg’s attempt at pansexual politics.

  5. can anyone tell me how the ace Lykke Li went from from the brilliant, in control:

    ‘I’m good, I’m gone’

    And if you say I’m not OK
    We must go
    If you say there ain’t no way that i could know
    If you say i aim too high from down below
    Well, say you’re not ’cause when i’m gone
    You’ll be callin’ but i won’t be at the phone


    Get Some:

    I’m your prostitute, you gon’ get some
    Like a shotgun needs an outcome
    I’m your prostitute, you gon’ get some

    it’s not big, it’s not clever and really makes me feel sick… luckily I don’t have time for a real rant about this.. but who thinks that’s a good song idea? who thought it was an interesting lyric? – what’s that about? *sigh*

    • It’s clumsy, but still think she’s trying to say she’s in control. For better or worse, it certainly got her some attention out here.

      As for this series: Not heard anything yet that I’d go out of my way to listen to, anything I’d go out of my way to avoid or anything to be guilty about. No harm, no foul. Toffeeboy’s “History Of Pop” wasn’t really a history of pop.

      Does make me miss Frogprincess, our original queen of cheese. Shameless, enthusiastic & convincing when it came to supposedly guilty music.

  6. I thought better of you, bish, I’m sorry to say….”Unmitigated shite”? Barbie Girl was a great song! A wry satire on sexual politics wrapped up as plastic pop. And Dr Jones? OK, no politics there, but Dr Jones was banging – and I’m not even someone who demands of his tunes that they bang, but it had a feel-good, wedding disco glory about it. No irony, and certainly no guilt – in fact, I was let down by their attempt to go artistically credible because they’d nailed it with those two tracks.

    • It was too well wrapped up, May. The undercover agent had crossed to the other side. Or something. (I have “Duplicity” on in the background…)

      • Ah yes, the dangers of going deep cover – Donnie Brasco, Infernal Affairs, that sort of thing. But listen – “I’m a blonde bimbo girl in a fantasy world” – that’s not exactly celebratory. I find it colossally dark, and I think knowingly so. It’s like when in Spiral they uncover an Eastern European prostitute-traffocking operation in the banlieu but put through a Day-Glo tie-dye.

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