I was going to call this thread ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ but some bugger swine’s nicked that idea before.
There are guilty pleasures (“mmm, yummy!”) and there are guilty pleasures (*blush*). But when you’re a heavy rocker of a certain age, there are also GUILTY pleasures as in ‘disbelieving-looks-of-scorn-and-immediate-ostracism’ from your peers: guess which category this one falls into?!
But I’m posting it for a reason, and with a question for you all [“All”? Er, DsD, I think you’ll find there’s no-one here: they’ve all gone down the pub to get away. – Ed] to consider.
I have taken some simple steps to hide the artist’s name from the player. This is NOT to hide my embarrassment, though you may not believe me about that! It’s because the question is about the influence our prejudice has on our view of a song. In other words, I’m covering a lot of the same intellectual ground Bish did with his Paris Hilton selection a few weeks ago.
Now some of you will recognize the song (& thus the artist) immediately: there’s not a lot I can do about you people. I suppose that makes you the benchmark for the experiment. All I want from you people is to not give the game away … yet. Just post a reply saying you’re in, say, “Group A”. Some of you – I’m hoping – won’t have a scoob who it is: you’re the control group, as you’re unaffected by the element I’m investigating. So tell me you’re in “Group C” (for Control) and then tell me what you think of the song. The reactions I’m really looking at are from those who hear the opening, can’t think/remember who the artist is, listen …, but then remember who it is. You’re “Group B” (for Bloody Hell!), and I want to know if your perceptions of the song changed as a result of that realization.
Me? I unashamedly love this. I know it’s simple, false, trite, horribly uncool, bombastic, and lyrically, a deeply cynical pull on the heartstrings, but I like it despite all that. So I don’t want or need sneering dismissals of its shallowness; all I want to know is – did you change your opinion of it because of who the artist is?
I’m loath to label this one even remotely a guilty pleasure, because I genuinely think it’s a great song – and from a much underrated band. But seeing as others may disagree…
As we all know, a-ha appeared in the mid-80s, all leather wristbands, ripped jeans and posh pop promos. Along with many other 13-year-olds, I begged for their debut album for Christmas, seduced by the ginormous pop choons of their first two singles, “Take On Me” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV”. However, after repeated listens on my crappy bedroom boombox, it was the title track, “Hunting High And Low”, that I came particularly to love. Something about the juxtaposition of Morten’s keening vocal and the warmth of the musical backing rendered it irresistible to me: I understood the yearning but craved the comfort.
They couldn’t sing, they couldn’t play, they looked awful… they went a (remarkably) long way. But by Christmas 1986, Bucks Fizz had pretty much reached the end of the road.
It seems extraordinary now that they achieved the success they did. Even in the early 80s, they looked like a naff pre-punk pop throwback (didn’t they?): Rod-Jane-and-Freddyalike Bobby G, dinnerlady-in-waiting Cheryl Baker, Man at C&A Mike Nolan, the interchangeable other one**… A group of those weird, end-of-the-pier, showbizzy young people who never actually looked young – they just looked like your unhappily married auntie in her spangly Christmas top, desperately trying to keep jolly and hide the bingo wings.
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.
Me again! Where is everybody? Right, let’s have some fun. Music fans can be remarkably precious – po-faced even – about their listening choices, can’t they? But sometimes music can be both frivolous and brilliant. Sometimes its very silliness is what makes it brilliant.
It’s 1985. Everyone is in C&A jumpers and shell suits. Let’s be honest, we look a bit shit. I think it’s fair to say we’ve hit a fashion low. Even the popstars have stopped making a New Romantic effort and don’t know what to do with themselves…