Mainstream Rock: Sting, “All This Time” (1991)
Zack: There’s a certain element of playfulness to this song and its accompanying video that was a hook for me when I first heard it, and still is. While the music might seem trite these days, at least it seems earnest. The same way that R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” made me want to vomit onto someone’s shoes, “All This Time” makes me just shake my head and say, “Aww … it’s so cute.” I know there are religious overtones in the lyrics, but I’m happy to overlook them and just enjoy this whimsical tune.
Scott: A great song from the last great album Sting has ever done. Yeah, he’s done some good songs since then, but not a consistently great album. Must have had something to do with the theme of The Soul Cages (i.e. the death of his father). What I love about this particular song is the dichotomy of the upbeat, happy-go-lucky melody countered with the heavy subject matter. His band never sounded better — he still had Manu Katche playing drums — and “All This Time” contains one of my favorite lyrics, Sting or otherwise, of all time:
Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth
Better to be poor than a fat man in the eye of a needle
And as these words were spoken I swear I hear
The old man laughing,
“What good is a used up world, and how could it be worth having”
Vrabel: Yeah, OK, I like “All This Time” enough, in that vague, cottony, nondescript way you like cookies, or pillows, or cheeseburgers. I don’t know, friends, I just can’t muster up any sort of support for Sting beyond a loud and vibrant “Meh.”
Py Korry: I really wanted to like this album! I had read the early clippings on how difficult it was for Sting to start writing after the death of his dad, and how he had used the whole Q Sound processing to give the album some extra oomph, but I just couldn’t connect with the songs. “All This Time” was okay, but the only thing I really liked about the song was the video where the old guy comes out to do a little dance and the spotlight won’t stay on him. The whole “Aw, fuck it all” gesture was a nice touch by the old guy as he left the stage.
Dunphy: I have a love-hate relationship with Sting. For every pop ditty he tosses out, he also offers a pretentious colostomy bag disguised as a song. “All This Time” is a nice tune, really. Yeah, the lyrics are a tad heavy-handed, but this is the dude that shoved Vladimir Nabokov in between slices of new wave reggae-pop. What did you expect?
If only the rest of The Soul Cages went down as easy. Oy.
Robert: I didn’t like “All This Time” in ninth grade, but I like it now. And I’ve always liked Sting, because he’s funny. He has a reputation for being stuck-up, but I think some people just can’t get around his fortress of dry humor. The times he hosted Saturday Night Live in the ’80s and ’90s (or otherwise got to appear in sketches when he was just the musical guest) and his appearance on the “Radio Bart” episode of The Simpsons make him the musical equivalent of Alec Baldwin to me.
David: I was still under the man’s spell at this point, so I gave this song a pass for the huge chorus, despite a pretty flat verse. I was a much bigger fan of “Mad About You” and “Why Should I Cry for You,” though.
Will: It wasn’t until years after The Soul Cages came out that I actually got around to picking it up — it was released when I was in college and could only afford to buy things like, say, cutout copies of the New Monkees’ CD — but Lord knows this single was inescapable. I remember watching the video on MTV in the basement lounge of my dorm and finding it enjoyably bouncy, but it’s probably a testament to my tortured-romantic persona of the time that I much preferred “Mad About You.” (Also, the CD single for “Mad About You” had Sting doing a very cool cover of Squeeze’s “Tempted” [download].)
Jeff: Like Night Ranger and Steve Perry, the Police were ruined for me by MTV. Am I the only one who saw the video for “Wrapped Around Your Finger” until they wanted to claw their eyes out? (Why didn’t I just change the channel? Fuck, man, it was MTV. You didn’t change the channel.) Anyway, “All This Time” was, I think, the first Sting-related single I actually liked — but yeah, The Soul Cages isn’t exactly the easiest album to get to know. I’m with David on “Why Should I Cry for You,” though. Terrific song.
Darren: I remember buying this album (okay, cassette) and listening to it on the way home with my guitarist and boyhood pal Jim. We had both been huge Police fans, and while we didn’t exactly think the first Sting solo album sounded “Police” enough, we went along for the ride. “All This Time” was the best song on an album that came very close to ending up on the side of the road. In other words: Zzz …
Modern Rock: 3 Doors Down, “Kryptonite” (2000)
Py Korry: It really is a mystery why some songs become popular.
Vrabel: Can we officially declare a moratorium on Kryptonite-based songs? Between these dweebs and the Spin Doctors, I think we’ve squeezed every last drop of suck out of such a fictitious mineral. Literally, 3 Doors Down could walk into my room right now and spend 45 minutes punching me in the mouth while repeating, “We are the band 3 Doors Down, we recorded the song ‘Kryptonite,'” and after they left I would still be like, “Who the hell were those guys?”
Zack: There’s no denying the catchiness of the initial drum hook — I’m always a sucker for a good drumroll — but the proliferation of aging superheroes almost makes me feel like I’m watching a Pepsi commercial. I’ve got to give kudos to whoever managed to secure permission to film on top of the “New Million Dollar Rosslyn Hotel” (I suspect it’s worth substantially more these days) in downtown Los Angeles. It’s a familiar landmark and a pretty tall building.
I thought that 3 Doors Down was a Christian rock band — aren’t they worshiping a false idol in this “Superman” character? Shouldn’t they be singing about Jesus?
Will: As a longtime comic book geek, I was obligated to pay attention to “Kryptonite” because of its Superman references, but I still actually kind of like its dark pop hook. That having been said, however, it’s probably a testament to the quality of the album as a whole that I don’t know a single other song from it.
Darren: One of my dad’s favorite songs. It’s always reminded me of TSOL’s “Flowers by the Door” for some reason. And though I dig “Flowers,” this song rubs me completely the wrong way.
David: Wow, this is aggressively mediocre. It reminds me of my friend Tim’s theory about Huey Lewis and the News — that they were a government-funded program to convince the youth of America that it actually was hip to be square. This band’s latest single is about the National Guard, adding more fuel to the fire of the government-funded-program theory.
Robert: I don’t remember 3 Doors Down or “Kryptonite” at all. But I do remember Nine Days’ “Absolutely (Story of a Girl),” also from 2000. I still like that song.
I was going to ask if 3 Doors Down are still around, but then you mentioned their new National Guard-themed song, David, which I believe is called “Citizen Soldier.” (Yet another tacky product endorsement from a rock band! Have you no shame, sirs?!) A friend told me he had to sit through the video recently at a movie theater. He wasn’t happy about it.
Dunphy: I used to go to a gym. They used to pump in the local alterna-rock station to get the juiceheads all psyched. It seemed like all that station ever played was “Kryptonite” and something by Everclear (or everything by Everclear — all their songs were basically the same). The point is that I can’t hear this song in my head without the association of the smell of skunky pit stink.
Jeff: Like Dunphy, I can’t hear this without feeling like I’m back at Gold’s Gym. It certainly wasn’t the worst thing on the air at the time, but I’m continually amazed that the band is still around. They’re like a rocking-er version of Lifehouse — a C-level band that somehow manages to keep clawing out an existence.
Scott: I have this friend, an old-school punker. Grew up listening to the Clash, Pistols, and Ramones. He even got to run out onstage wearing the “Pinhead” mask for one Ramones show years ago. He was way into the college underground scene during the ’80s, too. So imagine my shock when he told me I should give 3 Doors Down a listen. Needless to say, I thought that the years of booze and drugs had caught up with him, because I hear no difference between these guys and Third Eye Blind and all of the other pseudo-emo-kinda-punk-rock bands from the late ’90s and early ’00s. “Kryptonite” isn’t an entirely bad song, but it’s rather unremarkable. Might as well be Bowling for Soup.
R&B/Hip-Hop: George Benson, “Turn Your Love Around” (1982)
Zack: There’s something vaguely threatening about the lyrics of this song: “Turn your love around. Don’t you turn me down. Where do you think you’re going? The door is locked from the inside — you’re not going anywhere. Put the lotion in the basket.” Aside from that, I kinda like it.
Robert: Sorry if I’ve mentioned this before, but George Benson’s Breezin’ is the first album I ever owned. I think my parents wanted to buy me Give Me the Night for Christmas in 1986, since the title track was my favorite song as a child, but Turtle Records must not have had it. (I bought it six months later with my allowance.) “Turn Your Love Around” was also a favorite of mine when I was little. I still love it and “Give Me the Night” and “Off Broadway” (an instrumental on Give Me the Night) and “Love x Love” and “Lady Love Me (One More Time”) and “I Just Wanna Hang Around You.” I like the early jazz stuff as well, but it’s the pop-soul smoothness that I keep coming back to.
Dunphy: George Benson is so cool. Fault me for being easy this week, but look at the man’s output: the cover of “On Broadway,” “This Masquerade,” and “Turn Your Love Around.” How could you not like this tune? I can’t dance, to be truthful. My dancing is an atrocity. Yet this song makes me wanna shake my thing way more than The Ethel Merman Disco Album.
David: Here is what I like, and miss, about guys like George Benson: he could’ve been every bit as melismatic as Mariah/Xtina/whoever the hell, but he chose not to, because he knew better. Can I get a shout-out for common sense making a comeback in singing? Anyone? Please?
Will: Sometimes you only need to know a single song by an artist to know that you probably should have their greatest-hits disc in your collection, and such was the case with George Benson. I actually picked up Al Jarreau’s best-of on the same day.
Vrabel: “Turn Your Love Around” is like a caramel chunk in song form. It’s deeply smooth and nougat-y, and it leaves your teeth feeling unpleasant.
Jeff: I’m with you, Dunphy. I can’t dance. I refuse to dance. But George Benson somehow makes me believe I’ve got moves. I love this song.
Scott: Okay, I know you picked the epic, live version of “Turn Your Love Around” for some reason, but come on, guys, the Solid Gold clip is available, too! And boy does George look uncomfortable and stiff lip-synching.
Anyway, back to the song. Love it, love it, love it! I will now spend the rest of the week singing, “Turn your love around, ba ba BWAMP BWAMP BWAMP BWAMP bwa bwa bwa!”
Py Korry: This was AC/CHR pap when it came out, but watching the live version gives me a new appreciation for it. The band is tight, and George’s vocals are great. However, there’s no way I’m downloading this song.
AC: Champaign, “How ‘Bout Us” (1981)
Will: If this isn’t on “Smoove B’s Surefire Songs for Getting With Your Lady,” it really ought to be.
Scott: To quote Sweeney Todd: “What is this, smells like piss, looks like piss … it is piss.”
David: I love the music video that pretends to reenact the recording. Still, I’m a total sucker for ballads like this. Good one, Jefito.
Dunphy: Smooth. There’s nothing earth-shattering about those lyrics, but I can’t sling arrow one at this. Dare you not to turn this up on the oldies station.
Py Korry: Wow! I thought there was a mistake and I was watching the video for “Eminence Front” by the Who. But then all my hopes were dashed and I was stuck watching and listening to a song that I thought I would never have to hear again. Thanks for the bucket of ice down the pants, Jeff.
Robert: I had a crush on the same girl two separate times, first in 1999 and again in 2002. I put “How ‘Bout Us” on a mix tape for her in ’02 because she went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for college. I doubt the song got much play on her boombox. (If you were expecting me to follow up that sentence with “I, on the other hand, didn’t get any play from her box,” then you have a filthy mind. I would never write such a thing, at least not outside the safety of these parenthetical walls.)
The video for “How ‘Bout Us” contains the only two black people living in Champaign in 1981. It’s a historical artifact.
Zack: It’s kind of amusing that despite the lengthy display of the intricacies of the recording process, the sound quality in this video is terrible. This song seems like it was destined for karaoke bars from its inception, to be performed by overly saccharine couples at a retirement resort.
Jeff: When DirecTV started carrying VH1 Classic a few years back, our house went through a brief period where we were like the cavemen staring at the obelisk in 2001 — we just couldn’t turn away from all the old-timey goodness pouring out of the television. I don’t think the station even aired commercials yet.
Anyway, “How ‘Bout Us” came on one day, provoking eye rolls and general negativity from my wife. At that point I knew I had the moral imperative — and I’m sure Jason will back me up on this — to turn it way up and start serenading her. I played the song again just now and my wife’s instant response was “Why are you listening to this?” Pardon me while I turn it up …
Darren: Strangely enough, this band was from Champaign, Illinois, and bandleader Michael Day used his profits from the success of “How ‘Bout Us” to start Private Studios, a state-of-the-art recording studio located in Champaign-Urbana. (It’s still around, by the way.) In ’88 we recorded the two “synth-heavy” songs from my debut CD at Private Studios, with Champaign’s keyboardist Neal Robinson programming up a storm. When it came time to do the dance mix for “Fire From a Stone,” he became a man on a dance-funk mission, singlehandedly putting in 17 straight hours at the board while I, having partied the night before, fell asleep. I remember the hypnotic quality of the Linn drum patterns pulsating throughout the studio at top volume.
When we made a rough mix and piled into my car to listen to it on a car stereo — the ultimate test of whether a mix is good or not — the station my radio was set to was playing “How ‘Bout Us.” We actually stopped and listened to the song until it ended before putting in the cassette of our rough mix. As it ended, my producer turned to Neal and said, “Well, that mix sounds great!”
I couldn’t help but think how fucking cool it must be to hear your own song on the radio. Though Neal must have been in that situation hundreds of times, it was obviously still a thrill to him. I can’t hear “How ‘Bout Us” without being taken back to that moment and smiling.
Hot 100: Rod Stewart, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” (1979)
Will: Da I? No. I got really turned off by that whole rumor about your stomach being pumped. (Am I the only one who heard the absolutely disgusting version where it was actually dog semen that was pumped?) But I do like your song, Rod, if that counts for anything.
Jeff: I think I might actually like “Love Touch” better than this.
Vrabel: I prefer the Revolting Cocks’ cover (download). That the man who sang this junk print of a song is now spending his 80s doing “The Way You Look Tonight” is more good news for the PMRC people — guys, if you just shut up and wait long enough, the dirty singers will burn out all on their own.
Scott: Um, can you say “cocaine”? The hot pants and Carmine Appice’s ‘stache make this required viewing.
Man, I used to think this video was so f-in’ cool. Guy walks into a bar, looks like shit, and still scores. How sweet is that! I used to go around singing, “Shu-gah … shu-GAH! UhhhhIFF ya want ma bahdy …” No one took me seriously. But I take “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” seriously. I’d rather hear this disco jive than Rod the standards crooner or Rod the AC singer.
And wasn’t every aging rocker hanging out at Studio 54 attempting some kind of disco beat at the time? The Stones had “Miss You,” Queen had “Another One Bites the Dust,” and Kiss had “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” (Okay, scratch that last one.) This song must have been the reason the Rod rumor began.
Zack: Do I have to? Alright, fine — in this video Rod Stewart makes Ziggy Stardust look like Brian Urlacher. Hey, Rod, Carrie Ann Moss called. They’re making another Matrix sequel and she needs her pants back.
Dunphy: I know I’m going to get hate mail from Stewart fans and apologists, but this song nearly killed his career. It was hip for about one week, then it immediately went into the collective consciousness, where it became its own punchline. If you’re into funkiness — and sometimes I am unless it involves skunky pit stink — the song works on a technical level. But damn, it was everywhere, from radio to episodes of sitcoms. I vaguely remember an episode of One Day at a Time where Schneider was singing it. If that’s your idea of a ringing endorsement, God help you.
David: I believe this song is the reason Popdose’s “Redeeming Rod” feature even exists, yes? Truth be told, I loved this when it first came out, but what the hell, I was ten years old. I thought the echo on the guitar in the sax solo was the coolest thing I’d ever heard.
Py Korry: A couple of things about the video:
1. Carmine Appice’s stick twirl right before hitting the crash cymbal was an amazing bit o’ cheese that I aim to duplicate the next time I get behind my drum kit. I wonder if he teaches that one in his drum videos.
2. You know, some people watch porn before getting down. But not Rod! He watches videos of himself to get his mojo going. Does anyone else find this part of the video disturbing? Or are we still thinking about the stomach-pumping myth?
Robert: When Jeff said, “I think I might actually like ‘Love Touch’ better than this,” he was being sarcastic. I don’t care for sarcasm. Not when we’re talking about “Love Touch.” Save your slings and arrows for Rod’s remake of “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You).” I’d like to see Matthew redeem that one.