Mainstream Rock: Aerosmith, “Pink” (1997)
David: Sweet Jesus. It’s that Aphex Twin album cover brought to life. Who asked for that?
The funny thing is, if a new band had sent that song and video to MTV, the answer would have been a resounding “hell to the no.” But because it’s Aerosmith, it gets power rotation. The song itself actually isn’t that bad, even if Tyler ran out of colorful sexual metaphors sometime during 1977.
Jon: I don’t know if this has been the point of Chartburn all along, but this is the first video I’ve seen lately that has sent me into full-on Beavis & Butt-head mode:
BUTT-HEAD: Uhhh … huh-huh … These guys are old …
BEAVIS: Yeah! Yeah! I think my gramps listened to these guys, heh-heh …
(And then, at the 2:02 mark …)
BEAVIS: Boobs! Boobs! Boobs!
BUTT-HEAD: Uh, huh-huh — they’re all green and blue, but they’re still pretty cool …
BEAVIS: Yeah! Yeah! … I’ve seen better.
BUTT-HEAD: Beavis, the only boobs you’ve ever seen were on your mother.
BEAVIS: Shut up! Heh-heh … well, hers were better than those.
Will: I’m pretty sure that this is the single most disturbing video I’ve ever seen, and given that it left me thinking “I will go out of my way to avoid ever seeing it again,” I can’t for the life of me imagine why Aerosmith thought it was a good idea. Brrrrrrr. I’m legitimately disturbed. I’ll be having nightmares tonight.
Ken: Could have been all right at about a minute shorter. This is a band well past its vital era. I do kind of like the choruses, which would have been musically at home on the White Album, especially the Harrison-esque chorused lead guitar.
Zack: It is definitely possible to stay too long at the fair, and that sentiment has never been illustrated more vividly than it is here, in both the audio and the video. The brilliant burlesque images that were Aerosmith’s trademark have seen far too much sun, gin, and barbiturates, and instead of being tantalizing have become just plain disturbing, like some leathery cougar that hangs out at casino bars and leans in as she asks you to light her cigarette. Anytime a songwriter resorts to using the word “very” as an adjective, it’s safe to say that he has failed miserably.
Robert: Hmm … are they talking about what I think they’re talking about? To paraphrase Tenacious D, “You’re too old to sing about poontang. No more poontang songs for you!”
Zack: See, that’s exactly why this song is so unsettling for me. It’s like hearing your sixty-year old uncle talk about some hooker he picked up in Newark a few months ago. The whole thing just makes me squirm uncomfortably.
Beau: I forget which comedian said it, but there was some old joke that whenever somebody this age makes a certain reference, he’s probably talking about eating the cat.
Jeff: Certainly not one of Aerosmith’s proudest moments, but it did salvage the commercial fortunes of their Columbia homecoming, Nine Lives, after the album’s atrocious leadoff single “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)” tanked. As for whether they’re talking about what you think they’re talking about, Robert, let’s let Wikipedia tastefully sum it up for us: The word “Pink” in this song is sometimes said to be in reference to an appreciation and love for the vagina, as “pink” is often used as a slang term for the vagina, due to its pinkish color. (Also, “honkin’ on bobo” is, like most slang terms worth using, a veiled reference to fellatio.)
Robert: So when Steven Tyler sang about being “down on the muffin” in “Walk This Way,” he probably wasn’t taking an anti-breakfast stance, was he?
Dunphy: Nor was the inference of “Get Your Wings” about sucking up a mouthful of red Hawaiian Punch. Aerosmith robbed America of its collective innocence. (If you want to, feel free to wonder how Tyler and Perry seduced and destroyed Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley. G’wan. It’s fun.)
The last really good Aerosmith album was Pump, and many will fault me for even saying that much, asserting that shortly after Rocks the band was replaced by exact, yet suckier, duplicates (thank you, Steven Wright). I blame Desmond Child and Glen Ballard, but the real fault lies with Tyler and Perry. Outside forces may have written this vagina monologue, but those two cashed the checks.
Jason: I’m with Dunphy — Pump was really the last great Aerosmith album. It’s not that everything that’s come after Pump has been bad; it’s just been the same thing, over and over again. And the biggest problem I have with this video (I have many) is that I can’t tell which ones are really Steven Tyler and which ones are his head morphed on another person’s body. The skeleton, for example? Very easily could be him.
This video marks the first time I don’t feel sorry for the underexposure of Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton. I still feel bad for Joey Kramer, though, because I feel like he really wants to be on the same level as Joe and Steven, but they just won’t let him.
Scott: At some point, rock stars go from being sly sexual gods to dirty old men. I look at Aerosmith and I think, dude, you’re 100, stop acting like you’re 35, or 30, or 40. This song is fine, just like all of their other material post Pump. I agree that Pump was their last great record. In fact, I would place it on the list of all-time great Aerosmith albums — and one of the best hard rock records of the late ’80s.
Modern Rock: New Order, “Regret” (1993)
Ken: What can I say? I am a pathetically unabashed Anglophile. Where Britpop in concerned, I’m a very cheap date. Lovely, wistful melody, and an interesting video to boot. My favorite of this lot by miles.
Jon: I am a participant in a speak-no-evil-about-New Order blood pact; however, regardless of that, this is an awesome song. Never in the history of popular music has such a band of misfits made so many great singles over years and years.
Bernie is such an unlikely rock star. I always imagine two contradictory scenarios. One has New Order arriving at a convention of Brit-pop legends and leaning against the wall, completely unrecognized, as Boy George and Morrissey get into a catfight and the Gallagher brothers drink Robbie Williams under the table, then beat the stuffing out of each other. The other scenario has Bernard living a completely glamorous life, with hip rocker clothes and carefully mussed superstar hair, and then heading to JC Penney’s and Supercuts to get ready for the next video shoot.
Jason: I remember buying this on cassingle. I had never really heard of New Order before. I guess it makes sense, as I grew up on Top 40 radio, and certainly “Regret” did better than any other New Order song on the Hot 100. I tend to automatically gravitate towards any song that has a repeating riff with a varying bass line.
Dunphy: I’ve never heard this song before, believe it or not. Then again, it was 1993 and electro-rock wasn’t really the “it” thing at the time, so it shouldn’t be a shock. What is a shock is that I really like it. I wish the guitar bit wasn’t so artificially pasted in and was more a part of the tune …
Beau: Ahh … 1993. The midst of one of my occasional two-year droughts between dates. And knowing that this group was a favorite the cute redhead who, like every other woman in Wilmington (NC), wasn’t interested in me … well, that just made this song that much more perfect for some first-class brooding.
It’s really New Order at its best. Love that inventive bass line, love the yearning in the melody. You don’t get songs like this anymore. Today’s kids are moping to crap like “Hey There Delilah.” This generation is going to grow up really, really bitter.
David: Easily one of my favorite New Order songs, though that line “have a conversation on the telephone” makes me want to punch babies. Love Hooky’s bass line. I saw them in 1993 as well, though I had more fitting opening acts: Sunscreem and 808 State, the latter of which blew New Order off the stage.
Zack: I’ve liked most of the New Order songs I’ve heard (particularly “Crystal,” which, if you can believe it, worked very well in a Mick Fanning surfing video) but somehow Bernard Sumner’s vocals don’t seem to work well with the music here.
Will: A lot of people have very little love for this album, but I love it through and through. I admit that it’s at least partially a matter of sentimentality and fond memories; I did phoners with Gillian and Stephen when they were promoting the record, and I met Gillian in person during the tour…though, for the life of me, I can’t believe that their opener when I saw them was the Judybats! Still, I think it’s a really enjoyable record, and, in particular, this single is one of my all-time favorites of theirs.
Robert: I’d forgotten that this song is this song. I like this song! I have it on a tape from the end of ’93, right before or after the Breeders’ “Cannonball,” thanks to my brother’s CD collection.
Scott: You know those songs you hear all the time and know you like, but never know who the artist is? This is one of them for me. I can recall hearing this song many times during the “alternative” revolution back in the early ’90s but never made the connection to New Order. What I’ve always loved about these guys is that they use so many machines in their songs, they run the risk of creating cold, lifeless music . But their songs are always very melodious and heartfelt. I have no … regret over hearing this song again (man, was that f-in’ lame).
Jeff: I have fond memories of this song, as well as the ridiculous puffy orange promo disc for the album that Warners sent out to incredulous critics in ’93. I’d sell you the soul of everyone in the band for a nickel, but I wish I still had that thing.
Will: Will considers Jeff’s comment:
“Could this CD and 20 cents actually get me complete ownership of New Order? And if so, given the current US / UK exchange rate, is it really all that great a deal?”
Dunphy: Hell, you could get five Aerosmiths for one New Order with that currency devaluation. But with five Aerosmiths around, you will need a lot of medication handy. Oh, and don’t drop the soap in the shower.
Adult Contemporary: Lionel Richie, “Ballerina Girl” (1987)
Zack: Within three seconds of starting this video, my computer locked up and the screen started flashing amber. Is that bad? Oh, hey, it’s Chris Wallace. What’s up, bro?
Jeff: Um, it’s better than “Dancing on the Ceiling.” I think that’s all I can say about it without making Jason cry.
Robert: Jason, was “Ballerina Girl” played at your bar mitzvah?
Jon: I cannot discuss this song without slipping into Lionel-induced Tourette’s — COCKSUCKING SHIT! — so instead I’ll relate a little story: Sometime during 1986 I was listening to the radio late at night and Lionel’s voice came on, singing a song I’d never heard before. I knew it was about time for Lionel to put out his new album, so I thought this song was the lead single. The song seemed to be called “Zoom,” and it was wonderful, nothing like the fecal matter he had been hurling at the public for the past four years.
I was truly excited, thinking he was returning to the type of soul music he made with the Commodores before “Three Times a Lady” taught him he could work half as hard at songwriting and make twice the money. Unfortunately, not a day later, MTV launched Lionel’s new single and it was “Dancing MOTHERFUCK! on the Ceiling.” Excuse me. So I went to the record store, found “Zoom” on the Commodores’ eponymous album, and bought that out of spite. At least the rest of the band would get some of the profits …
David: God, he wrote this for his daughter Nicole, didn’t he? Ahhhhhhhh hahahahahahahahahaha! How’d that work out for you, Lionel?
Scott: Sentimental claptrap. If it wasn’t so damn slick, I might enjoy it more. Of course, if my own daughter decides to take up dance, I’ll probably be singing this to her (and oh, how she’ll laugh).
Jason: Fuck all of you who are getting snarky on “Ballerina Girl.” Especially Jeff. Fuck you most of all, Jeff. I grew up on the Lionel solo albums, so I knew this enough to sing along whenever I heard it, but I don’t think I actually gave “Ballerina Girl” much thought one way or the other until a couple of years ago, when I bought a Lionel songbook so I could learn how to play some of his songs both on piano and for Acoustic ’80s. The minute I sat down to learn it, I knew it was a song I’d want to sing to my child one day. The problem is, I’ll probably sing it even if I have a boy.
Will: What can I tell you? I’ve got a beautiful little 2-year-old girl who dances around the house in a tutu, so I’m not bashing this song one bit. Besides, Lionel’s got himself that great lite-pop/soul niche that I liked long before I was a daddy, so it goes against my instinct to speak ill of his work. But is the video schmaltzy? Well, duh. I can admit that much. The father waving at his little girl takes it too far over the edge even for me, into full-fledged “oh, give me a freaking break” territory.
Ken: I don’t know. I like a lot of Lionel Richie’s stuff. I think he wrote some really nice tunes, and always sung them with feeling, as he does here. I just don’t think that this is one of his best. As for the video, I have no frame of reference, so I’ll leave it to those of you with kids.
Dunphy: Wow. This is really, really mellow. And if I read too much into it, it can be creepy, but then again so can almost every Lionel Richie song. I’m sure we thought this was sweet as pie in ’87 but twenty one years have rendered it the most uncomfortable kind of Muzak.
Robert: I could never get into “Ballerina Girl.” But I bet those dirty old men in Aerosmith could. (That’s not a tasteless joke. Aerosmith is tasteless. I’m innocent.)
R&B/Hip-Hop: Shanice, “I Love Your Smile” (1991)
David: I love R&B videos from the early ’90s. The clothes, the dance moves, everything. They’re just so adorable. Not sure how I never heard this song before, but I can see why it was a hit. Insidiously catchy.
Ken: Bouncy little tune. The video looks like a TV commercial for makeup or hair products, and the song would be at home in that milieu.
Dunphy: First off: this is a real song? Second: No, really, this is a real song?
They used this tune in an acne-cream infomercial and, for obvious reasons, I always assumed it was some super-lite pop thing made up solely for that purpose. The song itself is a pleasant, if dated, trifle but because of my understanding of it, listening to it for entertainment is like me getting my groove thing going with (insert your favorite old commercial jingle).
And now the kicker: you know you’re old when you remember commercial jingles. Now ad companies just co-opt pop tunes. Pass me my prune smoothie, Bertha.
Jon: This song is sweet, sweet, sweet. It’s one of those perfect pop singles. It was the ideal companion to “Baby Baby,” which we’ve already discussed here and which was out the same year. I remember that whenever this song would come on the radio in the car, I’d crank it up and wait in anticipation for that little “Smile — PSYCH!” bit. That Shanice was so cute!
And then I would put in the Metallica cassette. I swear.
Zack: This is so Raven! Is “smile” a code word for something else here? Shanice kind of reminds me of a female version of John Elway, in that she can’t seem to do anything else except smile. Even when she’s thrown a fourth-quarter pick-six that cost the Broncos the AFC championship, she’s still grinning. It’s weird.
Scott: An infectious song, but almost all radio-friendly hip-hop from the early ’90s was infectious. In fact, I think every single song from that era used the same damn drum machine sample. So glad Shanice included the rap section in the middle. Man, that girl knows how to bust a rhyme.
Will: I’m surprised I don’t remember this song, but it’s not ringing any bells…possibly because it’s got that boring early ‘90s dance beat that never really did anything for me. There’s a really bizarre moment right before the sax break, with the clouds and her “my whole world is beautiful” bit, that stands out, but that’s about it. By the way, is it me, or does it sound a bit like New Edition’s “Candy Girl” at a couple of points during the song?
Robert: Is that a shameless plug I hear approaching in the distance? Yep, and here it is! I really like “I Love Your Smile.” It’s corny, but I was in tenth grade when it came out, so the high school lyrics, much like those of Brighter Side of Darkness’s “Love Jones,” from 1973, fit my nostalgia like a glove. However, I only became a fan of this song a few years ago — I don’t remember it that well from high school, so I guess I’m just nostalgic for my nostalgia, and therefore “I Love Your Smile” has retroactively become a nice memory of the 1991-’92 school year.
Beau: For this genre, for this time period, this really isn’t bad. Love the playful shoutout to Branford Marsalis. Can anyone imagine Miles Davis doing that? “Blow, Miles, blow” would have a completely different meaning.
Jeff: Is there an R&B song that sounds more like an episode of Beverly Hills 90210? I think not. Also, Will, you have no idea how envious I am of you for never having heard this. That goddamn “doo-doo-doo” hook has been haunting my nightmares for years. Also, what the fuck was Branford Marsalis doing on this? Did he have a gambling problem nobody knew about?
Robert: If you were to ask him, he’d probably blame it on Jay Leno. Are there any clips on YouTube of him looking like he wants to kill Leno? If anyone can find them, please send them my way. Not that I hate Leno — it’s just that the whole Branford-hates-Jay thing passed me by in the ’90s.
Jason: I’m not even going to watch it. As it is, I woke up with it in my head, and I haven’t actually heard the song in at least five years.
Hot 100: KC & the Sunshine Band, “Please Don’t Go” (1980)
Jeff: My second-favorite KC & the Sunshine Band song, after “Give It Up.” This means less than words can say.
Jon: In which the guy behind “Rock Your Baby,” “Shake Your Booty” and “I’m Your Boogie Man” somehow, inexplicably morphed into Donny Osmond. This song takes me back to my paper-route days–it was on my Walkman radio alongside my favorite songs of that winter, “Coward of the County” and “Special Lady.” My reaction then was the same as it is now: Why, KC, why? You had such a good thing going with the South Florida disco schtick. Why spoil it with dreck like this and that cover of “Yes I’m Ready”?
This video looks exactly like KC looks now–if you take the standard screen size and stretch it to Vistavision width. Juxtapose this video with what KC looks like today, then add 50 more pounds to KC’s frame … and you have Meat Loaf.
David: What the hell is this? When I saw KC was on the list, I was all excited to get both down and funky. This is like the slow cousin of Robert John’s “Sad Eyes.”
Will: Perhaps this will serve your purposes better … but probably not. I can’t believe this thing rocked the UK charts for weeks in the early ’90s. It was all over the damned place when I visited there in 1992, and all I could think was, “Wow, I think I’ve reached a point where I WANT to hear KC and the Sunshine Band.”
David: Will, you’re an evil, evil person.
Zack: I have to be honest, I’ve pretty much hated everything KC and the Sunshine Band has ever done, and this song is no exception. I certainly didn’t expect to ever say “I prefer the Double You remix version,” and yet here we are.
Jeff: Damn, I thought that would be a RickRoll.
Jason: RickRolls are so March 2008. And this song sucks for so many reasons, and as I mentioned once in a CHART ATTACK!, one of the reasons it sucks is because it hit #1 in January of 1980, and both preceding and following it was “Escape (The PiÃ±a Colada Song).” It’s KC’s fault that Rupert Holmes couldn’t boast that he had a straight #1 hit from 1979 to 1980. Perhaps the biggest reason it sucks, though, is because KC can’t actually fucking sing. I don’t think he ever nails that note in the chorus. He’s so flat, it’s ridiculous. Knowing this song topped the charts just makes me angry.
Robert: Whaaaaaaaaa? Back in 1991, Bill Wyman called KC and his band “one of the most important rock ‘n’ roll bands of the last 20 years.” That’s a bold statement, but I appreciate bold statements, and the Sunshine Band did make some great disco songs.
Dunphy: And to think that, after saying he was getting too old to pretend he was a member of the Stones, I had some respect for him. Now my world, she is a-crumbling. Mama mia.
Ken: Sure, this one is an easy target. It’s easy to make fun of it. The turned-up collar. The leather pants. The bad synth. So go ahead — it’s well deserved. Stick to the funk, Harry.
Will: Harry Casey, why would anyone leave you and your bad-ass turned-up collar? Oh, wait, it’s because you have the craziest fucking eyes I have ever seen in my life. I never really thought of this in terms of being a stalker anthem, but, suddenly, it all makes sense. “Please don’t go, I’m begging you to stay.” The un-sung subtext? “And if you don’t, I will hunt you down, haul your ass back, and lock you in the basement.”
Dunphy: There’s only one way I can force myself to enjoy this horrible song. It involves William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” (or at least David Cronenberg’s movie adaptation), specifically concerning some lines about killer dysentery. With that in mind, this one chance for a KC song to not sound like every other KC song is saved if you believe he’s singing it to someone who may shit themselves to death.
Damn, that was a long way to go for a poop joke.