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Mainstream Rock: Robert Palmer, “Simply Irresistible” (1988)
Dw. Dunphy: Simply inescapable. It’s a big old, synth-laden AOR kind of rocker that does what it has to do. I can’t say that I either like or hate the song — it just is. It’s just a shame that for all the music Palmer made in his life, he’ll be remembered primarily for this and “Addicted To Love.”
Will Harris: I can’t believe we live in a world where Heavy Nova is currently unavailable on iTunes, but such is the case. This song suffered a major blow to its credibility upon its initial release because of its association with a Pepsi commercial, but it’s aged really well, I think. I have a suspicion that some of the women in the video still consider this video to be the highlight of their career, however, and that makes me a little sad.
Zack Dennis: I think it’s pretty amusing that only the models in the back row are allowed to dance. The frantic efforts of the girls in black dresses just simply draw attention to the sense that everything in both the video and the song itself really feel like they’ve been phoned in. With the recycled chords and styles, this song basically feels like “Addicted to Love,” except it comes with a new hat!
David Lifton: Ah, the old industry standby, the follow-up single that sounds like the first hit, but piles it on a little bit more. It’s usually a big commercial success, but as Wayne’s World 2 and the New Testament prove, the sequel is rarely as good as the original.
David Medsker: Quoth the poet laureates the Pussycat Dolls, be careful what you wish for ‘coz you just might get it. Palmer was making the last album in his deal with Island, and needed a hit. Boom, “Addicted to Love,” which he parlayed into a fat contract with EMI. What did EMI want from Palmer? Another “Addicted to Love.” And there you are. Wasn’t terribly fond of it at the time, but as Will said, the song’s held up rather well.
Jeff Giles: “Addicted to Love” might have given Palmer’s career a shot in the arm, but it also put him in the impossible position of trying to bridge his adventurous early work with the right-angled R&B that (briefly) made him a superstar. The result was Heavy Nova, an awkward, disjointed mess of a record that mashed trippy Afro-pop like “Catching a Spell” with this thin “Addicted” retread. It’s never been one of my favorite Palmer albums, but with 20 years’ hindsight, I can see what he was trying to do (and why he failed).
Mike Heyliger: Obviously designed to capitalize off of the success of “Addicted To Love,” this song nevertheless retains a measure of hooky charm. As with most songs of this era, I remember with equal fondness a parody of “Simply Irresistible” that got played on Z-100 in New York called “My Girlfriend is Inflatable.” In the worst segue ever, I wonder if the ever-so-smoove Mr. Palmer ever banged one of those red lipstick dancing video hoes.
Beau Dure: Yes — back to the important part of all this: the Palmer videos. I think they basically messed up an entire generation of boys. Were we supposed to think a bunch of expressionless women with tons of pancake and lipstick were sexy? I’m surprised anyone in our generation procreated.
Robert Cass: C’mon, who hasn’t wanted to have sex with a seven-foot-tall robot? Or Grace Jones? Those models represented unattainable but emotionless sex, which was supposed to be catnip for men, right?
Dunphy: Leave Cindy McCain out of this.
Jon Cummings: I have never wanted to have sex with Grace Jones. Or Cindy McCain, for that matter. Sarah Palin, on the other hand…say what you want about her qualifications, but I have to admit I wouldn’t mind laying some pipeline in Alaska, if you know what I’m sayin’.
Lifton: And with all those kids, you know she puts out…
Jon: Is it a character flaw that this is my favorite Robert Palmer single? I greatly prefer it to “AtL,” and I was never a big fan of his quirkier early work. I don’t know how many years it took for me to stop occasionally launching into a random, staccato “She com-pro-mise my prin-ci-ple!” To me, the saddest thing about the success of these songs is that they’ve combined to blow “Bad Case of Lovin’ You” almost completely off of classic rock/oldies radio. As for the video, a little water is always nice for completing an objectification — and it’s nice to know that one chick can rock a guitar solo. The Wonderbra budget must have been extraordinary … and worth every penny. BTW, I’ve always been thankful that my female college friends were never directly addressing me when they sang, “You’re gonna have to face it, you’re addic–.” As far as I know.
John C. Hughes: That title is such a lie. I was a big Robert fan from his early flirtations with sequencers (“Clues,” “Johnny & Mary,” “You Are in My System”) through Riptide, but this was a total letdown. The follow-up singles from Heavy Nova were no great shakes either, but at this point the fuck you money must have been nice. Luckily, he lived a long life and was able to fully enjoy all the fruits of his labors.
What in the who now?
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Modern Rock: Hoodoo Gurus, “Come Anytime” (1989)
Jeff: Well, now I can finally say I’ve heard a Hoodoo Gurus song.
Zack: Ugh. Boring. Whoever wrote this song must be a very needy boyfriend.
Mike: Much like The Psychedelic Furs last go-round, I knew of these guys, but had never heard any of their music. This song was pleasant enough, although i kept fading out of the song and fading into “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” The lead singer looks like Paul Reubens, mug shot edition.
Dunphy: As if to herald the next decade’s parade of truly crap band names, Hoodoo Gurus arrive apparently thinking they’re clever or something. More like “something,” because these Aussies sound like a car crash between Midnight Oil and Wall Of Voodoo. This song, already working a double entendre, came from the groan-inducing Magnum Cum Louder album. Stay classy.
Will: With all due respect to Dw. Dunphy, I’ve loved these guys ever since “I Want You Back,” and their best-of collection is about as solid a CD of crunchy pop goodness as exists in our universe. This album — Magnum Cum Louder — was one of my favorites of 1989, but if I had to pick my all-time fave by the Gurus, I think I’m probably still most partial to Blow Your Cool. This song, however, is probably in my top 5 songs by the band.
Medsker: I’m a little shocked at the snarkfest over the Hoodoos. This was a HUGE modern rock song and 120 Minutes favorite. I never owned any of their records, but I always bopped along whenever this came on.
John: The Gurus were sort of like the Cars. You knew them when you heard them, they really didn’t do anything to stray too far from their formula, but dammit, they were catchy. I still love “Bittersweet.”
Darren Robbins: Despite being a huge Gurus fan (who considers Stoneage Romeos and Mars Needs Guitars required listening), I found this song to be almost too hooky, too cheerful, and too up-tempo. Tolerable when compared to “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”, of course, but still makes my teeth hurt.
For some reason, I don’t find myself coming back to Magnum as much as those first couple records. Personally, I blame it on the Bangles…
Jon: Can’t a mod-rock band write a catchy tune a few albums into their career without being accused of selling out? I was such a HooGu fan that I was over the moon when their two-disc Ampology came out a while back. I wonder if it’s still in print? I saw them play a fantastic show in Chicago sometime in ’85, supporting Mars Needs Guitars!
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Adult Contemporary: Celine Dion, “Because You Loved Me” (1996)
Zack: Double ugh. All the vocal gymnastics in the world can’t save this song from mediocrity.
John: I just see Ana Gasteyer. “I AM ZEE GREATEST ZINGER IN ALL ZEE WORRRRRLD!” (chest thump)
Medsker: Fuck you, Jeff.
Jeff: I once had the hots for a girl who loved this song, and even though I gave her endless amounts of shit for it, I’m ashamed to say I still went and bought her the cassingle. She acted all touched and shit, but I’m sure she knew, on some level, that any guy who would compromise his musical principles so thoroughly — and walk up to a cash register with a Celine Dion cassingle — wasn’t worthy of the punani. Things between us ended about the way you’d expect.
Mike: I don’t hate Celine Dion. I do, however, hate this song mightily. I remember the album that featured this song winning Album of the Year at the Grammys and wondering who stuffed the ballot box. Wasn’t this from the film about Jessica Savitch? I kind of had a crush on her when I was six. What can I say? News reporters turn me on. If me and Brian Williams are ever in a room together, watch out.
Will: I feel guilty doing too much Celine-bashing because my mom really likes her stuff, but this schmaltzy song — which was attached to an even schmaltzier film (Up Close and Personal) – is definitely not a song I need to hear ever again. Better I should hear “My Heart Will Go On” for the umpteenth time. At least it reminds me of a decent movie.
Dunphy: I can’t say I neither like nor hate this song — I just plain hate it. Recorded for the soundtrack to the film Up Close And Personal, this is just your typical boostafazoo, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” you’re-so-awesome-and-I-love-you kinda tune. It also has nothing really to do with the movie, a very, very loosely based biopic about reporter Jessica Savitch. It’s just another overwrought Celine ballad, a big old mouthful of chocolate-covered staples and broken glass.
Lifton: Like any other right-thinking American male, I’d sooner stab myself in the scrotum with a rusty nail than voluntarily listen to Celine Dion. But I just don’t see the point in getting angry about it anymore. There’s always been a place in pop for her type, and there always will be. I’d sooner accept that she exists, and do my best to ignore her.
Jon: I believe that rusty nail quote accurately describes my vasectomy. Except that, as my (admittedly traumatized) memory has it, I may have been subjected to both the nail and Celine in that doctor’s office.
Because I find myself incapable of drumming up the energy to snark on this piece of dreck, let me instead bloviate on the extraordinary cojones of director Jon Avnet and the other Hollywood types who allowed a bio of the talented-but-doomed Jessica Savitch to be transformed into a mushy Star Is Born ripoff that could spawn a single like “Because You Loved Me.” I mean, honestly, how did this go down? Did Michelle Pfeiffer sign on, but then get nervous and ask the studio, “What if we cut out some of the darker stuff — like her death?” Or did Robert Redford say, “You know what? I’ll do your movie, but you’re going to have to make me more prominent. How will the ladies continue to dig me if the broad becomes a junkie and dies?” I’d like to see a movie about Savitch someday; this ain’t even close to it.
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R&B/Hip-Hop: OutKast, “Ms. Jackson” (2000)
Jon: It’s Levi’s song! “Sorry, Ms. Palin, I am for real/Didn’t know you’d be the VP pick/If I’d known I might have kept it zipped.”
John: Love the song, hate that every time I go to karaoke some lame white dude feels the need to attempt it.
Will: Proof that OutKast was awesome even before “Hey Ya,” certainly, but also clarification as to why they weren’t a huge mainstream success any earlier.
Zack: After the last two, this song is like manna from heaven. For some reason hearing it causes me to picture crashes from the X-games inside my head.
Medsker: First song I ever heard from the band, and like nearly everything I’ve heard from them since, I like Andre’s contributions to the song far, far more than Big Boi’s. Andre’s a pop boy, I’m a pop boy. That’s just how I roll.
Jeff: If I live to be a hundred, I don’t think I’ll ever forget this song’s hook, or stop singing the chorus whenever I hear a phrase that begins with Ms.
Dunphy: If anyone heard this tune and then was shocked by the breakout success of “Hey Ya!” an album later, I would seriously doubt their abilities. “Ms. Jackson” was technically hip-hop but was already chock full of crossover goodness. Hell, even I was blasting “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson / I am for real / Never meant to make your daughter cry / I apologize a trillion times.” Incidentally, the daughter would be Eryka Badu, Andre 3000 would be that baby-daddy and Ms. Jackson would be… eh… Ms. Jackson.
What would you do without me to make it all manageable?
Mike: Ooh! It’s the song where white folks discovered OutKast!! Not to downplay the awesomeness of this song, but “Bombs Over Baghdad” was much better. It sure would be nice if Andre 3000 and Big Boi recorded a record, like, together again. Actually, considering Big Boi’s crappy new solo single and the fact that Andre has pretty much stolen every song he’s appeared on for the past year and a half, I’d say that one needs the other more than the other needs the one, if you know what I mean.
Robert: But “Morris Brown” was the best song I heard from Idlewild, and that was Big Boi’s. And even though The Love Below got more attention when it and Speakerboxxx came out five years ago, they’re equally good. Big Boi’s the underdog in that group, and probably the one keeping the brand going. Maybe Andre 3000 would have a huge hit on his own, but I’m not so sure. They might the rap equivalent of Hall & Oates — we thought John needed Daryl more to succeed, but Daryl didn’t blast off on his own.
Which songs has Andre guested on? I read about his cameos a few months ago, but I never heard any of them. And does Big Boi have a solo album coming out?
Mike: Agreed that “Morris Brown” was the best song on Idlewild. However,that song was way more exciting musically than it was lyrically. And I’m pretty sure Andre 3000 produced it (yup, he did…thanks, Wikipedia).
To be fair about Daryl’s solo career, he only seemed to release albums when Hall & Oates were on the low side of their popularity. Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine and Soul Alone are actually decent albums. Have never heard Sacred Songs, though.
Big Boi has a single out currently with Mary J. Blige called “Something’s Gotta Give” — basically a 4 1/2 minute-long endorsement of Barack Obama. This would be fine if Big Boi didn’t pull out the most cliched socially conscious lyrics in the history of rap. Andre, meanwhile, has guested on John Legend’s “Green Light,” UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem” (with Big Boi) and the remix of Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s,” among a handful of other songs. He is quite possibly the most talented mainstream emcee working these days. He makes Lil’ Wayne sound like will.i.am.
Jeff: I don’t know you anymore, Mike. Soul Alone is a horrible, horrible album. The best songs on it are a Mariah Carey co-write and a Marvin Gaye cover.
Mike: Agreed on the two best songs. However, the album’s really not bad! It’s not Abbey Road (hell, it’s not Private Eyes or H2O), but it’s listenable enough for me to not sell off…I guess I should temper that by saying that it took me something like 12 or 13 years to come to this conclusion.
C’mon, Jeff! Don’t do me like that!! (makes innocent, but-I-also-like-New-Kids-on-the-Block puppy-dog face)
Jeff: Hearing that come out of Daryl three years after Change of Season was, for me, one of the most painfully jarring listening experiences of the ’90s. I also hate it because it marks the spot where he stopped being a real vocalist and started relying on leftover vocal tics from the New Jack Swing playbook. I’d like to slap him in his puffy middle-aged face.
Jon: Tell us how you really feel, Jeff. Suddenly I’m not feeling so guilty about having ignored every H&O album since Change of Season.
Only a bunch of very-white boys could turn a conversation about OutKast into a colloquy on Daryl Hall’s solo career.
Mike: With a little splash of color thrown in…(oh, and the last two Hall & Oates albums — Do It for Love and Our Kind of Soul — were actually pretty good. Holy shit, when did I turn into a Hall & Oates apologist?)
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Hot 100: Poison, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (1989)
Lifton: Was there ever a more annoying genre than the monster ballad? I find it inherently dishonest for a band to record a whole album about doin’ it hot and sleazy, then go all sensitive and shit on us. I mean, AC/DC have never released a monster ballad (that I know of), and that’s why they still have credibility and can sell out anywhere they play, while Bret Michaels wears a mandana underneath a cowboy hat on a VH-1 reality show that nobody watches. As our beloved Jefito would say, fuck that guy.
Jon: I believe Bret stole that black hat right off Richie Sambora’s head. You gotta give him one thing, though — he seems to have been rockin’ the 8-Minute Abs video, considering the minor six-pack he’s sporting when he gets up out of bed at the beginning of the video. I didn’t know it was kosher for ’80s hair-metallurgists to be in such good shape. Emaciated, yes; but buff? That’s kinda like putting on a bunch of makeup, or something.
Oh. Right. Forgot who we were talking about for a minute there.
Dunphy: Like the sound of the universal big bang, listening to this song represents the birth of a million jokes. Bret Michaels is so earnest! Screw VH1, this is the rock of love (yo). Every cowboy sings a sad, sad song. The saddest being that, after Bon Jovi saddled up to the hombre cliches, every hair metaller was dropping C-Bombs (of the bovine persuasion).
So deep. So meaningful. So Bill and Ted did it much, much better.
Zack: You know, when Bill S. Preston and Ted “Theodore” Logan used these lyrics to get into heaven, my faith in their musical taste was seriously shaken. This song is to Monster Ballads what Die Hard is to action movies. As much as I detest the actual concept of the power ballad and the bands that produce them, I can’t help but respect this Poison song as a picture-perfect example of the genre.
Will: I’m…I’m sorry, I…(wiping away a tear)…I must have something in my eye. Damn you, Brett Michaels, for your sad, sad string of cliches…
Medsker: My favorite part of the Poison song is the melodramatic, heavy sigh at the very beginning. Makes me laugh every time.
Dunphy: Even Brett knows this is a bad, bad idea.
Mike: Much as I’d love to hate this song (sigh), I just can’t. Although now I think of the awesome Chappelle’s Show skit featuring John Mayer and a couple of dudes dressed as NYPD cops whenever I think of this song. “I can’t help it, man! I’m from the suburbs!”
John: DAISY WAS ROBBED! WHO’S WITH ME? Oh, and Brett, take off the fucking hat and bandana. WE KNOW.
Jeff: The last show of my performing “career” was spent opening for Matt Nathanson at a house concert. During my set, I had to contend with one guitarist who didn’t really know any of the songs, another guitarist who snapped two strings and ended up switching to the bass, and my traditional inability to sing. After I told the audience that I was going to go drown myself in the toilet, Nathanson came out with an acoustic guitar and slayed the crowd, closing with a version of this song that had everyone singing along so loud the cops came to shut it down. Moral of the story: I hate Matt Nathanson, and Poison.