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Mainstream Rock: Asia, “Heat of the Moment” (1982)
Vrabel: I have a buddy who’s a big Asia fan. And every single time my buddy who’s an Asia fan tells me he’s an Asia fan, I bring up “Heat of the Moment,” and he calls me a dirty name, and we stare at each other in strained silence for 15 minutes. “Heat of the Moment” is like Kryptonite to prog fans. I call it the “57 Channels and Nothin’ On” Theory.
Ken: I don’t like prog. I don’t like ’80s music (what on earth am I doing at Popdose?). From a brief look at the video, no one in the band has a mullet. I’m willing to give them points for that, and only that.
Beau: Funny, I just covered this one. Basically, it’s terrific prog-rock playing distilled into a palatable pop-rock song. But oy, those lyrics. John, when her looks have gone and she’s alone, she’s still going to be blocking your calls.
Zack: It seems like something of a guilty pleasure, but I actually canÁ¢€â„¢t resist the epic quality of this songÁ¢€â„¢s opening. The video, on the other hand, sucks. Aside from using the same damn effect for the entire video, couldnÁ¢€â„¢t they at least have changed the direction of the screen transitions? Once we get away from the intro, I find the song fair to middling. Nothing special, and it looks like weÁ¢€â„¢re in for some much worse Á¢€Å“musicÁ¢€ this week.
Darren: On paper it looked like a colossal windbag of a musical affair, but damn if these prog rockers didn’t come up with a great pop album that still carried enough chops to keep their built-in fan base happy. That video is probably the best $5,000 David Geffen ever spent.
David: Yep, I loved these guys growing up, and even find their new album surprisingly good. I’m a bit burned out on this one now, but man, did I love it at the time. I swear I mentioned in an earlier Chartburn that in that close-up of the man and woman fighting, the man clearly says “Fuck you!”
Mike: Hearing “Heat of the Moment” immediately takes me back to being six, sitting at home on Saturday nights and watching “Solid Gold.” The video’s pretty high-tech for 1982, but it’s not the same as having Darcel shake it in gold lamÁƒ© on my TV screen. I can honestly say this is the only Asia song I’d recognize within five seconds (which I guess is probably what most people would honestly say). Fairly generic ’80s pop-rock, at least to my ears, but what a chorus!
Dunphy: In the grand scheme of things, this song sits extremely well as far as ’80s music is concerned: it has musicianship behind it yet doesn’t go all wanky with it, and the lyrics, while not exactly Pablo Neruda, could’ve been a whole lot dumber. (The majority of the decade’s biggest hits weren’t known for poetic wonderment.) It’s aged well in that it ain’t screaming big hair and shoulder pads, even though you can guess it isn’t contemporary. I like it. I give it a pass.
Jon: It’s difficult for me to think about “Heat of the Moment” outside its new ironic context — a generation of teens and twentysomethings know this as the dorky 40-Year-Old Virgin song. It fit that movie perfectly; it was geeky and kinda cool at the same time, laughable and lovable. In retrospect it became an anachronism almost immediately after it was a hit, as prog rock collapsed in the face of Phil Collins, the “second British invasion,” and the mainstreaming of new wave (“Owner of a Lonely Heart” notwithstanding).
Will: IÁ¢€â„¢m an unabashed Asia fan — yes, both the Wetton and the Payne years — but when I hear this song I’m always taken back to my days on the newspaper staff at Averett College. I was going through a stack of back issues of the paper (not that it matters, but rather than leave you hanging, it was called The Chanticleer), and I happened upon this article about teen pregnancy. Not really a subject that was an issue for me at the time, but I couldn’t help but notice an emboldened quote attributed to Asia. The quote? Á¢€Å“So now you find yourself eating for two.Á¢€ Um, look, I realize that Asia was pretty fucking passÁƒ© by the early Á¢€Ëœ90s, but really? No one spotted this pull quote and thought, Á¢€Å“ThatÁ¢€â„¢s funny, I donÁ¢€â„¢t remember Asia as a message band. When did they speak out on the possible repercussions of premarital sex?”
John: Isn’t the line “So now you find yourself in ’82,” or am I missing a joke here?
Will: No joke has been missed. Not only is the line exactly as youÁ¢€â„¢ve quoted it, but having now relistened to the song for the umpteenth time, I remain convinced that no one could possibly hear the lyric as Á¢€Å“And now you find yourself eating for two.Á¢€
IÁ¢€â„¢d like to think that a smart-ass writer on the staff pulled a prank on an editor who didnÁ¢€â„¢t know any better (Á¢€Å“Hey, anybody got a song lyric I can use as a pull quote in this teen pregnancy piece?Á¢€), and since there was a gentleman on the staff during that era — stand-up comedian Steve Wasilewski — who wouldÁ¢€â„¢ve really gotten a kick out of doing something like that, thatÁ¢€â„¢s what did happen as far as IÁ¢€â„¢m concerned.
Beau: I had to look it up — I actually could’ve sworn the line was “And now you find yourself an empty tomb.” Which does not affect my opinion of the lyrics. I don’t care that they lack the layers of complex spirituality found on Yes’s Close to the Edge. What bugs me is the snide sexism. If we’re talking about some clearly superficial devil woman who’s already picking out collagen injection needles at age 30, then maybe I wouldn’t mind it. Or if the first line was “I don’t care if you’re in a drunken fog / How dare you kick your heels into the dog.” But this couple got in a fight and broke up. Oh, the horror! A plague on both your houses!
Jeff: The first Asia song I liked was “Days Like These,” the stream-of-consciousness AOR-by-numbers quasi-hit that Geffen and the band tacked onto 1990’s Then & Now compilation. Then & Now was the first Asia album I owned, actually, which is how I ended up spending the summer of ’90 running “Heat of the Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes,” and “Days Like These” on an infinite loop. My ardor for the band has cooled considerably since then, but I’ve still kept close enough tabs on their sadly fascinating story to be able to recommend their authorized biography without reservation.
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Modern Rock: Eels, “Novocaine for the Soul” (1996)
Will: I still canÁ¢€â„¢t believe that I thrilled to A Man Named E and Broken Toy Shop yet somehow managed to miss out on this album when it first came out. Actually, who am I kidding? I still donÁ¢€â„¢t have Beautiful Freak, though now that IÁ¢€â„¢ve heard “Novocaine for the Soul” again, IÁ¢€â„¢m considering finally getting around to investing in it.
Darren: “Life is hard / And so am I.” I remember a friend of mine at Geffen being excited to mention Mark Everett’s new band had been signed to Dreamworks. Having liked a couple things from each of his solo records, but finding them mostly forgettable and lacking in any real personality, I was somewhat perplexed by my friend’s enthusiasm. Then I heard Beautiful Freak and was duly impressed. The album, and this song for that matter, are the culmination of E’s pop smarts, meshed perfectly with his dark worldview to create something innocently sinister. The video must’ve been an absolute hoot to make. Or a complete pain in the ass. Either way, it’s always great to watch.
David: I’m the opposite of most people in that I like E’s solo records more than his work with the Eels, but I did love this, mainly because I was thrilled to finally see him get a hit. Great video, too. Mark Romanek is a genius.
Jon: I’m a big fan of “Novocaine for the Soul” — and Mark Everett in general — but as good as I think he’s been since he assumed a band name, my favorite work of his remains the Broken Toy Shop album, when he still called himself E. It’s one of my all-time favorites, one that I pull out whenever I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for. I’ve never quite understood why he never broke it wide open.
Jeff: I think I must be the only one here who hated E’s solo records and therefore intentionally avoided anything to do with Eels until coming into accidental ownership of their wonderful double album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. I have since gone back and repented for the error of my ways by picking up all the other albums. I still don’t have the E records, though, and I still don’t really care for “Novocaine for the Soul.”
Beau: This is the kind of wonderfully eccentric tune that would probably go absolutely nowhere in today’s music climate. Beats the heck out of the Earons.
Mike: You know what this song reminds me of? That “Standing Outside a Phone Booth” song by Primitive Radio Gods. I’m pretty sure both songs came out around the same time, and I’m also pretty sure I found myself standing in a record store one day with $10 to my name, deciding whether I should buy the Primitive Radio Gods album or the Eels album (because, of course, neither “Standing” nor “Novocaine” was available as a single). I went with the Gods — most likely because it was $7.99, wicked cheap for a CD back then — which was a bad move, as I think I sold that CD back within a month. That said, I know some folks swear by that E guy, but I’ve never felt compelled to hear any more of his work. Awesome video, though. This is the first time I’ve seen it, as I didn’t even have a TV, much less cable, when “Novocaine” was popular. Mark Romanek made some pretty incredible clips back in the day.
Ken: Inventive music. Interesting video. Right on the edge of being tragically hip.
Dunphy: If you like Eels you’ll like this song, and I do. If you don’t like Eels your biggest arrow at them is that all the songs sound too much alike. You know what? You’re kinda right too. With a tweak of the instrumentation, this song could have been off of Electro-shock Blues instead of Beautiful Freak. Regardless, there were few bands in the mid-’90s covering this subject matter who didn’t sound like utter prats whining over their well-heeled, well-funded, miserable trust-fund lives, because, hey, we’re real, man! Eels is alright in my book.
Vrabel: I didn’t know the Eels from the Jellyfish until last year, when their greatest-hits set made its way to my house, and I am kicking myself for missing out. This song I always thought was a little gimmicky, but Everett’s got probably 12, 15 songs that’ll break your heart.
Zack: This is almost a perfect inversion of “Heat of the Moment” — the introduction turns me off, and then once they break away from the plunking keyboard sounds and let the guitars rip, I adore it. The Eels are interesting to me because even though I really enjoyed “Novocaine for the Soul,” I never had the slightest bit of interest in listening to any of their other music. CanÁ¢€â„¢t explain why. This song would’ve been a total rip-off of Á¢€Å“Bittersweet SymphonyÁ¢€ if only it hadnÁ¢€â„¢t been released four months prior to the Verve’s song.
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Adult Contemporary: Michael Bolton, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” (1990)
Will: If no one ever recorded an answer song entitled Á¢€Å“Just Try (ItÁ¢€â„¢s Surprisingly Easy),Á¢€ they really missed an opportunity.
Jon: Wait a minute while I put in some earplugs … There we go. Please alert me when the next song comes on.
Dunphy: Michael Screamsmore. Do you remember a time when people really thought this guy was White Soul Brother #1? Were they changing the fluoride formula in the water to something a little crackier? This doesn’t sound like love, or sadness, or anguish. It sounds like he’s ordering hot dogs from the other side of the ballpark. I’m glad he cut his hair off. Much like Samson, his career diminished dramatically afterward.
Zack: Seriously, can anyone hear the name Á¢€Å“Michael BoltonÁ¢€ without immediately thinking of David HermanÁ¢€â„¢s identically named character referring to him as a Á¢€Å“no-talent ass clownÁ¢€? I remember a comedian once describing his hair loss not so much as baldness but as having his hair Á¢€Å“slide backwardsÁ¢€ on his head. Michael Bolton seems to have suffered from a similar affliction. Also, gonorrhea.
Mike: I don’t hate Michael Bolton. I actually own a greatest-hits album by the guy. (Granted, I got it for free.) This is not one of his better songs; Laura Branigan sang it much better. But I see why people don’t like him (aside from the rumors about him being a pompous ass) — straining like you’re constipated does not equal soul.
Am I invited back to another one of these now that I’ve admitted to owning a Michael Bolton CD?
Beau: Bolton’s music is masterful in the way it shares the pain of the song’s protagonist. The song is written out of pain, the singer sounds like he’s in pain, and it’s painful to listen to. This song is the zenith of strained vocal cords.
Ken: When this record came out, a woman had shattered my heart. “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” should have made me weep buckets. Instead it made me want to punch somebody. (Hint: not the woman who broke my heart.)
David: Jesus, what do you want me to say? This was music for 40-year-old divorced women. I’m now pushing 40, but I don’t feel any different about the song now than I did at the time. Welcome to the suck.
Jeff: If you’re too young to remember the early ’90s, thank your lucky stars you missed the terrifying musical journey that began with El Boltard’s soap opera anthem “That’s What Love Is All About,” exploded with this song, and more or less ended with half the country watching in slack-jawed horror as his cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman” climbed the charts. Man, I wish the Isley Brothers could sue him again.
Jason: I don’t have much to say about this week, but I do have a brief Bolton-related story (and no, it’s not about how my parents went to see him and Kenny G on a double-bill performance and loved it). I remember being at sleepaway camp and watching a friend of mine get dumped — or as dumped as one can get at sleepaway camp — by this girl. We urged him to take it in stride and move on. He didn’t listen. Instead, he waited until it got dark, snuck out of the bunk, went over to the girls’ campus, and stood outside her window. He then proceeded to serenade her — and the entire bunk — with “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.” The worst part was that he couldn’t actually sing. No, wait — the worst part was that he was going through puberty at the time. Either way, it remains one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard.
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R&B/Hip-Hop: Brandy, “I Wanna Be Down” (1994)
Mike: Ooh! Moesha! Brandy’s always been a totally beige singer for me. Her songs are fun to listen to while they’re on, but you forget about them the second they’re over. There was a pretty good remix for this that featured Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, and MC Lyte, though. Every time I hear that version, I shake my head and wonder where all the good female rappers went. Anyway, I digress. Anyone out there surprised that Brandy’s no-talent little brother is now more popular than she is?
Jon: I dunno — how “down” could Brandy really have been? She seems awfully upper-middle-class to have been breaking it big in the Snoop Doggy Dogg world of 1994. It is nice to see a Huxtable family reunion, though. (I gotta admit, I really like “Sittin’ Up in My Room,” her hit from a couple years later. It was the only good thing to come of the Waiting to Exhale movie.)
Dunphy: Another in a long line of one-named mini-divas whose songs are barely remembered. I’m sure her sitcom will be more readily recalled than any of her songs in the future. Matter of fact, I heard a rumor that they use reruns of Moesha as “persuasion” down at Gitmo. (What? It could happen.)
Will: I always think of Brandy as being the R&B equivalent of Debbie Gibson, and I canÁ¢€â„¢t say that this video does anything to really change my perception.
Ken: I get all of these young hip-hop singers confused. Was she the one who died in the plane crash in the Bahamas? This music all sounds the same to me.
Zack: No, she was the one who plowed into the back of somebody’s car on an LA freeway and killed them. Say what you want to about Brandy’s white-bread image, but I’d like to point out that she’s killed more people than Snoop ever did.
David: I hated the directorial style you see in the video, where the camera never stops panning back and forth. Fucking hold still already. “I Wanna Be Down” and its video seem harmless enough (though I’ve already forgotten the song), but those shots of Brandy on the bed, in the white tank top, where her tits go pop? I feel like I’m going to get arrested just for watching it. (Note to self: clean cache before shutting off laptop.)
Darren: Tits go pop?! Well, whaddya know, you’re right. And here I thought there was nothin’ that could get me to watch a Brandy vid. Sigh. Time to burn the hard drive.
David: I wasn’t looking for that to happen either, believe me. It just kinda, um, hit me.
Dunphy: Would someone please turn off the damn air conditioning?? Miss Brandy’s ‘sploding like a hot tin of Jiffy Pop!
Mike: Holy crap. Never even noticed that before. Wonder how many times R. Kelly’s people tried to reach out to Brandy’s people when this video came out?
Darren: Why do I get the feeling the entire panel has gone and rewatched that Brandy video? Will this Chartburn have to run with an NSFW warning?
David: God, what have I done? [swallows shotgun]
Jon: Upon closer and repeated examination, I think what we have here is a continuity problem. (Not to mention a mass perversion problem.) She’s up! She’s down! She’s back up! I thought for a sec I was watching Plan 9 From Outer Space. (If only Brandy were into the angora sweaters.)
Jeff: I’m with Jon — “Sittin’ Up in My Room” is a great little R&B song. Everything else Brandy has done is … wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right — tits go pop.
Zack: I’m not reloading that video. Or should I?
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Hot 100: Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing” (1983)
Zack: Awesome, awesome, awesome. If I had a woman, I would totally go seduce her right now.
Jon: Well, now we’re venturing into the canon. What’s not to love about “Sexual Healing”? Are there ten better songs in the entire soul oeuvre? I remember the extraordinary reaction when this song was released– the entire music industry just bowed down before Marvin’s genius. He’d been off the charts for six years, people had pretty much forgotten he was still around, and then this. It was as if Moses had stepped down off the mountain and into the middle of a pop scene then ruled by “Mickey” and “Maneater” and Men at Work and said, “This, my children, is how it’s done.” Has anybody figured out yet that I’m a massive Marvin Gaye fan?
Jeff: A stone classic. If you don’t love this song, just put a plastic bag over your head and go to sleep right now. Hearing it reminds me of the time I spent as a driver for a company that rented home medical supplies — every day at five o’clock, I’d cue this up on the stereo in my delivery van, hold my CB up to the speaker, and let Marvin serenade the rest of the crew. Good times.
David: I totally didn’t get this song when it first came out. I was too young to understand the lyric, and the arrangement was so different from anything else out at the time — which, in retrospect, is what made it so awesome — that it just seemed odd to me. But that’s Marvin for you. Always a step ahead of everyone else. Sigh.
Ken: What can one say? One of the greatest songs ever, by one of music’s greatest artists. It was his big comeback record, and it was the most welcome comeback since Elvis in ’68.
Mike: Two funny asides about what is otherwise one of my favorite songs of all time:
1) In the fade-out he sings, “Please don’t procrastinate / Or I will have to masturbate,” which just puts the exclamation point on the fact that Marvin Gaye was a sick fuck (albeit one with a sense of humor).
2) When I was a kid, my friends and I used to change the line “wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up / ’cause you do it right” to “wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up / we do chicken right!” Why? Who knows? I was six! And I liked Kentucky Fried Chicken!
Soul Asylum does a kickass cover of this, by the way.
Will: I barely even knew what sex was when I first heard this song, so I definitely didnÁ¢€â„¢t know what was involved with this whole Á¢€Å“sexual healingÁ¢€ process. (I did know, however, that we were never, ever going to be allowed to slow-dance to it at school functions.) IÁ¢€â„¢m embarrassed to admit that I didnÁ¢€â„¢t really go back and discover how great the song was until after I heard Soul AsylumÁ¢€â„¢s version of it, but I guess thatÁ¢€â„¢s a testament to what a great hook it has. On a related note, I absolutely love Neil FinnÁ¢€â„¢s cover, but IÁ¢€â„¢m now clamoring to hear Kate BushÁ¢€â„¢s rendition, which is described on Wikipedia as Á¢€Å“her Celtic-accented cover of ‘Sexual Healing.’Á¢€
Dunphy: I like socially conscious Marvin better than sex-voice Marvin. Heresy, I know, but this late in the game, does anyone hear “Sexual Healing” or “Let’s Get It On” and not think of some punchline to some dumb comedy where ugly people get all up-ons? At least nobody’s used “Inner City Blues” in any seduction scene I’ve … uh … seen. Where’s my damned thesaurus? I feel like my brain is … uh … slowing … uh … yeah.
Beau: Uncomfortable High School Assembly Moments #462: A Valentine’s Day assembly in which someone sang this with slightly changed words, basically substituting someone’s name for “sexual.” Why my sort-of Christian private school had Valentine’s Day assemblies in which someone could pay $1 to make a couple listen to a “valentine-gram” and then kiss onstage in front of the school is still beyond me. Even if I got to kiss the homecoming queen.
Vrabel: Marvin Gaye’s ex-road manager sells barbecue in my hometown. Elgie Stover. He’s the first voice you hear on “What’s Going On” (“Hey, what’s happenin’?”). And let me tell you, it is the greatest fucking barbecue you’ll ever eat in your life.