Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hold On

I more or less missed Wilson Phillips. I knew of them, thanks to Rolling Stone, but when they were hitting it big I was finishing my first senior year of college and living in a house without cable, so no music television, and pop radio wasn't really a part of my life at that point. (Few things were, aside from beer, comics, Springsteen, R.E.M. and my girlfriend.) ((You'll note schoolwork was nowhere on that list, which may explain why I needed a second senior year of college.))

But "Hold On" was big enough that even I heard it, even if I barely noticed that I did. So the first time I really truly remember paying any attention to it was during its utterly glorious inclusion in "Bridesmaids." Its use was fantastic, but then, of course, so was the song.

I've never liked self-help songs. Take Billy Joel's "Tell Her About It," for instance. (Please.)

While I liked his An Innocent Man album, in general—although his dancing here makes Springsteen's in "Dancing in the Dark" look practically Michael Jacksoneque (and Rodney Dangerfield's acting makes his own turn in Caddyshack appear Laurence Olivieronian—this one track always struck me as an only slightly less unctuous "Dear Alex & Annie" sermon.

(Good golly, how adorbs is Annie? [And thank goodness she and Alex had their names on their shirts—otherwise, how could we ever have told them apart? Also, and this is true, DT dressed like Alex until he was nearly 20. Sadly, it's still his best look ever.] I can't believe "Dear Alex & Annie" was created by the great Lynn Ahrens, writer of many of the best Schoolhouse Rock songs, as well as, later, several major Broadway shows. But we don't care about Broadway. Schoolhouse Rock, on the other hand...)

Which is why (heresy alert) I've never cared for one of the more beloved songs amongst my cohorts, by one of my very favorite artists ever.

I like the verses. I like the music. I like how attractive both singers are. I even like the philosophy. But the lyrics to the chorus just set my teeth on edge and the preciousness of Bush's vocals, which can be so effective in other contexts, Not for me. The entire thing, together, is just not nearly removed enough from dear "Dear Alex and Annie." It's the only song on So I skip every. single. time. I'd take ten "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)"s, or even a dozen "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)"s over a single "Don't Give Up." I'm a monster, I know.

Which is why I was surprised to hear this cover of "Hold On" and discover it wasn't like biting on tinfoil. It was...well, it was awesome.

Why does this work so well? What's the secret? Is it the seriousness of the vocals? Is it that the bar is set lower? Is it that it's got no pretensions—it's not a groundbreaking Serious Artist performing a Message Song, or a wannabe badass rocker hearkening back to his late 50s/early 60s roots for a lark? Is it just that it's just a great take on a fun pop song?

I'd reckon it's all the above. And most of all, it's got the best melody and a good beat and you can dance to it. And that's usually the trump card, after all.

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