Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Stuck On You

Stereogum's been running an amazing series for months now, reviewing every single Billboard number one single since the beginning of the chart. It's been a delightful journey, revisiting old favorites, often learning new things about songs I've known for decades, and to my surprise and pleasure, occasionally discovering new songs from artists I (thought I) already knew well. (How on earth are there #1 hits by the Supremes I'd never even heard of, much less known?)

I'm a fan of the writer, Tom Breihan, who has done an amazing job, although he doesn't have nearly the proper reverence for the Beatles. And when"Stuck by You" came up on my morning playlist today, it reminded me of the relatively slating this little gem received.
There’s no urgency in “Stuck On You,” the first single that Presley released after his time in the military. Instead, the Elvis of “Stuck On You” sounds like an Elvis impersonator, leaning hard on his gasps and hiccups and little baritone voice-drops. You can almost hear finger-gun winking.
Don't get me wrong, this is far from the great song the King ever recorded, nor is it his greatest performance. But where Breihan hears laziness, I hear complete and total command of one's god-like gifts. I think it's confidence but if there's a character flaw to be had, it's in the arrogance of the all-conquering hero who'd come from nothing and through sheer force of will, hard work and gobs of talent—and, of course, excellent luck and timing—had demolished all in his path. So is he trying here the way he did on "That's All Right, Mama"? Of course not; he doesn't have to—only once more in his entire life will he ever have to and when he does it'll be spectacular and justifiably legendardy—and the song doesn't call for it anyway. Instead, he's murmuring sweet nothings to the latest objection of affection, both of them fully aware that he doesn't need to, and probably doesn't mean it, which actually almost makes it a lovely gesture.

But then you get to the "a team of wild horses couldn't tear us apart" line and for one brief moment Presley lets loose, and it's like seeing Wilt Chamberlain playing one-on-one with a talented 7th grader and taking it easy on him, just playing around and having fun...until he suddenly decides to dunk on the kid as though going up against Bill Russell and it's awesome.

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