Friday, March 15, 2019

Goodbye To You

We've done a lot of writing on this blog about the 1980s, that whirring blur of pastel, excess and rationalization. We talked a lot about the good, not too much about the bad and quite a bit about the cheesy. And you know what? Just as the 1970s weren't all about shag carpeting, bell bottoms, leisure suits and whatever the hell this is, the 1980s were so much more than just a sockless Don Johnson or a feckless Oliver North. Or cocaine.

For God's sake both decades had some music...tons of music, really...that ranks as some of the greatest ever made. The 70s has all of those legendary Stevie Wonder records, the very best of the Who and maybe even the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen's two greatest records, Bob Dylan's second greatest, plus this. And this. And this!!!

Meanwhile, the 80s has not just Prince and Michael Jackson (and BTW also...PRINCE AND MICHAEL JACKSON!!!), but how about Madonna? And U2 and R.E.M? And the Replacements and the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. and Living Colour and, come to think about it, the very very best of the Police? Yeah, the 1980s had it going on with its musics.

Which brings me to this guess two-hit wonder that most anyone who existed as a sentient human being over the age of 12 in 1983 became pretty familiar with. This song. The video of which, yes, has all that goofy and grandiose 1980s plastic mayhem and kitsch for which so many of us still remember the decade:

There's so much to love here. Let's start with the song. This is a terrific song that Scandal and Patty Smyth have created. Scott and I have spent much time in this space praising the glory of the well-executed pop song, and all of those elements that go into good pop. The catchiness, first and foremost. The hooks that make you say, "Yes!" Striking just the right balance of being not too heavy yet memorable and lasting enough to remain fresh after multiple listenings. I think those are the key ingredients, right? Catchiness, the right hooks and staying power? Isn't that what separated something like this from something like (ugh!) this?

Anyway, "Goodbye To You" has that pop essence, and it has the chops to leave behind a pop song that while it might sound a little dated 37 years later, it still makes a great listen. That classic 4/4 drum/bass beat that opens it (not unlike plenty of other terrific pop tunes, like "We Got The Beat" or "Dancing in the Dark.") A melody that never waivers and delivers both memorable verses and then one whallop of a chorus. And then, when we're not even expecting it, we get another indelible hook on the bridge ("And my heart...and my heart...and my heart...and my heart can't stand the strain.") "Goodbye To You" never dives too deep, but it also never lets up from start to finish. And I love that.

And then there is Patty Smyth, who kinda bounces into the frame a few seconds in (and seriously, I love how it takes her 15 seconds to show up. For whatever reason) and then just takes ahold of your collar and really doesn't let go. Her voice is not exactly classic female pop. Very little vibrato and no tricks at all, rather she has a touch of gravel and growl as she belts it out with all she's got. She lends just the right amount of emotion and fire where she needs to (the way she spits out the word "YOU!" on each chorus, the sweet, vulnerable retreat she makes at the start of the bridge). But her voice is one of control and steadiness, and she lends an edge to an otherwise very simple (if listenable and engaging) beat.

And in the video, I think it's pretty safe to say you literally can't take your eyes off of her. While her bandmates are decked out in menswear that seems to have been purchased from a catalog called, Man, Didn't the 80s Rock?, Patty is in her own world here. She is a bright red blur, bopping her little Long Island heart out in her red dress and heels, hardly ever cracking a smile but throwing us a gaze that goes right through the camera. The video is at times hilarious, with its sudden stop-action freezes in all sorts of weird times, but again, Patty doesn't care. She trades diva for dervish, and exists to sing the song with all she's got, and that's just what she does, dammit. She's not quite the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl. She's more the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl's older sister who you can't take your eyes off of and you don't dare screw with her. Bless her for that.

Just one little morsel of what the 1980s offered us. But such a good one. It really is.

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