Playlist: Remembering Prince

April 21, 2016, the world lost one of music’s iconic and talented musicians, Prince. He was truly a legend who left a huge impression on music with his style, songs, and vision. He was a versatile artist who constantly pushed boundaries and challenged perceived notions of music. Since he was bigger than life, even though he only stood 5’3, you don’t picture him working with a lot of other artists or even performing covers. His music is so good, why should he play other people’s songs? But, surprisingly, Prince extended himself to various musicians and created memorable, yet underrated duets. At the same time, he also put his funky, sexy spin on songs you’d never guess he’d play. So let’s remember the late Prince by looking back at some of his most notable duets and covers.

“Love Song” – Madonna + Prince

When listening to Madonna’s landmark album Like a Prayer it’s easy to gloss over this smoldering track. The sexy ballad features the two music icons being seductive with one another. It’s a smooth, sexy track meant to put you in the loving mood. So how did the two end up working together? “We were friends and talked about working together, so I went to Minneapolis to write some stuff with him, but the only thing I really dug was ‘Love Song’ […]” With its funky groove and steamy lyrics, it’s more of a Prince song. It sounds like something that belongs on one of his albums and doesn’t mesh well with the pure pop of the rest of the album. You would think a song featuring two of the biggest acts of the 80s would get more attention. But the track couldn’t really compete with massive singles “Like a Prayer” and “Dear Jessie.”

“Creep” – Radiohead

You don’t expect someone like Prince to do too many covers, especially considering how many hits he has in his catalog. But during his headlining set at 2008 Coachella, he pulled out a number of them. He played The Beatles’ “Come Together,” Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice,” The B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” But the most talked about moment was his blazing cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Though the elements of the original are there, he turns the track into something completely his own. When he pulls out the extended solos and falsetto vocals, it doesn’t even sound like the same song. It’s amazing to listen to especially since he never played any of the band’s songs before. But of course, Prince wasn’t happy when footage of the cover went live online. He ordered the video to be taken down, which Radiohead reverted since it’s their own song.

“Waiting Room” – No Doubt + Prince

This is another unexpected Prince collaboration. Found on No Doubt’s Rock Steady, it’s got a bit of groove, it’s kind of soulful with a dash of synth and pop. Thanks to Prince’s work on the track, it sounds nothing like the band’s previous or later material. Apparently, Prince agreed to work on the track as a favor to the band since Gwen Stefani appeared on his track “So Far, So Pleased.” They sent him the track and he completely rewrote it. His influence can be heard all over the song. If it wasn’t for Stefani’s lead vocals, you would swear it’s a Prince song. It’s one of the weirder, yet satisfying options from No Doubt’s 2001 album.

“Best of You” – Foo Fighters

Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl Half-Time performance was the first time I realized just how versatile and insanely talented he was. We know how hard Prince rock’s his own material, but not too many other songs. That changed when he busted out renditions of “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watch Tower,” and Foo Fighter‘s “Best of You.” You wouldn’t expect to hear falsetto shrills in a Foo Fighters song, but Prince truly made that track along with the others he featured all his own. He infused them with his attitude, flair, and a healthy dose of soul like no one else ever could. Though some people didn’t think he was worthy of handling the show, his performance is still hailed as one of the best in Superbowl history. Watching it now, it still gives you chills, especially when he busts out “Purple Rain” during an epic downpour.

“A Love Bizzare” – Shelia E + Prince

Prince was so unique and had a style unlike any other that his essence pours out of every song he writes. This duet with his protégé Shelia E, features the Purple One on background vocals and on bass. But even though Shelia E is the focus of the song, it’s undeniably a Prince song. With its upbeat funky groove, irresistible hook, and sultry lyrics it could’ve come from any of his albums. Though his contribution is kind of downplayed on the studio version, the live version has his flamboyance all over it. Like so many of his tracks, this one is fun, energetic, and sexy. Then again, what Prince song isn’t sexy?

“Every Day is a Winding Road” Sheryl Crow + Prince

Any artist collaborating with Prince should know once he makes an appearance, he steals the show. That’s what happened during this live collaboration with Sheryl Crow. The two performed a hard-edge version of her hit “Every Day is a Winding Road.” Prince does backup vocals and shreds away on his iconic guitar. Shortly after this performance, Prince recorded his own version of the track for this 1999 album Rav Un2 The Joy Fantastic. If you’re lucky enough to find this version, you’ll find a completely different song. It’s funky, slinky, and downright sexy, which you don’t expect from a Crow song. It’s soulful and makes you want to dance. The cover is so good, Crow should hand it over to Prince to be rightfully his. On the same album, the two collaborate on the track “Baby Knows,” which has this cool rock, funk swing to it. If you want to hear it, you better pick up the record; they’re impossible to find online.

“Why Should I Love You?” – Kate Bush + Prince

Kate Bush is an iconic figure in alt rock. Her music is often dreamy, otherworldly, and elegant. So it’s a bit unexpected to learn she worked with Prince. The song, which appeared on her comeback album The Red Shoes, starts out with an air of whimsy and airy and quickly turns into a Prince jam. Seems to be the usual pattern with Prince collaborations. Apparently, Bush sent him the track back in 1991 so he could add background vocals. He not only added vocals but a lot of instrumentation. Since it sounded so different, Bush wasn’t sure what to do with it. They worked on it for two years trying to make it fit Bush’s sound. Clearly, it didn’t work.

“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell

Prince is known for his sexy, funky style, but on this Joni Mitchell, we get to hear a different side. While it still has an air of sensuality, the track is absolutely gorgeous. It’s an intimate moment with Prince and a piano that’s unforgettable. Hearing his soaring falsetto vocals and the classy tinkling piano keys leave you in awe. We all know Prince was such an amazing guitar player, it’s often easy to forget what a versatile musician he was. This cover shows the beauty and elegance he could add to songs, whether they were his or not. This version is a stark difference from Mitchell’s original folk stylings.

“Love is a Losing Game” – Amy Winehouse + Prince

This haunting and somber track from Amy Winehouse’s final album Back to Black, received the Prince treatment several times live. Footage of this is difficult to find, but luckily, the two eventually teamed up for a powerful rendition of the song. Winehouse joined Prince onstage in 2007 during his final show at London’s O2 Arena. He leaves her to take care of the vocals while he tears it up on guitar. In case you forgot what a badass he is on guitar, you’re quickly reminded on this track. It’s an unforgettable collaboration, though you can’t help but feel a little sad since both musicians passed on unexpectedly.

“Honky Tonk Woman” – Rolling Stones

Prince started performing this song live in 1993, but his version was never officially released. Previously, it could only be found on the Japanese version of The Undertaker. The cover received a wider release when Warner Bros. shared rehearsal footage of Prince performing the track shortly after his death. He turns the song into a scorching number with meaty guitars and a bad ass solo. If you needed more proof of what a genius Prince was at playing guitar, just watch this video where he shreds away with an “I make this look good” look on his face.

“Give Em What they Love” – Janelle Monae + Prince

Prince doesn’t easily hand out compliments and didn’t hide it when he didn’t like someone. But he did admire Janelle Monae, who looked up to him. Luckily, the two worked together for this track from Monae’s second album, The Electric Lady. Not only does Prince play guitar, he also provides co-lead vocals on the track. The song is already is already hot with Monae’s passionate vocals and seductive demeanor. But having Prince sing his signature falsetto makes the track even sexier. Plus, it’s funny to hear Prince utter the term “chicken head.” It’s funky, has a healthy dose of attitude, and makes you feel sexy as hell.

“One of Us” – Joan Osbourne

Prince covered Osbourne’s sole hit for his 1996 album, Emancipation and played it live in concert. With this track, he takes you to church. His soulful delivery, cries for the crowd to join him, and his passionate singing makes it feel like you’re in the middle of a sermon. You want to close your eyes, sway your arm in the air, and shout “preach!” as he’s singing. While there’s nothing wrong with the original, Prince’s version is superior especially with the fiery guitar solo that gives it an extra edge. He even uses the track to take a dig at his former label, Warner Bros. by changing the line “Just a slob like one of us” to “Just a slave like one of us.” This shows if Prince had a problem with you, he’d let you know it in the sassiest way.

“Shhh” – Tevin Campbell

There’s no question about it; Prince was a sexy mother. Just about everything he did dripped with sex. He does the impossible on this Tevin Campbell cover; inject a song that’s about getting in on and make it 100 times dirtier. No, he doesn’t change any lyrics or anything like that. It’s all in his over the top delivery. Hearing his falsetto cries of pleasure you’d swear he was having sex while recording the song. If that wasn’t enough to get you hot and bothered, the blazing guitar solo will do the trick. He takes a typical 90s slow jam and turns it into a sex romp. Only Prince could somehow make a sexy song even sexier.

“Crimson and Clover” – Tommy James and the Shondells 

If you thought Joan Jett made this song rock, you haven’t heard Prince’s version. For the most part, it’s a straightforward cover with Prince being playfully coy during the breakdown of “I think I love you” and blowing kisses into the mic. It’s not until the solo where he makes this song sizzle. In case you needed a reminder what an awesome guitar player he was, Prince make sure you remember with this performance. He makes the guitar burn and blaze like he’s Jimi Hendrix. It leaves you stunned the way he makes the guitar whine, scream, and trill. The cover appeared on his album LOtUSFLOW3R, but it’s his performance of the track on Ellen that gets a nod here.

Which ones of these Prince covers/duets is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top 10 Videos that Scared Me as a Kid

Image result for thriller michael jackson yellow eyes

Let’s face it, as a kid the silliest things can scare us. Anything from trees to weird looking food could scare our pants off. Like most kids of the 90s, I watched a lot of television. There was a point where I ventured away from Nickelodeon to MTV. Most of the videos had no effect on me. Some of them I even liked (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”), but then there were the “scary” ones. Videos I had no business watching, yet kept my eyes glues to the screen until it scared me. Looking back at these ten clips now, none of them are scary in the least, not even disturbing. Then again, I was only a dumb kid then. So let’s take a look at the top ten videos that scared my pants off as a kid.

10. “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’Connor

There’s a subtle beauty to this video that makes it timeless. The concept is simple: O’Connor lets her haunting vocals carry the video mixed with gothic imagery of her walking through a cemetery. Pretty tame. But the one part that I still remember freaking me out comes at the very end. It’s a brief flash of what looks like a skeleton. Looking at it now, I think it’s an intricate headstone, but the face still looks like a skull. Being so young and not able to grasp the thought of death, this scene horrified me. Keep in mind, at the same time I thought the Crypt Keeper was pretty cool. Yeah, I was a weird kid. Now, I wouldn’t call the image scary at all. It just has a morbid beauty to it I can fully appreciate.

9. “Role Model” – Eminem

Similar to the “My Name Is” video, this one is a barrage of various images and situations featuring the rapper meant to shock viewers. Nothing about this video is scary or even disturbing in the least aside from how much of the song is missing when watching the clean version. So why did I cringe when I watched it as a kid? The damn ending where Eminem, after attempting a Houdini-like escape attempt, fails. The video ends with his lifeless body swinging in the water as the crowd looks on in disgust. This mixed with the sepia silent movie effects (some of those still creep me out) was enough to make me skip this video. I can’t really explain it. I just remember hating this part of the video whenever I saw it and I did my best to change the channel before it ended.

8. “Nookie” – Limp Bizkit

I didn’t really know what to think of Limp Bizkit when they invaded my daily TRL watching in the late 90s. I remember thinking how dumb this song was and wondering what the fuck cookies had to do with the nookie anyway. But the one thing I will always take away from this Limp Bizkit song is the video. The majority of the clip is pretty tame and predictable. It’s Wes Borland that freaked me out. When he cocked his head to the side and stared into the camera with those soulless eyes, I shivered. I’ve never seen someone with pure black eyes and no pupils. Of course, now I know it was just contact lenses. Still, it shook me enough to where I closed my eyes whenever the video came on. Why didn’t I just change? Well, I didn’t want to miss my daily dose of Nsync and BSB.

7. “Waterfalls” – TLC

I was a huge fan of TLC when I was younger and seeing as this was one of the best videos of the 90s, it was always on MTV. Sure, some of the graphics are outdated now, but it’s still an iconic clip. Yet, I hated watching it. Why? Because of how fucking depressing it is. First, we see a young boy killed in blood and his mother a ghostly figure crying over him. Then, we see a man fade from existence through an unknown case of AIDS. By the end of the video the boy tries to reunite with his mother and the woman who infected her lover, is gone as well. I get it, the video is supposed to leave impact with its message. But I was five at the time. And yeah, I probably shouldn’t have watched it. But those two scenes scared me even if I didn’t fully understand what they meant. Sometimes TLC were a little too good at getting their messages across as this isn’t the last time they spooked me out.

6. “The Way I Am” – Eminem

I probably shouldn’t have been listening to or watching Eminem at 12 years old, but I did and yes, my mom thought it was fine. Very little about this video is scary; it’s kind of disturbing, but there’s nothing outright horrifying about it. I remember actually enjoying it and being confused by Marilyn Manson in the background. Was it really him or not? After all, Em did previously portray the rocker in “My Name Is.” The thing that freaked me out was the end when the rapper is about to make contact with the concrete. It was at that second that I realized what he was doing. I flinched and closed my eyes not wanting to see the awful splatter. And the ground turns to rubber. Eminem is okay. I let out a sigh of relief. The fact that two Eminem videos scared when I was young was probably a punishment for listening to his music in the first place.

5. “Gimme Some More” – Busta Rhymes

The weird thing about this video is at the time I only saw about five seconds of it. It was some sort of countdown on MTV or maybe it was the VMAs, doing a recap of videos. It flashed to a clip of this song where it focused on the blue, yellowed eyed creature that terrifies the woman in the video. It’s actually not a surprise this one scared me as a kid; the monster is still freaky looking today. Still, it’s something I’ll always remember as shaking me to my core. From then on I associated Busta Rhymes with scary videos. Now….not so much.

4. “Thriller” – Michael Jackson

This video has scared all of us at some point in our lives. Though it’s a timeless clip and still outstanding by today’s standards, it’s not exactly scary. I wasn’t even that afraid of it when I first saw it at 5 years old. Despite this, there were still bits that creeped me out. One thing that always unnerved me was the heavy breathing during the title card. I always found it weird and knew it signaled bad things to come. The part where Jackson transforms into the werecat looks a bit dated, especially the parts featuring a static dummy head. But the part that always made me jump was him screaming “Go away!” with the sharp teeth sticking out of his mouth. Though I always expect it now, when I was little I somehow forgot it was coming and it always scared me. The zombies for the most part I thought were cool, except for two specific ones. First, the one that comes strolling out of mausoleum door, whites of his eyes showing. Then the one with blood spilling of its mouth. Both of these zombies freaked me out. And the way the latter one smiles after the blood spills, just makes it all the more creepy. It still freaks me out a bit now.

3. “Unpretty” – TLC

Similar to “Waterfalls,” TLC aims to promote a positive message of loving yourself and not letting anyone else make you feel ugly. Sounds good, so what about the video is terrifying? The part where a woman gets her silicone implants removed. When I first saw the doctor remove the silicone and the pained expression of the girl, it gave me chills. Every other time I saw the video I shut my eyes right as Chili steps into the hospital. TLC spares no one and shows the painful removal up close trying to teach young girls a lesson. And at least for me, it fucking worked. Even watching it now after not seeing the video in years it made me cringe. I forgot how graphic the scene was and it’s disturbing as hell. I never thought a TLC video would leave me scarred for life.

2. “Tourniquet” – Marilyn Manson

As much as I love Marilyn Manson now, I thought he was the creepiest dude when I was ten. I still remember finding my brother’s copy of Mechanical Animals and being utterly confused by the cover. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I accidentally saw this video while watching Celebrity Deathmatch. After Manson won against Charles Manson, they decided to show this clip. And man did it give me nightmares. Though it’s now one of my favorite videos, I still don’t know what the hell is going on. Manson’s movements along with black eyed semi-human/semi-mannequin creatures scared the piss out of me. But it still intrigued me; I’d never seen anything like it before. When I saw the video again, I watched while covering my eyes and peeking out every now and then. Years later, I turned into a dedicated fan. Gotta admit I didn’t see that one coming.

1. “Oh Father” – Madonna

I’ve talked about how accidentally terrifying this video is in the past, so I’ll be brief about it here. I saw this video at a very young age and when it reached the part where the little girl, who is supposed to be Madonna, reaches her mother in the casket terrified me. Not because she was dead, but because of the fucking close up of her lips sewn shut. It’s not grotesque and it doesn’t even stay on the screen that long. But it was enough to disturb me and haunt me ever since. Because of that scene, I rarely revisit the video. It still gives me the chills today. The rest of the video is beautiful and timeless. Yet, that one scene has stayed with me for years. For that reason along it gets the top spot.

Did any of these videos scare you as a kid? What videos made gave you chills? Let me know in the comments!

Spirit – Depeche Mode

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 7/10

I’ve always been impressed with how solid Depeche Mode’s later era albums are. Most bands still going over 30 years lose that something that made them special and start churning out mediocre material. While none of Mode’s later albums hit me like their early stuff, they’re still pretty impressive. So I was pretty psyched when they announced Spirit. When I got my hands on it, I found another solid record that finds the band turning their gaze outward instead of in. The band offers a damning commentary on what’s going on in the world. This isn’t the first time they’ve done it; look at “People Are People,” but it’s their most politically charged effort. Though their commentary is often blistering, it’s often too much and doesn’t make for a wholly satisfying album.

The album opens with the rousing “Going Backwards,” one of the strongest songs on the album. It’s booming opening making you think of an army marching in the field sets up the dark mood of the song. The lyrics find Dave Gahan calling out our society and how despite all our progress, we keep moving backwards: “We are not there yet/We have not evolved/We have no respect/We have lost control.” It’s eerily appropriate to what’s happening now with political tensions running high and the rights of people being threatened. Though it’s not an in-your-face song, there’s still a lot of anger and frustration channeling through the song. They’re clearly fed up with what’s going on and this can speak to those who feel the same. It’s a blistering track that’ll get your fist pumping for change by the end of it. Its political nature sets the tone for most of what’s to come.

I was never really sold on lead single “Where’s the Revolution?” Though I really like the dark, futuristic synth music, this song doesn’t thrill me or get me going like their other material. It has a well-meaning message: get off your ass, stop complaining, and make a change. Still, it never really got me excited for the album. And the bridge where they repeat “The train is coming/get on board/the engine’s humming” made me roll my eyes. They couldn’t be serious with that part, right? I get the metaphor they’re going for, but it’s too on the nose and comes off as awkward. Though it’s not my favorite, I do appreciate the song for its lyrics like “Who’s making your decisions/you or your religion” that, again, reflects what’ we’ve been going through on a daily basis.

According to Gore, most of the album was written over the course of two years, yet it sounds like it was written for the Trump take over. While the commentary they offer is appreciated, it does get tiring. The band has touched on political issues in the past with songs like “People Are People” and “Everything Counts,” but they’ve never done it to the extent they do it here. Just because they usually don’t make political statements in their songs doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ever do it, but the way the band goes about it isn’t necessarily subtle. The biting track “Scum” finds the band attacking someone and begging them to “pull the trigger” that instantly makes you think of Trump. It’s one of the more memorable tracks even though some parts are disjointed, which can be off-putting. The slow burning “The Worst Crime” looks at what’s happening and blames it all on misinformation and stupidity that we’re all to blame. These songs aren’t bad, but after repeated listens you get tired. After a while you think we get it, we’re fucked. Can we dance now?

Luckily, not everything is focused on the political climate of the world. Things properly pick up with the infectious “You Move.” The song hooks you instantly with its heavy groove and sexy vibe. The lyrics fit more in tune with past Depeche Mode topics: unbridled lust, love, and temptation. The track is one of the few that gets you excited and makes you want to dance. Sounding like a leftover from Delta Machine, “So Much Love to Give” gives the album a much needed energy boost. The upbeat synth and the memorable hook makes it a fun diversion from the blackness the album is steeped in. Providing a bit of optimism, lyrics like “You can forsake me/try to break me/But you can’t shake me/no” shows it’s not the end yet; we still have a fighting chance. “Poison Heart” isn’t all that upbeat, but it’s another notable cut from the record. It lures you in with its stuttering, Blues inspired riff and opens with Gahan’s throaty vocals singing “You have poison in your heart/I’m sure of it.” A track about a nasty relationship coming to an end, it’s nothing spectacular, but it stands out from the other heavy tracks.

Honestly, there isn’t a song I outright hate on the album. Sadly, most of them aren’t that notable or are just a drag. “Poorman” has a harrowing opening filled with doom laden music and eerie harmonies of “Heeeey” that sound like ghostly apparitions. It’s another politically charged song about corporations only looking out for themselves, which we pretty much know. It’s not bad, but doesn’t really add much to the album. “Cover Me” is another slow song with somber music and gloomy lyrics about not reaching that other life. It actually makes me think of the end of the world. The highlight here is the dreamy, atmospheric music that gets an extended play near the end. Again, not terrible but nothing stellar. “Eternal” and “Fail” are both Gore solo spots that are decent, but again, nothing amazing. The former has a similar vibe to “I Want You Now” with Gore expressing his love, while sounding sinister and diabolic. The latter is another song damning where our society is and condemning all of us ending the album on a depressing note.

So is the album as bad as some critics said? Not really, but it’s not as great as some are claiming either. I appreciate the band’s efforts to comment what’s going on in the world. Some of the lyrics on those songs are poignant and thoughtful.  That being said, at times it does feel like you’re being bashed in the head with these messages. I applaud the band for going out of their comfort zone and showing that they’re willing to try different things. That’s a least a plus for this album. But it can be a bit tiring at times, which could be how they’re presented as slow, brooding tracks that drag on and on. It leaves you feeling hopeless at times. Putting political messages aside, most of the songs don’t pack the same punch and excitement of their other material. Even the tracks on their last album were more exciting. There are a handful of memorable tracks, but most of them don’t hit that sweet Mode spot even though they’re well meaning. Many of the songs I can’t picture myself listening to again outside of the record. Like many of their modern records, it’s solid and has some great moments. But does it live up to expectations? Not really.

Saying Goodbye to HIM

HIM announced they’re done. No more albums or new music. I guess it’s a breakup but I hate thinking about it that way. “Breakup” is such a negative term. There’s no bad blood here. Rather, they felt it’s time to move on. Part of me is sad, but I’m also happy for the band. Music is overwrought with bands who probably should’ve called it quits a long time ago *cough* Queen *cough.* In our minds we never want our favorite musicians to stop making music, but there’s a point where it gets sad. New material doesn’t hit you the same way or they keep writing the same songs. Suddenly, their tour stops are a greatest hits package. It reeks of desperation. HIM could’ve kept going for another 10 years if they wanted. Instead, they’re going out on their own terms. And I respect that.

When I heard the news, I was nowhere near tears like I was when The White Stripes broke up. But it still hit me hard. HIM has been with me for a long time. They don’t mean as much to me as The Cure or Green Day, but I still love them. They’ve brought me so much happiness with their music. They’re a band I would often forget how much I liked. I wouldn’t listen to them for months and when I finally did, I’d go on a binge trying to soak up every melancholy thought and note.

What I loved about their music is how they made melancholy and darkness seem okay. Frontman Ville Valo even made it sexy with his sultry vocals. Many of their songs talk about love and death, but it never made you sad or depressed. Instead, it was comforting. They showed that it’s okay to embrace these feelings sometimes.

I also liked their songs for their poetic nature. Sure, some of them are a bit over dramatic, but a good number of them are thought provoking and beautiful. Songs like “The Sacrament,” “Funeral of Hearts,” “For You,” and “When Love and Death Embrace” are downright gorgeous. They still impress me to this day. Songs like these helped me push myself as a writer. Their lyrics often influenced my writing, which I started getting serious about when I discovered them.

Like most fans, I was initially attracted to the band for Valo. No doubt about it, the man is sexy. Something about him is mysterious, which made him more attractive. He’s like the stereotypical new guy in town that’s brooding and spends a lot of time in coffee shops. Over time, I came to appreciate him as a singer. He’s got an impressive range; he sounds sweet and beautiful with the high notes and downright diabolic with his flourishing baritone. I’ve always liked his singing, but I really fell in love with it when I saw HIM live. They’re not the most energetic performers; they don’t dance around or anything like that. Yet, there’s such a fire and passion behind their live shows. They play as if it might be the last concert they’ll ever do. And Valo often has no trouble pulling off his vocal acrobatics in front of a crowd. Most importantly, their shows are fun. Hopefully, I can jam with them one more time before they leave.

The end of HIM is saying goodbye to an old friend. There are times we didn’t speak for a long while, but when we reconnected we picked up where we left off. They’re familiar and comforting, always there when I needed them. I’ll miss them, but at least I can visit them again with all the wonderful music they’ve given us in the span of 26 years. And I’ll never forget how I actually got to speak with Valo for an interview. He was every bit as charming and sweet. It was an honor to speak with someone I’d been following so long. I never thought I’d get the chance to speak with an artist I like so much. So, thank you, HIM, for letting me explore darkness with you and all the memories and fangirl crushes you gave me. I’m happy my friend convinced me to give you a listen 13 years ago.

XX

Playlist: Fads That Spawned Novelty Songs

The novelty song is a strange, unexpected, and oftentimes, horrible thing. They seem to come out of nowhere, become popular for a spell, and die out quicker than they came. It’s the type of music that makes you wonder if anyone listens to those songs once the joke is over. But what’s weirder than the typical novelty song is one about a fad. These artists took a popular trend and wrote songs about them. Some of them are an homage to the thing, others are poking fun at the trends. All of them are freaking weird. Trends come and go, but these novelty songs will always be with us, for better or worst.

“Teletubbies say Eh Oh!” – The Teletubbies

Remember when weird alien baby creatures took over children’s television in the late 90s? Teletubbies is a show we’ve all seen at least once and none of us can explain why it was so popular. Frankly, it looks downright creepy. Believe it or not, the show spawned a hit single. You read that right. “Teletubbies Say Eh Oh” is a remixed version of the theme song where they say their name. To shake things up they randomly throw in “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Mary Mary Quite Contrary.” The song actually took the top spot on the charts in the UK. I shit you not, this actually happened. After it fell from number one, it still remained on the charts for 79 weeks. Why? What in God’s name is so good about this song that it stayed in rotation for so long? Who was listening to this? What’s really freaky is there were probably more adults listening to this than kids.

“Tamagotchi” – Squeezer

People loved virtual pets and Euro dance music in the 90s, so of course, there would be an official Tamagotchi club song. If it wasn’t for the constant repetition of “Tamagotchi,” it could easily be about a lover instead of a freaking toy. The video shows the singer looking sad that she can’t find her Tamagotchi, which is represented by the toy’s weird, but cute, mascot. The song is kind of upbeat and catchy and it’s cute how they incorporate the blipping sounds from the toy. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard European club song, just a really weird one. Wanting to get in on the trend, Eurodance group Daze released the song “Together Forever,” which has several references to the popular toy. This one is downright creepy with lyrics like “I’m your Tamagotchi/so happy that you love me” and “I see you as my new mom and daddy.” To make things worse, the clip features a bunch of little kids. Yeah… let’s move on.

“Where’s the Beef?” – Coyote McCloud and Clara Peller

We’ve all seen the iconic ad where a flustered woman lifts up her hamburger bun, scoffs at the pitiful size and says…well, you know the rest. Similar to “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” in the 90s, the phrase took on a life of its own spawning merchandise and more ads. It also gave life to this song. Peller’s infamous phrase is used as the chorus, while McCloud tells the story of this woman, just in case the commercial wasn’t clear enough. With the cheesy lyrics and disco-inspired music, it sounds like something Gene from Bob’s Burgers would write. Here’s just a sampling of the on point lyrics:

“WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Young man, can’t you hear her call
She don’t see no beef at all)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Call a cop and catch the thief
the one who stole this lady’s beef)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Eeny meeny miney mo
tell us where did our beef go?)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Won’t somebody end her grief
And tell her where’s the beef?)”

“We Know Who Done It (Who Shot JR)” – The Barron Knights

“Who shot JR?” It was the mystery everyone wanted to solve in 1980. The tagline comes from the insanely popular drama Dallas wherein the third season finale the character JR Ewing is shot by a shadowy figure. Similar to “Where’s the beef?” this phrase also spawned its own line of merchandise. Comedy pop group The Barron Knights, think of them as British Weird Al, took the opportunity to poke fun at the event. Sung to the tune of Gary Newman’s “Cars,” the group sings about the events teasing listeners that they actually have the answer. Just when you think the mystery is going to be solved, the record skips (intentionally). By the way, it was JR’s sister-in-law Kristen Shepard.

“Pac-Man Fever” – Buckner & Garcia

Videos games are common place now. Hell, your mom probably plays some mobile games throughout the day. But back in the 80s, the medium was still new, fresh, and exciting. The arcades were packed with kids looking to spend a lot of quarters and waste the day away. One of the hottest games of the time was Pac-Man. So of course, people wanted to capitalize on the trend any way they could. In comes novelty duo Bucker & Garcia with what is perhaps the most famous novelty song of all time. The upbeat rock/pop infused track highlights the 80s video game craze and points out the player’s obsession with the game, even noting he has to get away from Speedy. Unlike many of the songs on the list, this one is surprisingly fun. It’s silly, but it’s something you can actually stand to listen to once the joke has worn off. Others thought so too as the song peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. Bucker & Garcia tried to make magic again with “Do Donkey Kong,” but failed to be a hit.

“#Selfie” – The Chainsmokers

On the internet, it’s easy for anything to get insanely popular without any rhyme or reason. That’s the only explanation why people started talking about selfies as if they haven’t been around for hundreds of years. It got to the point where everyone cracked jokes at those stupid enough to take selfies daily or at inappropriate moments. Electronic duo The Chainsmokers wanted to poke fun at the trend too and released the annoying song “#Selfie” in 2014. The song is nothing but a club girl blabbing about the most asinine “problems” in between taking more selfies. Surprisingly, the song actually charted around the world and reach the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. What helped it get so popular were celebrity cameos by David Hasselhoff, Snoop Dogg, and Steve Aoki. Some may not agree with it being classified as a novelty song, but it’s about fucking selfies with a generic beat. Can’t really imagine anyone listening to this track now, which why it’s hard to believe The Chainsmokers now having other chart-topping songs that aren’t one tiresome joke.

“Hula Hoop” – Maureen Evans

Though you’re more likely going to see someone hula hooping at Coachella, back in the 50s these simple toys spawned a craze. Popularized by toy company Whammo, the hula hoop sold two million units in just two years. It was so popular Carlton Products Corporation had to make 50,000 hoops a day just to keep up with demand. At the height of the craze, pop singer Maureen Evans released “Hula Hoop Song” in 1958. Making the act sound like a dance fad, the song talks about not getting enough of the toy and hooping at all hours of the day. It’s pretty catchy and actually sounds like something that would’ve been popular in dance halls at the time. It’s simple and gets the point across: hula hoops are awesome. Now, they’re the mark of someone trying way too hard at a festival usually wearing a flower crown.

“The Streak” – Ray Stevens

Aside from disco, flared pants, and The Brady Bunch, the 70s gave birth to a streaking craze. Streakers started running through residence halls and even outdoor games for a cheap thrill. People still do it now, with major consequences, but it’s nowhere near as popular as it was in the 70s. Ray Stevens highlights the craze in his 1974 track “The Streak.” The song pokes fun at the trend by reporting fake streaking incidents spotted around town. You can tell it’s supposed to be wacky with the prominent slide whistle and laugh track. Though the song is silly, it was a hit earning Stevens his second number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. It remains one of his most notable songs. I guess the current equivalent would be a song about the mannequin challenge.

“Doctorin’ the Tardis” – The Timelords

It seems Doctor Who only recently gained a huge following in the States, but it’s been a hit overseas for years, which is the only way to explain this song. Made by Bill Drummord and Jimmy Caughty (aka KLF), the song is nothing but the hook of “Doctor Who” sung to the tune of Gary Glitter’s “Rock n Roll Part 2.” You’ll occasionally hear a Dalek screech “EXTERMINATE!” but there’s nothing else to the song. This is another strange case of a novelty song scoring the top spot on the charts. While it only reached number 66 in the states, it peaked at number one in both the UK and New Zealand. In 2005, Party Ben and Team9 re-released the song set to Green Day’s “Holiday” as part of their American Edit project. It’s pretty bad; better stick to the original.

“A Nightmare on My Street” – Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff

Technically, this isn’t a novelty song, but it’s corny enough to be considered one. In case you forgot, Will Smith was a rapper at one point and Jazz was his DJ before he became a running joke on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The two cash in on the slasher move trend of the 80s with this song. The duo’s third single talks about Freddy Kruger and how he’s all too real for Smith. It starts with Smith claiming he’s not real and not even that scary. Of course, Freddy comes after him to prove him wrong. The rap is kind of lame and silly, but there’s still something charming about it. Smith makes references to Kruger’s iconic outfit, there’s music that sounds awfully a lot like the film’s score, and “Freddy” even drops a verse. It was originally considered for the Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master soundtrack, but the producers decided against it. Instead, New Line Cinema sued the duo’s record label for copyright infringement. The two later settled out of court.

“The Curly Shuffle” – Peter Quinn

The Three Stooges are proof that slapstick comedy never gets old. Everyone’s seen at least one Stooges short and probably laughed way too much. They’re bonafide comedy legends and in 1983 they received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. At the same time, Peter Quinn released this novelty song as an homage to the comedy troupe. The song is simple; just Quinn expressing his love for the group, especially Curly and his trademark shuffle. Classic Stooges sounds like “Nyuk nyuk” can be heard throughout. Oddly enough, it’s an infectious song that’ll put you in the mood for some Stooges shorts. It’s surprising how hard they still make me laugh.

“Space Invaders” – Player One

While “Pac-Man Fever” was a hit in the States, another video game related song was taking over Australia. Written by Russell Dunlop and Bruce Brown, the song is about the popular arcade game of the same name. It attempts to give the game a story talking about how it’s up to the hero to save the world from ruthless aliens. The song is cheesy complete with generic disco music and some sweet falsetto crooning during the delivery of “space invaderrrs!” It’s actually the best part of the song. It ended up being a hit in Australia and reached number three on the Kent Charts. The duo released the single internationally, but it wasn’t received as well. It seems people wouldn’t be ready for video game inspired songs until 1982, the year “Pac-Man Fever” released.

“Mr. Rubik” – The Barron Knights

The Barron Knights return again poking fun at another 80s fad: the Rubik’s cube. This song tells the story of a guy who goes crazy trying to solve the damn thing. He even resorts to cheating by taking it apart and coloring in the squares to try to get some peace. He seemingly dies from the insanity only to learn the afterlife is full of the maddening puzzle. Similar to their other entry on the list, this one is silly, yet takes the piss out of the odd trend. Still, the song is better than the dreaded Rubik’s cube cartoon. *shudders*

Which novelty song did I miss? Are any of these your favorites? Let me know in the comments!