Monday, May 18, 2009

Addicted to "Addicted to Love"

I'm gonna have to face it. I'm not addicted to love. I'm addicted to the song.

I recently changed my facebook "music" info to include: "My current guilty pleasure is Robert Palmer." It was important (or intense) enough that I make that change.

My passion is the 1970s. I love sloppy rocking Zepplin. I adore smooth ironic Dan. I go head over heels for over-commercial Boston and their ilk. However, the seventies, no matter where you start, are still so deep!

Sometimes (only sometimes) when I'm station surfing -- because I think the radio is the best way to hear tunes if you've got good stations in your area -- I have a dilemma on my hands (or on my finger). I toggle between some seventies ballad or another on station one and two, and lately, unavoidably, station three offers up some eighties treat that I just can't resist. The draw of the drum machine and the superficial coked-up messages are the exciting alternative to those old seventies tunes that always seem to want to talk about our "relationship."

Maybe I've been spending too much time and effort on the seventies. Maybe we need a breather. No, that can't be! I just need a little eighties action on the side once in a while.

The '80s don't require any effort or thought. The drum machines do the work for me. The synthesizers, now aided by something almost like a computer, punch at just the right time. It's easy and it feels good, so why put all that work into whoever's on the other station?

Robert Palmer knows he is talking to you, and he doesn't care that much about the message he's sending. The keyboard doesn't care whether it's making a pleasing sound. It flatly introduces a soulful voice fronting a "one-track mind." Palmer, always aloof, doesn't admit he's got a personal role in the song until the second verse. It sounds like a condemnation or advice to a friend -- until he mentions "you'll be mine." He's addicted too. That's when things heat up, and someone starts craving "oblivion." Pretty intense for this song. But then we're back to the comfort of synth and completely detached and careless ooooh yeahs. Bridge. WHACK. More detached oooh yeahs. And ride it out on the repetition of that fucking sexy hook!

I don't think I'm going to stop thinking about it (or listening to it) anytime soon. At least not for...a week or so. See 70s? You've really got nothing to worry about! This? Ha, this. It doesn't mean anything.

I admit I can't draw a solid line where the "real" music ends and the cheap thrills begin. There are some '80s outliers that still inspire that '70s romanticism despite their synth-heavy compositions and staccato back-beats. The Talking Heads have immense depth, with an '80s sheen on their ripply surface. The Cars are hangers-on; decade straddlers. These bands fall in line with my true loves of yore. They just look a little blinged out by comparison.

Robert Palmer, however, is the prime example of the kind of eighties music that gives the best of the cheap thrills. There is nothing to be said for his music's depth or lyrical qualities, at least nothing positive about life-changing or society-commentating or otherwise moving capabilities in any of it. The only thing it moves are asses. It snags some unthinking, addictive! part of the brain, that silly part alerts the whole, always-addictive body, and you're stuck listening to repetitive but somehow brilliantly empty music, maybe even for a whole summer.

Ahhh, yeah.


  1. I feel the same way. For most of my life I have for the most part disregarded most 80s and 90s music because I wouldn't find anything of actual interest in those periods of time. At the time I rationalized that music as fluff and stupid and would only listen to classical music and then eventually oldies. Eventually I found a few outliers but it seems like they took MIDI and used it as a gimmick and not actually used it for its true expressive power. In the late 90s musicians eventually figured out how to use MIDI devices and other electronic music forms to actually make you think (disregarding some techno but that is implied that you don't have to think but actually be constantly high to enjoy some of it).

  2. 80's pop music is like cheese doodles. Big, flashy and very fluffy. It has no "nutritional value" but sometimes you gotta have some of that "junk food".


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