Track of the Day: 'Who Loves You'

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Past TracksThere's nothing more annoying than a website that plays music of its own accord. Who asked it, anyway? Out comes some trancey W-Hotel elevator electronica wreaking of cologne and nursing a brunch hangover, gumming up my headphones, and I can't find which tab is playing it. Furiously I search for the PLEASE MAKE IT STOP button, flailing, failing.

So, when I land on Greenwich Village's The Little Owl restaurant site, the second I hear the music, I'm dubious.

But listen: What is going on with that high hat? It almost sounds like... LCD Soundsystem? Then, under it (but rising), there are these Bee Gees strings and doo wop vocal harmonies asking, "Who loves you, pretty baby? Who loves you, pretty mama?" Huh. Just as I'm really starting to listen in, completely ignoring the restaurant's "bold flavored Mediterranean cuisine," the song completely changes. Straight disco! Except it's got a Vegas sideshow's sense of the epic and Three's Company's drive for repetitive and erratic schmaltz. This keeps on for two minutes until the bridge, which thumps into a lean Italian disco/Giorgio Moroder bass riff that gets surrounded by a bunch of ghostly doo-doo-doos before bursting through them and back into the song's main motif via a tense piano interlude: Baby. Baby. Doo, doo, doo, doo. Come to meeeee! Baby, you'll see! Who loves you pretty baby? Whose gonna help you through the night?

This song is a mess! A hot, cathartic mess. Who the hell could make such music and make it hurt so good? The Little Owl site doesn't tell you, so I googled: "Who loves you pretty baby?" And... Wait, wait, wait. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons made this song? "Big Girls Don't Cry" Frankie Valli? "Sherry" Frankie Valli? Yes! The selfsame.

Turns out the forces that drove the creation of the song are as banal as the song is spectacular. Frankie [sic] and his long-time producer Bob Gaudio were jonesing for a hit in 1975, and with the smashing success of disco (and the Bee Gees in particular), they decided to retool the doowop into discowop, or whatever. Embarrassingly, the song's main lyric, "Who Loves You" was a ripoff of Kojak's catchphrase, "Who loves ya, baby?" (Kojak!). This was craven fame- and fortune- seeking, derivative, stupid, and besides, the same thought occurred to almost every good musician in the world around that time, ruining everything.

But as if to prove that life will always find a way, love conquers all, hope springs eternal, flowers bloom at Chernobyl, the flag was still there, &c, we have the fact that "Who Loves You" is perfect.



On iTunes: Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons / "Who Loves You"

And for the randomizer bug:

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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