A reader writes:
I'd actually like to nominate the Pet Shop Boys song "I'm With Stupid" as a great political song.Is stupid really stupid
or a different kind of smart?
Do we really have a relationship
so special in your heart?
It's classic PSB, because it works on so many levels. Is it really about a personal relationship, or is it about Tony Blair and George Bush? Apparently the PSB performed the song on the BBC and in Germany with dancers wearing Blair and Bush masks....
It's obviously about Blair and Bush - but again, so disguised as a regular song it fails to meet the pious "Shut Up And Sing" criterion. But another reader writes:
Give me a break. An ode to the "power of music" to overcome political oppression isn't a tad bit pretentious?
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Pet Shop Boys nerd myself, I'm with you on most of your fandom, and agree with you completely on "Taken Seriously" and so on. But I think Neil fell into the all-too-common trap of, well, taking himself too seriously here. He does that occasionally--so do most people in his position. It's hardly uncommon, or a mortal sin. But if music's power to "transcend everything" is all that's needed, why don't we just buy every Afghan a smartphone and an iTunes subscription? It'd certainly be cheaper than supporting all those troops over there. (Disclosure: one of those troops is my nephew, so I'm not exactly impartial about this.)
Yes, most of PSB's positions are anti-pretension. That doesn't change the fact that this specific song is as egregious as they come, and I say that as a fan.
One important point here is that the lyrics cited by my first reader were actually written by Sterling Void, not Neil Tennant. Alas, Neil added a second verse about environmental collapse. Still, this was not a PSB original, but a cover of a House classic. And its point is not that music will solve everything, but that music will survive, if nothing else does. And note this nuance: "I hope it's gonna be alright." Hope is not a lecture.
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