Top Ten Cheesy Pop Songs That Perfectly Encapsulate Love
mix-tape is a tricky proposition: do you play it cool, impressing your prospective paramour with your “favourite” Smiths/Magnetic Fields/Nick Drake z-sides, or do you get crazy with the cheez wiz? If you’re like me, while you adore Magnetic Fields’ “Book Of Love” as much as the next rock nerd, it’s Top 40 pop all the way. Maybe it’s something to do with the immediacy of a medium designed to provide maximum enjoyment for minimal intellectual bother, but there’s something in cheesy radio pop that allows it to hone feelings down to a fine tincture of emotion. While rock stars and tortured folkies, bless ‘em, seem to take five minutes to say something to the tune of “eh, look, I kind of like you, er, quite a lot, you know. But no pressure”, pop’s more like your overexcitable ‘special’ cousin who just gets down to business by yelling, “I love you! You sure got purdy hands!!” (or words to that effect).
On top of that, there’s the fact that popular music is designed to excite and please. Think about it: the last time you fell crazy in love with someone, did you sit around staring out windows at sunsets across a windy moor, or did you dance around like a nong with a stupid grin on your face (even if it was only figuratively)? That’s the main reason so many pop songs find their way onto my wooing mixes: perhaps they have some lyrical motif that’s demonstrative (and sure, if you want to explain your feelings, choose Brian Wilson or Jeff Buckley), but more often than not it’s because—through an alchemistic combination of lyrics, music, arrangement and energy—pop songs are like a musical distillation of emotion and mood. So grab a white teddy bear in a plastic tube that says ‘I Wuv U!’ and dance around nude with me to my… Top Ten Cheesy Pop Songs That Perfectly Encapsulate Love!
10. Natalie Cole – “This Will Be”
I don’t know what that constant boinging sound actually is (could be a djembe, I guess, but, like, you know, whatever) and I don’t really care, but it sounds like an aural representation of the lump you get in your throat when you’re waiting outside the cinema/theatre/café for your third date, by which time suspect that you could very well be onto a good thing. By the time the end of the song, when Natalie and backing vocalists are just yelling out “love! Love! Love!”, you’re no longer just suspecting as such, you’re certain!
9. The Pet Shop Boys – “You Are Always On My Mind”
I’m fully aware that loads of people probably prefer the Elvis Presley/Willie Nelson/insert-your-more-credible-artist-here version, but I don’t think the Pet Shop Boys’ faintly-SA&W take lessens its impact—if anything, all the hi-NRG drum machines and synthesised orchestral bursts (er, not to mention the thunderclaps) only serve to make “You Are Always On My Mind” more yearning, more desperate. And then there’s Neil Tennant’s heart-string-tuggin’ vocal… Sigh!
8. Christina Aguilera – “Come On Over [All I Want Is You]”
To paraphrase Bill & Ted’s Rufus, this song is excellent for, er, dancing around the bedroom in your underwear spraying perfume on every inch of exposed skin. Can’t speak for the boys, of course…
7. Roger Voudouris – “Get Used To It”
It probably helps that my all-time favourite disco cover band used to play this song (I had a massive 13-year-old teenaged crush on the guitarist), but—Roger and his wind machine notwithstanding—Voudouris’ slightly cranky delivery gets me every time; he’s got no time to hold his notes, offering crumbs of ecstasy with his clipped vocal, but then—oh!—here comes the middle eight, where he lets himself go (“I-aaaaye’ll be around youuuu…”), but then corrects himself again (“So, yabeddergetusedtoITT!”)—it’s pure nervous energy!
6. Boomkat – “What U Do 2 Me”
“What U Do 2 Me” fits my bill for a pretty convoluted reason: its dinky Casio riff reminds me of the soundtrack to my Sega Master System II’s Alex Kidd game, which reminds me of the days when I used to construct little romantic fantasies about Cinderella-style weddings to Jonathon Brandis or possibly the kid from Flight Of The Navigator. That, and when Taryn Manning hmpfs “where are you from?” it perfectly captures that rather unfortunate mating phenomenon where you’re trying to be cool but just end up grumpy.
5. Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour”
Come on—it’s the ultimate cheesy love song (used to hilariously incongruous effect in Almost Famous’ stomach-pumping scene)! There are many reasons why this song could make a top ten such as this one, but mainly it’s here for its syrupy, swoony string section—you know that slightly seasick feeling you get somewhere between your throat and your stomach in the early stages of an affair? Cue: string section.
4. Ronan Keating – “Lovin’ Each Day”
Much like Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be” and its swooning djembe, Ronan’s “Lovin’ Each Day” gets my vote because of the ludicrously thumping bass drum during the bridge and chorus: “I want you right here next to me- BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!” It’s like some hyper-tuned heartbeat pumping away post-first-kiss. Plus, I’m partial to the ridiculous amount of rhymes in the first verse, not that it has much to do: “Girl I’m on a mission / To cure my condition / ’Cause without your kissin’ / My heart’s just a prison”—but wait, there’s more!! Even if he does stretch it a little with—“So I’m hopin’ and wishin’ / That girl I’m forgiven” (he does it again on the second verse with “even, bereavin’”, etc!). Sure, it’s sill, but so are any number of little love rituals if you really think about it.
3. John Paul Young – “Love Is In The Air”
Kind of like a non-threatening “I Feel Love”, Squeak’s Vanda And Young swansong works its magic by weaving an almost trancelike spell around the listener, with a disco beat mirroring an excited heart-rate and layered elevator-music motifs chugging along while Young belts out the seemingly-mundane lyrics (but they’re not mundane, just simple—and true) and then the whole thing explodes in one fabulous climax of gospel choirs, handclaps and orchestral flourishes.
2. Wet Wet Wet – “Love Is All Around”
I know, I know… The bane of wedding DJs everywhere, a mainstay on crappy romance radio shows like Love Songs And Dedications (“Darren… [pitiful sobs] I just want to tell youse that I love youse and I’m sorry about the car…” etc), tainted forever by more-than-tenuous association with Hugh Grant—but really! I know you secretly love this song! I know you not-so-secretly like to bellow along with that final “Ooohhhit’s written in the wind…” chorus with the big stupid guitar solo and Animal-esque drum explosion! How does this song fit this top ten’s criteria? Well, der, when you’re in love, it is written in the wind and everywhere you go—how many times, during the first throes of love, have you been told to “snap out of it!” by your exasperated parents or reminded by concerned friends that you’re only talking about the one subject (i.e., Him/Her)? All together now: “So if you really love me,”—“LOVE ME!!”—“LO-OH-URVE MEH!”—“Come ooooon and let it show!” BWAH HA HA! I knew it! You even know the harmonies!!
1. Kylie Minogue – “Love At First Sight”
Even though it looks like I prefer Wet Wet Wet to Kylie when you glance at their respective word-count-allowance, it’s just that “Love At First Sight” is so spot on there’s not much to say about it: if there is a more perfect melding of title, sentiment and sound, I’d like to hear it. “Love At First Sight” (putting aside its “Holiday”-aping riff) is, well, love at first sight, distilled to ten or so notes and a bunch of vocal trills. It’s that giddy, dorky, excited feeling, caught on tape. Whee!
By: Clem Bastow
Published on: 2005-01-21