Monday, August 22, 2005

Staring at the ceiling, wishing she was somewhere else instead

69 Love Songs is chock full of ersatz genre pieces - some resemblances and hints are there, but seldom does a song on it convey any sincere claim to authenticity. One might think that "World Love" would attempt to blend all non-American/European musical styles, but instead it ends up sounding like something off Paul Simon's Graceland. "Punk Love" uses the familiar Ramones chord progression and the vocals have a bratty snarl to them, but other than that, it sounds little like punk. It's about as genuine as a chimpy-sounding Casio keyboard rhythm/accompaniment preset. Mind you, these aren't complaints - it's apparent that Merritt did this all intentionally, and it's another side of his love for artificiality. So, what happens when he makes an (off-kilter) imitation of an imitation? You get "It's a Crime."

Stephin Merritt: I think of it as that small genre of Swedish reggae. Ace Of Base have done reggae, sort of reggae, ABBA has done sort of reggae. I'm sure a-ha have, but I don't remember.
Daniel Handler: I'll ask my wife. She's a big a-ha fan.


ABBA have dabbled in various genres - "Fernando" and "Chiquitita" both have Latin touches, and "Ring Ring" and "Dance (While the Music Still Goes On)" are tributes to Phil Spector's girl group pop - but perhaps their most unexpected genre choice is reggae. "Tropical Loveland" is a cute trifle - the drums and guitar utilize the standard reggae rhythms, sure, but the song is incredibly white bread. It's too clean and not sweaty enough to be authentic, but that's hardly the point - ABBA are in the pop business. Six years later, they used a vaguely reggae beat for their track "One of Us," which seemed to serve as a prototype for the career of Ace Of Base.

Also, I should point out that when it was performed live, "It's a Crime" had a Motown-esque chorus of backing singers. Swedish reggae, Motown soul, electropop...man, that is so freakin' meta.

ABBA - "Tropical Loveland"
ABBA - "One of Us"

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