Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Perfect Pop

(I've decided to write an essay about a perfect pop song every few weeks or so. Just for fun.)

1. Pulp, "Lipgloss" (1994)
There are many reasons why Pulp's Jarvis Cocker is the Morrissey/Ray Davies of his day. Perhaps one of the less heralded ones is empathy. While all three songwriters are capable of oft-brutal, razor-sharp wit, there is a great deal of sad-eyed, poignant recognition in their thumbnail sketches of social misfits.
On this track, Cocker details the wrecked life of a woman recently spurned by her lover. No "hell hath no fury" here; more like, "No wonder you're looking thin/When all that you live on is lipgloss and cigarettes." Nevertheless, when Cocker reaches the line "And it rains everyday/And when it doesn't/The sun makes you feel worse anyway" you know he knows exactly what the woman is going through.
Musically, "Lipgloss" strikes the same anomaly as so many other Pulp songs, seemingly bright and, no pun, glossy, but utterly evocative of British working-class malaise all the same. Their songs are filled with shimmering synths, bold guitars and big choruses, yet most of the time manage to bring to mind one of the quieter scenes from Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies.
By the chorus, it all comes together -- the ruined love affair, the brisk melancholy of the music: "He changed his mind last Monday/So you've got to leave by Sunday, yeah/You've got your lipgloss, honey/Oh yeah/Now nothing you do can turn him on/There's something wrong/You had it once, but now it's gone."

More about "Lipgloss."


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