Monday, March 14, 2005

Perfect Pop

8. “Too Many Teardrops,” Nick Lowe (1982)

(There’s no use in pretending any longer that I’m through with this concept.)

This is from the album Nick the Knife, which is about where the non-nerd population promptly lost interest in Mr. Lowe. He wrote it with his then-wife Carlene Carter (daughter of June Carter Cash from her first marriage), and she also sings fantastic harmonies for the entire song. It’s a great country-soul thumper with a solid drum part. It got me thinking: not that this song was a hit to begin with, but do these kinds of songs have any chance to be hits anymore? What we’ve got here is a relentlessly sad lyric and a grooving melody that has just enough twist and turns to make you want to listen multiple times. This song wallows, but in a fun way. In contrast, and I’ve done absolutely no scientific research on this, it seems like a lot of hit songs these days, particularly of the lost-love variety, always have some sort of self-empowerment subtext.

I’d like to draw a line from “Too Many Teardrops” to the current pop song du jour, Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” but I think the latter, fine as it is, comes from the ‘90s quiet-verse, loud-chorus thing, and is thus a different animal entirely. Maybe Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” is a good comparison point, but am I alone in thinking that song’s melody utterly betrays the desperation outlined in the lyric? You need something with a chipper sound that is totally at odds with the lyrics. Perhaps you have to go back to “Tears of a Clown,” one of the greatest songs ever written, to find a similar mix of upbeat tune and desolate sentiment. Not that “Too Many Teardrops” as much as I love it, is on par with that formidable tune. Any other suggestions are greatly encouraged.

Apparently, Carlene Carter has her own version of this song released around the same time. I’d like to hear it someday.


Blogger Greycats said...

Maybe you should do or column on how Kelly Clarkson will save the girl rocker or defining perfect pop or something. I just made of mix of Michael Jackson, Jay Z and Prince. Right now, my favorite pop songs are, Can I get a . . . , Don't stop till you get enough and Kiss.

11:38 AM  

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