Popism #44 : Bring the Beat Back!
POPISM (N) : A musical or lyrical element used in so many pop songs that it becomes a cliche. Often known to evoke joy every time it is employed.
"Karma Chameleon" is one of the 80's greatest singles, and if you disagree with that, then you are welcome to rent this movie. You may be in it. There are plenty of reasons why "KC" still towers as a perfect pop anthem. Here are just three:
(1) We all wish our dreams were red, gold, and green
(2) It's fun to harmonize with the bridge ("Every-daaay is like survival (survival)")
(3) The song brings the beat back
And number three, of course, brings me to today's popism. Remember how at the end of "Karma Chameleon" Boy George sings a chorus backed by nothing but drums and handclapping? All the instruments disappear, and we're left singing the song in a near-vacuum.
Then the chorus finishes, and there's a brief pause. Is the song over? Will the darkness envelop us?
No! The silence is destroyed by the glorious resurgence of all the instruments that vanished! Including that wicked harmonica! The beat comes back! Red! Gold! Green!
The full-on return of istrumentation that, for a moment, disappeared is one of the most satisfying elements of pop. Singers' voices hang out there in space, and then the music rises up to catch them. For a moment, the structure of the universe goes wild, and the song's a little dangerous in its a cappella way. But then that sound we've grown so used to in the last three minutes helps everything makes sense again.
Either that, or the beat disappears and we go crazy with anticipation. We know it's coming back, and we want it. Sometimes, songs tease us for ages before giving us our reward, and when we get it, it's a high. Cher's "Believe" pulls that one. Right after the bridge, those naughty producers wait two whole choruses before letting the synth drums swell up again. That's how most dance songs use this popism, actually. You're supposed to make up your own slo-mo dance moves while you're waiting for the faster rhythm to reemerge. I recommend lots of swirling arm movements and a pouty, serious face.
So what are your favorite examples of songs that bring the beat back?
And what kind of dances are you doing while it's gone?