Friday, March 27, 2009
Why so many damn '80s songs about heartbeats?
Pop songwriters must have really been out of ideas in the '80s, a decade that gave us such gems as Reaganomics, widespread Asian-bashing humor, crappy sitcoms featuring creepy little girl robots and wisecracking babies who share a roof with third-rate stand-up comics who think Bullwinkle impressions are the height of comedy, and of course, overly earnest power ballads about heartbeats.
Manhunter is my favorite movie based on a Thomas Harris novel, but the one thing that dates that movie is Red 7's very '80s closing credits theme, also entitled "Heartbeat." Michael Mann has great musical tastes (I'm looking forward to the Public Enemies soundtrack), but I don't get his love for Red 7's "Heartbeat," which he used in both the original Miami Vice and Manhunter.
Okay, I somewhat get it. Joan Allen listened to a tiger's heartbeat earlier in the movie, hence "Heartbeat." But otherwise, I'm not feelin' the song.
And somebody at the "Heartbeat" video shoot should have told the Red 7 lead singer, "Dude, the mullet's not gonna cover up the fact that you're balding."
Or "Hey, party in the back, dying lawn up top."
Speaking of things dying, Don Johnson's "Heartbeat"--his attempt to launch a singing career during Miami Vice's run--makes me die inside. It was the lamest of 25 videos Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, Janeane Garofalo and Chris Kattan literally destroyed during MTV's legendary and unlikely-to-be-rerun-again 25 Lame special in 1999. In the case of "Heartbeat," Leary and Kattan destroyed the channel's master copy of the Johnson video by stuffing it in a blender. The four hosts' commentary during "Heartbeat" was one of many highlights of 25 Lame. (What's the difference between 25 Lame and the countless VH1 Awesomely Bad Videos specials it spawned? 25 Lame was funny.)
An agony booth recapper wrote that when they watched "Heartbeat," "the comedians were mostly sitting in stunned silence. Was this post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the Vanilla Ice [baseball bat] incident? Or were they just completely stupefied and confounded by what they were watching?" Actually, they weren't mostly silent. I remember they got in a few good lines about the Miami Vice star's overdramatic lip-syncing, the constant footage of exploding stuff and the baffling storyline (Johnson as a war photographer who's into dead terrorist chicks? Huh?).
The one '80s heartbeat song I like isn't a power ballad. It's Taana Gardner's funky and frequently sampled "Heartbeat" from 1981. Otherwise, like I said, '80s pop tunesmiths must have really been out of ideas. The fact that I'm blogging about this means I'm out of ideas too.