Saturday, July 3, 2010

Larger Than Life

The whole basis of the "one hit wonder" notion is that even the crappiest band can have a smash hit song. But what about the other way around? Can a pop group with a succession of crappy yet popular songs have a truly memorable tune? I say yes.

I was never very keen on the Backstreet Boys. Clearly only some of them were boys; at least two were 40-year-olds on some kind of Oil of Olay drip. The mournful "As Long as You Love Me" and "I Want It That Way" were everything soppy and predictable about mid-to-late 90s boyband pop.

But then, then! Out came "Larger Than Life", a pounding pop anthem with a video featuring SPACE ROBOTS AND HOVERBOARDS.

Clearly this is a work of some genius.

PhotobucketFrom their 1999 album Millenium (was there a recording artist alive in 1999/2000 who DIDN'T release a turn-of-the-century themed record? We're looking at you, Will Smith), "Larger Than Life" was penned by uber-songwriter Max Martin, the man behind "Baby One More Time" and virtually all of Britney Spears' good stuff. He is a master of a catchy bassline and killer chorus, and "Larger Than Life" has both these in spades. Supposedly a tribute to the band's fans, it is certainly full of optimism, without soppy sentiment. "Every time we're down/You can make it right". I also love the fact it begins with a scream and a manic laugh. It's the pop equivalent of putting on a superhero outfit - singing it makes you feel stronger, cooler, more powerful. "All you people can't you see, can't you see/How your love's affecting your reality".

The music video cost over $2 million to make, and probably wiped out any profit the song itself made through sales. But hey, it's worth it. Not since Michael and Janet Jackson made their seminal video Scream has there been such excellent space work. With the addition of dancing robots!

In Creative Use: On a visit to Battambang, Cambodia in July 2009, I had the pleasure of attending a local dinner at a family home. A side business for many families, the evening was topped off with karaoke - most of it Elvis and Beatles numbers. But I was ecstatic to find this song on one of the CDs, and three of us sang it loud and proud that night, the Backstreet Boys echoing around the bush, to the amusement of our hosts. I can recommend it as an absolutely top karaoke number.