Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer (1985)

It’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, I know. And in this particular case, his premature, unnatural death is genuinely tragic. Very sad.

Yet this does nothing to change the fact that the decades-long career of Robert Palmer was, pretty much without exception, horrible. After spending the seventies as a dilettante, making facile covers in a variety of genres spiritually alien to him (and the casual cheesiness and sexism of merely the album covers from this decade pretty much tell you everything there is to know), Palmer settled into the 80s as one of the best faces for the naked greed and ambition people ‘his age’ had developed by then.

It’s difficult not to have a love/hate relationship with the 80s. On the one hand, there was so much great music made – primarily music made for the consumption of kids, music that was scorned by the post-hippie ‘style makers’ of the time. Then there was this: ‘beer commercial’ music made by people wearing suits (not that there’s anything wrong with suits, mind you) and intended for mass consumption by people for whom music is a background – something for the ghetto blaster to play while playing catch in the backyard, for example. Not only is it music without a soul, it’s music that fetishises its lack of a soul.

Theoretically, I could have chosen any Robert Palmer song for inclusion here, and certainly it was a toss-up between this, its clone “Simply Irresistable”, “Some Like it Hot” (all the more reprehensible because Duran Duran and Chic, the ‘main bands’ of this side-project’s other members, were otherwise making decent music) and Palmer’s 1970s intro to corporate-rock, “Bad Case of Loving You”. All are equally terrible, all are interchangeable. Ultimately, it has to be this one, though. For several reasons:
  • That video. As so often happened in the 80s, confusing ‘sexist’ with ‘sexy’, it’s a leering, drooling, sneering video, present ‘women as musicians’ as a comical concept. All surface, no depth, ‘cool’ in intention but ultimately icky, it fit its soundtrack perfectly.
  • Clichés in lieu of meaning in the lyrics. Lyrics don’t have to have meaning, but they shouldn’t be just a long litany of cheesy wannabe-aphorisms like “The lights are on, but no-one’s home” either.
  • The line “your teeth guh-rind”. This teeth-cuh-lenchingly annoying line is ultimately the reason I chose this airbrushed muscle-man ode to naked ambition over any of its creator’s other, um, masterpieces. I can wake up in the night in a cold terror thinking about that annoying two-syllable ‘grind’. Truly, truly dastardly.
That this, shockingly enough, was designed as a duet with the truly magnificent Chaka Khan goes to show both how misguided the mid-eighties’ sense of ‘soul’ was and how lucky this English-Bahamanian was to have been born in the era where his sleazy soul-boy dribblings could, for reasons I’ll never understand, be interpreted as in some way ‘authentic’.

Alternately, I suppose Chaka just needed the money.

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