Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another Perfect Pop Song

First in an occasional series.

I was just in an upscale crunchy-granola type supermarket (I swear -- I only go there for the artisanal cheeses) and I heard a familiar guitar riff -- the same guitar riff that's my cell phone ringtone -- over the store's sound system. And it occurred to me, then and there, "No Matter What" by Badfinger is a perfect pop song.

And here's a few reasons why:
  • The opening guitar riff has a lilting headiness to it, but also a crunchiness that smashes through your ears like a wrecking ball.

  • The lyrical pledges of eternal love are vague enough that everyone can identify with them, but never so vague or goony that they're embarrassing.

  • The sheer joy of the singing is so infectious that it's bound to put you in a good mood. (And the way chorus blasts through from the verses and bridge is a triumph of pure wonder.)

  • Badfinger might not be the Beatles, but for a while in the early 70s they were the next best thing.

  • The harmonies alone can make the most cynical among us believe in true love again.

  • Real (not synthesized) handclaps.

  • I like to think Bruce Springsteen was talking about this album when he wrote "we learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school" (I'm pretty sure Bruce wasn't thinking of Badfinger, but the song's just under three minutes, so I'd like to think it's possible).

  • My friend Holly (whose love of classic American composers like the Gershwins is only now starting to rub off on me decades later) says it's one of the best pop records ever. (And she actually met the Beatles, so she would know.)

  • You can argue (and some have) that this song (and not anything by the Raspberries) invented the genre of power pop.

  • The fake ending. (And the way I always count off the silence inside my head before the song starts up again.)

But here's the best reason why "No Matter What" is a perfect pop song:

As I turned away from the cheese in that upscale market, I looked down the gourmet cereal aisle. Six people were scattered there, scanning the shelves, each caught up in their own world, each looking for a certain cereal, each unaware of me (or the greater world around them). And, without realizing it, each of those people was unconsciously nodding their head in time with the song.

Elsewhere on the web: For the Love of Harry has an unreleased Nilsson song written to try to pump up LA baseball fans, Mister Pleasant tried to list his 100 Top Singles of all time (and then broke down and listed Sixty More), JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Coming talks Josie and the Pussycats (and the Jackson Five Saturday-morning cartoon series), and Any Major Dude With Half A Heart (after being bounced by both Blogger and Wordpress) set up his own domain.


Anonymous said...

Nice video, too!

Holly A Hughes said...

Love this song. Love Badfinger. Thanks for this post!

And as for your grocery store revelation moment --- I had a similar incident a few years ago when we were buying a new stereo system, and the guy in the store put on Squeeze's "Tempted" and cranked it up to 11. Everybody in the store was bobbing in time to the music...

Power Pop Review said...

One of my all time favorite songs by Badfinger. Had to agree with you about all the reasons why it's such a phenomenal song. Lucky to have seen them live in a small club called Joint in the Woods in '74.

Alex said...

PPR, I envy you. I wish I'd had the chance to see Badfinger before Pete died (but I was quite underage at the time!)