Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Terrible Songs That I Like - Born To Be Alive - Patrick Hernandez

What The Song Is - A 1978-1979 disco single by French singer and kind of songwriter, Patrick Hernandez. I say kind of songwriter, because "Born To Be Alive" is only a song in the sense that it is music with words. It was a huge hit for him across the world, topping the charts in his native France and hit number 16 on the American Billboard charts. It's also surprisingly one of the best selling songs in the history of France, coming in at number 20. For reference sake, Michael Jackon's "Beat It," is number 48 on that list, and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's "You're The One That I Want" is number 5. ...Just go with it.

Why It's Terrible - Dance songs and disco tracks aren't exactly known for having a great degree of musical depth to them, but sometimes you can be surprised. For example, almost every Donna Summer song features an amazing vocal, Van McCoy's "The Hustle" sports a great drum track from Steve Gadd, and most Bee Gees tunes incorporate stellar harmonies and some inspired keyboards or other hook; like that bass on "Stayin' Alive." "Born To Be Alive" doesn't really have those things; it has a heck of a guitar lick but little more than that. It's a solid arrangement but, you can't really pick anything out of it and say, "Now that....that's outstanding right there." The lyrics are also completely forgettable outside of the title phrase. There's even a terribly missed opportunity for some sort of rhyme:

People ask me why
I never find a place to stop
And settle down, down, down

But I never wanted all those things
People need to justify
Their lives, lives, lives

I'm not saying a song has to rhyme, but after you go out of your way to say "down, down, down" you could at least try to rhyme it with something. Or do the reverse and rhyme something with lives, like I don't know, "People ask me why I never settle down and try to find a wife, wife, wife."

Why I Still Like It - Despite the absence of any real stand out elements, everything about the song blends really well. It has a kind of groove and energy that if you let it take over you, works its way into your soul. The best part about the song however is near the end of the track when the chorus is being repeated again, and there's a little start and stop in the music, punctuated by a crashing guitar chord.  Even that little moment is enough to bring the song up from guilty pleasure, to unashamed pleasure.

Final Notes: I'm honestly surprised this song doesn't make as many best one-hit wonders charts as it should. This song should not be nearly as fun as it is...but it is. Not to mention, it also helps lend some atmosphere to one of the single greatest cinematic achievements in the history of man kind, National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation:

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