Mixtapes for Hookers

Songs #4 Love You For Free, And They’re Not Your Mother
September 23, 2009, 3:44 pm
Filed under: design of a decade, lists, music | Tags: , , ,

[My fourth-favorite songs of 2002, part of my slow, slow look back at the past ten years of music.]

4. Weezer, Keep Fishin’, and Shakira, Objection (Tango)

Is there anyone so annoying as a Weezer fan?

When the band of nerdy rockers first hit in 1994, everyone immediately loved them. Then Pinkerton came out and everyone hated them, so much so that Rivers Cuomo gave up on music for a few years. When the group returned, the cuffed jeans and black glasses army was outraged, saying that Pinkerton was a masterpiece and the Green Album was no Pinkerton. Then Maladroit came out, and nobody at all liked it. The Green Album was bad, they said, but this was worse. (And let’s not even get into what old fans think about their post-Maladroit material.) So how could a group with such catchy singles be the source of so much negativity?

Well, it’s true Maladroit isn’t that great an album, honestly (unlike the Green Album, which is.) Few of its songs are particularly memorable; the one real exception is the delightful Keep Fishin’, a glammy three-minute stomper with one of the band’s catchiest choruses. It was released in the summer of 2002, when modern rock radio was possible at its all-time low. Keep Fishin’ was an oasis of wonderful amid all the sludgy Incubus and Puddle of Mudd crap. (As if that wasn’t bad enough, this was around the same time, too, that groups like Creed and Metallica were getting played on “alternative” stations for the first time. Yecch.)

Another ray of sunshine on the radio that summer was Shakira, the Colombian singer who was breaking through with Laundry Service, her English-language crossover. Shakira was very poppy, and so very much better than all the Michelle Branch soundalikes that were strangling top 40 airwaves with their bland niceness. First striking with Whenever, Wherever, her crazy vocal stylings were the polar opposite of Vanessa Carlton’s flat intonations. Lyrically, too, the song was sort of deranged, eclipsed in craziness only by its follow-up, Underneath Your Clothes. That song starts out like a regular ballad but then has a Beatle-esque bridge and seems the whole time to teeter on the brink of insanity. The American public loved it; both songs hit the top 10 in the US, a feat she’s only managed one other time since then.

But the Colombian star’s best single wasn’t as successful commercially, at least in the US. Objection (Tango), with its accordion and Latin surf guitar and implant-loathing lyrics, is my favorite song on the album and maybe my favorite Shakira song, period. Surprisingly, though, it only peaked at #55 on the Hot 100. The Latin pop craze wasn’t totally dead yet, but it was definitely on the way out, thanks, perhaps, to the surge of xenophobia that swept the nation during the Bush administration. Yet I can think of few other songs about love triangles that are sung with such abandon. How could anyone not love this? (The video is great, too. Taking the song’s lyrics quite literally, Shakira’s man leaves her for a very busty blonde. But the singer gets her revenge with the aid of some superheroes; she kidnaps the man and the other woman and nefariously ties them to giant cogs, dancing all the while in a tiny and very adorable dress.)

I’ve mentioned before that the summer of 2002 really sucked for me; I got fired from my job selling gay coffee after one week, and I was living in my parent’s basement. I didn’t drink (much) and didn’t do drugs, though in retrospect maybe I should have. I was broke, and bored, and had little to cheer me up besides these two songs on the radio. They’re very special to me, and delightful, regardless.

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