Why the Pet Shop Boys are still the smartest men in pop

Yesterday, When I Was Mad isn’t one of the duo’s biggest hits, but this underrated 1994 single contains some of their most devastating and revealing lyrics. Tennant has noted he started writing the song “in a bad mood” on their 1991 tour, imagining “the kind of things people say to you after the show”. “And someone said, ‘It’s amazing that you’re still here today,’” he sings disdainfully. “You’ve both come such a short way. They might have felt underrated at times, but in 2020, with a new album on the way and a hit tour in store, it’s only okay to celebrate Tennant and Lowe as the smartest men in the world. the pop.

Parties and politics

They are releasing their 14th LP Hotspot studio on Friday, the third in a row they’ve recorded with Grammy-winning producer Stuart Price, a longtime fan turned trusted collaborator. The album’s elegant lead single, Dreamland, pairs them with Olly Alexander, singer of the Years and Years chart-topping trio, and includes a winning hint of political subtext. Tennant imagines a make-believe world where “you don’t need a visa – you can come and go and still be here” – apparently a dig of both Brexit Britain (he was a strong supporter of Remain) and the current United States immigration policy.

Elsewhere, Hotspot effortlessly swings between classic Pet Shop Boys melancholy – see Burning the Heather, which features beautiful guitar parts from Sweden’s Bernard Butler – and club-ready hedonism, on tracks like Monkey Business, which sees Tennant take on the role of a reckless extrovert. “Bring me margaritas, champagne and red wine,” he sings. “We’re going to have a party where we all cross the line. There are other subtly political moments as well, including Hope for a Miracle, whose privileged central character is described as a ‘child of the sun’, and perhaps resembles Boris Johnson.

Indeed, since breaking through with West End Girls, which reached number one in the US and UK in 1986, Tennant and Lowe have shown a masterful ability to weave both commentary. social and political satire in their contagious electro-pop songs. As Fairclough puts it, they managed to achieve a “rare combination of huge commercial success with an intelligent approach to creating pop music that consistently commented on the cultural moment.”

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