Analise Lipari | Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Imagine, if you will, a scene that’s often typical for Domers of a certain age on weekend nights. The setting? The elegant Linebacker Inn, a haven for both sophisticated types and their low-brow brethren. The beverage? Some variation on the typical American brew. The company? Locals and students alike.On this particular night not too long ago, a good friend and I have visited the deejay’s booth two or three times to request a particular song. He rotates through various hip-hop standards, classic pop tunes and even the occasional Christmas song (This is Catholic Disneyland, after all, and the sooner we can get to Christmas, the better). Finally, mere minutes before we, feeling defeated by his cruelty, were planning to leave, he indulges our request. Suddenly, a voice rings out above the crowded dance floor.”Cause you’re hot, then you’re cold! You’re yes, then you’re no!”Needless to say, we were pretty excited. Our dance tune o’ the month, Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold,” was finally getting some air time. The song is a pitch-perfect blend of frothy pop, catchy lyrics and that intangible quality known as “danceability.” In short, it’s a fun song – and you can dance to it. I’ll be the last person to claim that Katy Perry is a practitioner of high art in any sense, or that “Hot N Cold” will still be in steady rotation on my iPod (or its futuristic equivalent) when I’m raising my own band of rugrats. But for right now, it’s a great dance tune, and I like it. No shame in that.Or is it?I recently relayed this story to a friend, a guy friend (which might have influenced his opinion) who groaned at the mention of Katy Perry. His objection to “Hot N Cold,” minus a philosophical disagreement with the use of the letter “N” as a substitution for an actual word in the title, was that it just wasn’t good. It’s one thing, he said, to be able to “dance” to a song – a word that, we both agree, is used loosely with whatever the heck it is our generation does on the dance floor. It’s another thing entirely for a song to actually be good.I’ll also never claim to be a dance expert of any kind. But I know a good dance tune when I hear one. Whether it’s some classic Kanye, a solid 80s hit (hem, Duran Duran) or Britney Spears’ “Womanizer,” dance music is dance music. All you need is a catchy tune (or, in Kanye’s case, a catchy sample) and some semi-repetitive lyrics and you’ve got a hit that’s bound for the dance floor. I could try to argue that these songs hold artistic merit, and variably, they do. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is a chance for Whitney Houston to dazzle listeners with her outrageous vocal range, and the benefits of “Livin’ on a Prayer” need no elaboration.Even current pop dance hits have their merit. Take “Hot N Cold,” for example. Sure, the melody just goes up and down, up and down, but to me, the song is an educational exercise: Katy Perry Teaches You Opposites. Hot and cold; yes and no; in and out; up and down – the girl could have her own segment on Sesame Street.In the end, I can’t help hedging my bets on the side of ridiculous dance tunes. Sure, it’s not all award-winning, but who says it should be? All I know is that if a song’s got a good beat, I’m there. Especially if it’s playing at the Backer.