Friday, April 08, 2011

Blast From the 80s in Dubai!

It was the e-prank of 2008. A friend would e-mail with cheery message and a link to something cool they'd found online or something relevant to a conversation you'd had. But, when clicked, unsuspecting victims would be taken straight to YouTube and to Rick Astley in all his hip-swaying, white trenchcoat-wearing, dancing-under-a-dimly-lit-bridge glory.

RickRolling saw millions of gullible souls across the world reintroduced to Astley's 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up, generally with hilarious consequences, especially in offices where targets hadn't turned off their speakers. But, while the premise of the gag was to interrupt days with an unprovoked slice of pure, unadulterated 1980s cheese, most people who were "Rickrolled" didn't instantly close the window, banishing Astley from their screens. Because, despite his dubious quiff, even more questionable body movements and a segment in which he sports some frankly unforgivable double denim, the song isn't really all that bad. In fact, despite the outpouring of ridicule this statement might evoke, it's actually a pretty good pop record.

Although society may now deem that Astley tracks must only be played in a controlled ironic environment, the truth is that his output - and that of other bouffant hair-doed 1980s stalwart - isn't half as terrible as people make out. There are plenty out there for whom the occasional - or even regular - dose of cheery, excessively coloured, drum-machine backed, Casio-keyboard pop is considered something of a guilty pleasure, something to be enjoyed in the car on the way to work or in the shower. But, unless they're at the sort of horrendous 1980s-themed events that see fat, balding middle managers squeezing themselves into grey school shorts, it's practically illegal to embrace such music in public.

Thankfully, there is a brief amnesty in the form of this weekend's Here and Now concert at Dubai's Meydan Racecourse. Thousands of "guilty pleasure seekers" will no doubt be flocking to see Belinda Carlisle, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Boy George, The Real Thing, Paul Young and Kid Creole and his remaining Coconuts relive the decade that the history books would have us chuckle embarrassingly at.

Kids may - and do, regularly - scoff, but get them to sit back with Heaven Is a Place on Earth, Karma Chameleon or Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy (actually, perhaps best stick to the first two), and have them explain how current chart-toppers such as Jessie J, Ke$ha or the mass-produced pop mulch that squeezes through The X-Factor meat-mincer is anywhere near as good. It's not. And any argument they have should be shot down because you're older and are therefore right, OK?

Sure, the 1980s might have brought us the horrors of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, but the biggest names to have emerged from their assembly line are now considered near untouchable members of music royalty. Try criticising Kylie in public and coming away unscathed.

And when you consider the less cheesy club scene side of the musical coin, the 1980s still holds its own. Listen to the underground but increasingly mainstream "sound of the twenty-tens", namely dubstep, which has the distinctly annoying habit of building up to a climax only to ultimately disappoint by slapping listeners in the face with a deep rumbling bass line rather than a solid drum beat. Now compare this with house and its countless offshoots that were keeping people up till the early hours three decades ago and dare suggest that things are better now. (Actually, we're getting on a bit now so you probably could get away with it).

In any case, the fact that musicians who had their day in the 1980s - and not even the biggest ones - can still fill stadiums (or even enormous racing courses) is testament to their quality and longevity. It's unlikely the likes of N-Dubz will be touring the globe in 20 years' time and if Justin Bieber isn't featuring in "Where Are They Now" shows by then, something will have gone very wrong.

Head down to catch Carlisle this weekend with your head held high and guilt-free. You needn't even wear a balaclava.

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