Sex on Fire: Ten Times

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Listen 1:

Ok here we go. Oh God, I haven’t heard this song for a long time. I hate it already. And I don’t usually like to write about songs that are shit. I don’t like it. everyone knows that there is, probably, more shit pop music around than there is good – particularly recently. Everyone knows that, it doesn’t need advertising. In fact, there needs to be more said about good pop music. But I’m trying to get back into writing this blog, and the ten times format lends itself to easing back into it.

The problem is, I couldn’t think of any good tunes that have been stuck in my head recently, other than the Grandstand theme tune and a tune called ‘Rumble’ – as a quick tangent, I don’t think I know any of the lyrics to this tune, which is a surprise, because I usually seem to absorb pop lyrics with a savant-like completeness… I actually only know the howled title. I’m watching a video that has the lyrics on it on You Tube – by a mandolin player called Jimmy Gaudreau, but amazingly You Tube doesn’t seem to hold any copy of that song in its limitless vaults.

Anyway – this tune returned like stress-induced eczema to clutter my head yesterday, so where better to restart than this.

Listen 2:

Mercifully this tune is relatively short – three and half minutes – which means that this ordeal won’t actually take all that long. Let’s grasp the nettle early on. What is it that I hate about this tune? It has to be the most obvious thing. The title. The catchphrase, which is I think the most apt term for it – of the song. ‘Sex is on Fire’. I always thought it was ‘this sex is on fire’, but the first chorus says your sex is on fire, which is, if it’s possible, even worse. It goes from being more or less meaningless to being grotesque. The word ‘sex’ in this sentence with the word ‘your’ – ‘your sex’ – makes it sound like it’s taken from the sort of top-shelf erotic novels with Mills & Boon-style faux-watercolour covers that you used to only find in motorway service stations; because only there is the word ‘sex’ used as a euphemism for ‘vagina’. “You… Your vagina is on fire.”

I think it’s probably the worst lyrics can remember hearing.

Listen 3:

And then there’s the delivery. There’s something about this guy’s voice that just makes me angry. What is it? I mean it’s so stylised – that little yelp at the end of the first line… actually they keep appearing all the way through, like he’s trying hard to contain the emotion of the meaningless words. It just sounds so false, such an imitation of emotion. What is the rhyming line of the chorus? I can’t tell yet… “we’re the ones who transpire”? I’ll check for the next one. The way he sings it gets under my skin… but not in a good way…. like shards of bamboo under finger nails. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it because it’s like a studied imitation of ‘rock singing’.

And even as an imitation it has been so imitated, and with each repetition it gets further and further away from being something meaningful, and just becomes noise. That’s all I can hear already is just a kind of howled noise. Maybe that’s why I have never understood the words to this song, because they are so pointless.

Listen 4:

So I have just listened to it again, looking at the lyrics. A few gems stick out. And I really didn’t have any idea what any of these lyrics were. The song is more overtly about having sex that I ever thought it was. I think that makes it worse. Because there’s no connecting context. And then the line ‘the kiddie-like play’ and this sort of unconnected, decontextualised idea of ‘people watching’. I suppose it’s supposed to make it sound somehow sinister and dark, but it’s just meaningless. And what makes it meaningless is how sing-alongable it’s so obviously constructed to be. That’s what does it. The ‘You’ of the chorus ‘yau-ha-haeuuuu’ designed for a festival crowd to sing along to – hold out the microphone to them. It’s a ready packaged ‘festival anthem’ which, in itself, makes any meaning of the lyrics irrelevant – if there ever was something in the secretive world of two people having sex theme of the lyrics.

Oh no, there is a live version of Beyonce singing it… and it looks like it’s at a festival. I have to watch that version. I know already it’s going to be awful.

Listen 5:

But first, more on the chorus.

I also always thought that this song contained one of the forbidden rhyming couplets: ‘fire/desire’ (the others being ‘love/above’ and any mention of anyone catching anyone else when they fall). However, on closer lyrical inspection it doesn’t. I was hoping to spend at least one listen discussing how much I dislike that rhyming couplet. But if anything, this song fashions an even more clunky and unconvincing rhyme for the word fire. “Consumed with what’s just transpired”. What’s just transpired?! “how do you feel after that sex which has just transpired… which was on fire” “I feel consumed”. “Is that good or bad?” “I don’t know.” It’s a really terrible lyrics, one that has only been written to fit a rhyme, not to actually convey any sort of meaning. Consumed with what’s just transpired. It doesn’t even rhyme.

Ok; I’ve just checked another website, and apparently the lyric may be “consumed with what’s to transpire”… which at least rhymes properly, but which, if anything, makes even less sense. ‘Consumed with what’s to transpire’. “Do you want to have sex… on fire?” “Darling, I am consumed with the thought of what’s to transpire.” “Ok then, let’s get cracking with the kiddie-like play.”

Listen 6:

Oh Beyonce. Why? Why was this necessary? At least this video is a welcome respite from the voice of the singer from the Kings of Leon, which is, after only five repetitions, now almost too much to bear. But that Beyonce would stoop to such blatant crowd-appeasing sing-along tut as this is unforgivable, and it makes me hate this song even more. Because Beyonce has clearly thought ‘I’m playing a festival… they’ll want a song they can sing along to… ‘sex on fire’ has that terrible screamed ‘you-hoo-hoo’ bit in it which I can hold the microphone out to the crowd for [and at two minutes, right on cue, the inevitable “sing it y’all” and microphone held out to the crowd, which would amplify nothing transpires] and it’ll be an easy mid-set sing-along.’

I love Beyonce. I think ‘Countdown’ particularly is one of the best pop tunes of recent times. I wish all music could sound like that. So why this? And there’s certain micro-moments when Beyonce staggers on those insane high heels where she just looks a little too much like Tina Turner… where the performance just threatens to tip over into the ludicrous. Her singing ‘Your sex is on fire’ almost does it.

And I think I can see the tell-tale flag-waving (when did that meaningless fad begin?) that makes this unmistakable Glastonbury… which makes this performance all the shitter. Luckily this version is about to finish, so I don’t have a chance to get into how soul-crushingly sad I find it that Beyonce would be singing ‘sex on fire’ at Glastonbury. Let’s move on.   

Listen 7:

So I couldn’t go back to that voice yet, and another cover version of this song caught my attention, in that way that You Tube has of encouraging you to click your way through related videos until its two in the morning and you’re watching something impossibly shit and you can’t even remember any of the fifty million steps you took to get to it, or what the original starting point to get here was.

I wish I had gone back to the original. Because this video is worse.

Again, I don’t want to get into You Tube negative comment territory, but this video may be approaching the very bottom of the popular music barrel. The case for the prosecution asserting that music is not worth saving.

The delivery of the line ‘has people talking’ at about 1.13 makes me want to stop what I’m doing. It really makes me want to never listen to music ever again, in fact.

And then there’s the word ‘fire’ at 1.26. Which does the same. But maybe even more so.

This isn’t her fault, whoever she is; her and her “little twitter fanbase”. It goes right back to the Kings of Leon. It’s their fault for making people think that the way you say something gives it it’s sincerity, rather than the meaning of the words actually being said. The way they sing – which is the same way that this person is singing – masks the words almost entirely – in place of making the sounds ‘emotional’. And then we can all sing along.

Fuck me. Your sex is on fire.

Actually I thought it would be funny to get angry at something this afternoon. But it isn’t. I’m just shaking my head.  

Listen 8:

And then here we are. The nadir, perhaps, of all human endeavour.

Jamie Afro. X Factor audition.

“Music means… everything” Does it? Why not demonstrate that by singing someone else’s impression of emotion on a television programme that has, implicitly, at its heart the notion that you can covert a passion into money, and that that is the only reason to make or care about music.

I was going to say that the only good thing about this is that it already seems like it comes from another dimension, and that we’re coming out of the cultural recession of the likes of the X Factor, but then the top two comments on this video both say ‘like if you’re still listening to this in 2013’, so maybe we’re not.

And then he says “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m 33 years old. It’s now or never really.” And I almost can’t stand it.

And then he sings with all the right stylised bending-down and pointing actions, and he touches his face, and he has a sort of emoticon face of sincerity. And Simon Cowell pulls a surprised-but-impressed face. And Louis Walsh looks like he’s trying to remember what faces human beings make when they’re interested in something called ‘music’, but can’t quite remember. And then Jamie Afro (who has had to erase his own last name and replace it with what kind of hair he has) says ‘I say a one, two, three’ and everyone sings along. And Dannii Minogue tries to make a face underneath all the makeup. And Cheryl Cole bobs her head along and flashed her teeth, and his gaggle of friends backstage all bend over and look at what’s happening on a television screen, even though they’re actually there, because that’s the only way that you can process something like this. And Dermot O’Leary points at a screen (even though he’s really there) and says “Simon Cowell is singing along” with all the hoarse-voiced ecstasy of someone watching the Berlin Wall being torn down and knowing that their world has changed forever. And then the judges confirm that what we’ve just seen is awe-inspiring and we have all just had a collective moment. And Jamie Afro has, in that three minute window, ‘made it’.

And then it ends. And Jamie Afro, presumably, goes back to working in bars, and he realises that the distinction of the choice ‘now or never’ isn’t quite as clear-cut as he thought it was. And as he clears the empty pint glasses and crisp packets off another table, and hums ‘your sex is on fire’ (he’s cut his afro off now… he’s just ‘Jamie normal hair’ now) he realises that ‘now’ and ‘never’ are the same thing.  

Listen 9:

I suppose I should watch the Kings of Leon playing this live at a festival. That’s what I should do.

I wonder how many times the Kings of Leon have had to play this song. I wonder if it means anything to them anymore?

I wonder if it was ever based on something real? And if the singer, in another cavernous stadium, sometimes catches himself singing ‘you-hoo-hoo’ to the barrage of faces in front of him, all singing it back to him and for a second remembers the ‘you’ to whom it was initially written. I wonder if he still knows this ‘you’.

Man; there are so many people at this gig. It’s at the O2. And he asks them all to sing along to this song, knowing that they have no other option than to do so.

At least he looks like he doesn’t want them to. At least there’s that. But then maybe even that is an act. I can’t tell anymore.   

Listen 10:

I like the way you move

Boulevard of broken dreams

They were two other songs I was thinking of doing this ‘ten times’ thing with. Two of my least favourite songs. But it’ll have to be a long time before I can. Because this ten times of ‘sex on fire’ has left me drained… sort of like anti-sex…

… on fire.

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