Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Postive Role Model.

"When your young, you find inspiration in anyone who's ever gone and opened up a closing door."

I decided to open my post, for once not with my own words, but with words written by the very subject matter of this post: Neil Tennant. If ever I had to choose words that summed up what I thought of him or anyone that I could deem as being influential/inspirational in my life, those would be the words.

Being the massive Pet Shop Boys fan that I am, I could list off endless reasons as to why I love them. From their visuals, what they stand for, the risks they take.... I could go on. The thing that I love about them most of all, and what makes them stand out for me though, is their lyrics.

Initially, I didn't take notice of their lyrics I have to admit. My taste in music is predominately based in the field of electronic/dance music where lyrics are hardly required to make a track effective. As a consequence, despite being a fan of many artists before Pet Shop Boys, I couldn't say I was a fan of any on the strength of their lyrical ability, even though I did have song lyrics that I loved of course.

One day though, all that changed. I was still investigating Pet Shop Boys at a relatively early stage (probably about a month or so into it), whilst listening to the track that had convinced me I had become a fan of theirs: Can You Forgive Her? One line in the track had made me take note all of a sudden: "She's made you some kind of laughing stock because you dance to disco and you don't like rock". At the time, I was getting ridiculed for my music taste. Being into a lot of 80's music and especially synthpop, I tend to find that some more ignorant people have criticised my taste, saying that what I listen to isn't real music. I'm not as clean cut as that though taste wise, some of my all-time favourite songs are by Motley Crue and Guns & Roses. Anyhow, that particular line of the song seemed to sum me up so well at the time, and whilst hardly being an example of a great Pet Shop Boys lyric (its still one of my favourites though for nostalgia reasons) it made me pay attention to their lyrics more.

As I started to listen to their lyrics more and more, I very quickly developed the viewpoint that Neil Tennant probably is one of the best lyricists to come out of Britain in the last 30 years or so. In my opinion, he's one of the most criminally overlooked songwriters in pop history, but that's another story. Their big hits like Heart and It's A Sin may not show off his skills, but delve into album tracks, B-sides etc (where in all honesty, the best material of Pet Shop Boys is in my opinion) and I think they really shine through. What I really love about his lyrics is that they manage to seamlessly be a hybrid of pop culture references, historical references and can be in a variety of tones, from humorous to heart-wrenching and yet it always feels natural. I'll admit to something: Jealousy is the only song that has ever made me actually cry. Given that I very rarely cry at anything (and I do mean rarely), I think that's a minor achievement in itself. I always highlight Only The Wind as an example of how good his lyrics are, which is about domestic abuse but seen through the eyes of the perpetrator. For me, tackling a subject as horrible as domestic abuse from that angle takes real guts, and the song itself is one of the most chilling I've ever heard.

It never ceases to amaze how many times I've listened to a song of theirs whilst feeling a certain way, and how much I've been able to relate to said track. I began listening to them whilst I was sort of finding out what I was really about, and their songs have really provided the soundtrack to my whole self discovery (or coming out, as I sometimes put it). Metamorphis is a very personal song for me because of that, although it was written about Neil Tennant coming out. In another example about a year ago I had rough times at school due to issues with some of my peers, which made me feel somewhat miserable. I remember turning on my ipod, and The End Of The World came on, which contains the line "its just a boy, or a girl, its not the end of the world" and it really cheered me up. There's more, but I think you get the idea. No matter what mood I'm in, there always seems to be a song to match. My music tastes forever change and evolve, but Pet Shop Boys lyrics have elevated them beyond that really, no mater what phase I'm going through they'll transcend it and remain a regular force on my ipod/hifi

Of course, I can't ignore the other reasons why I admire Neil so much as a human being beyond his work as a Pet Shop Boy. I always find him so interesting to listen to in interviews because he is so intelligent, plus there's the added bonus that I also find him very witty too quite often. As you could imagine, when I decided that music journalism was a potential career path I particularly looked up to him on that front. Northern Ireland isn't massive, and trying to get into music journalism here is absolute hell and really can be quite demoralising for that reason. I suppose I take some solace in the fact that Neil became deputy editor of Smash Hits despite not being qualified in journalism at all. Given that I can't exactly get qualified in music journalism over here unless I moved to England (which I don't want to do) I really take inspiration from that. I also love how both he (as well as Chris) are down to earth, and really come across as real people rather than high-brow snooty popstars. In some ways I'm surprised they do that so well given their level of intelligence really. Its because of their lyrics and all these reasons that I love and admire him so much as a person, and while he'll always remain one of my biggest inspirations in life.

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