[28 July 2010]
PopMatters Associate Interviews Editor
In discussions about the worst pop song of all time, Starship’s “We Built This City” is the go-to turkey. The song’s wrong-headed indignation over ‘80s corporate culture coupled with laughably sub-par musical stylings create a spicy jambalaya of awful for the ages. The video—in which former members of Jefferson Airplane stare creepily into the camera for inordinate lengths of time—doesn’t exactly help matters either.
However, another ‘80s-era gem has been sorely overlooked in such considerations. The Hooters’ video for “And We Danced” is a remarkable gestalt of auditory assault and can’t-look-away-it’s-so-bad imagery, a perfect storm of suck.
The video for “And We Danced” opens with a group of teenagers sneaking into a drive-in theater…because this is obviously what teenagers do when they really want to cast off the shackles of adult authority. This riff-raff is soon treated to (read: punished by) an impromptu Hooters concert, though not before a couple of middle-aged men play the song’s intro, seeming to wax nostalgic about their own gate-crashing days. The melodica intro backed by a strumming mandolin wouldn’t actually be all that unpleasant were it not merely a prelude to the coming onslaught.
“And We Danced” starts in earnest with a screeching nerve-pinch of synthesizers and guitars, a disorienting pop-rock wall of sound we as listeners crash into without warning. The camera pans over this moment with horror movie impressionism then moves immediately into a montage of coked-up head bobbles, white guy neck pumps, and thousand-yard stares in which the band presumably meditates at length on the olden days, when they used to sneak into drive-in theaters themselves. The lead singer’s wild-eyed spasms would seem to suggest that he and his cohort are still too young and vibrant for the mandolin/melodica resignations of the song’s intro, though these attempts only come off painfully old-seeming. And the hair…oh, the hair. Every single member of the band sports a glorious mullet.
Confusingly, the drive-in theater theme continues throughout the video with shots of the band interspersed with those of people buying concessions, the rebellious teenagers struggling with the trunk of their car, and a man dressed like Thurston Howell III (with sea captain hat included) helping the teenagers to pry open their trunk. You know, normal drive-in stuff. The premise begs the question: if this is a drive-in theater, why are the Hooters playing a concert there? Still more, why do the movie-goers seem so chillingly complicit to this fact? And finally, what on earth does any of this have to do with “dancing like a wave on the ocean romance”?
Of course, waxing critical over the faults of ‘80s pop-rock videos is a bit like saying water is wet or that Bruce Lee was kind of good at martial arts. The spotty video aesthetics destined to capture the epic drama between Ray Ban-wearing Me Generation materialism and patronizing Baby Boomer idealism have retrospectively become a high water mark for schlocky pap. Mullet-rockers like the Hooters are pop-cultural straw men, and were it not for the sheer conviction of their leg kicks, the aggressiveness of their lip-biting fervor, “And We Danced” would be only harmlessly lame, like someone’s dad dancing drunkenly at a wedding.
But this video must be made an example of, lest the younger generation inherit the wrath of our inattention. “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”, and so forth: For the children, it must be said. The video for the Hooters’ “And We Danced” may be pop culture’s worst musical moment ever.