Music

Dropping Names, Cutting Tapes: Beastie Boys – “Hey Ladies”

On “Hey Ladies”, the Beastie Boys prove that their hip-hop collage approach to making tunes is applicable to the four-minute single format, resulting in a track that is both technically accomplished and danceable.

Beastie Boys

Paul's Boutique

US Release: 1989-07-25
UK Release: Import
Label: Capitol
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“Hey Ladies” is the most famous track from Paul’s Boutique, the one most widely known by the general public, even by those who are not Beastie Boys enthusiasts. It only reached #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but was notable as the first single to chart in the top 20 of both the Hot Rap Singles and Modern Rock Tracks. Its disco-era inspired music video, complete with a cowbell-playing hand popping out of the ceiling, became a 1980s cultural touchstone, a campy, fun, retro-infused promo that solidified the Beasties’ reputation as rap music’s greatest jokesters. On “Hey Ladies”, the Beastie Boys prove that their hip-hop collage approach to making tunes is applicable to the four-minute single format, and can yield a track that is both technically accomplished and danceable.

From the beginning, we notice how self-assured and “absolute” the groove is. With samples from the likes of the Commodores, Kool and the Gang, and Cameo, “Hey Ladies” might have the funkiest feel on Paul’s Boutique. Unlike several other tracks from the record, this one doesn’t vary that much rhythmically or incorporate asymmetrical, abrupt shifts in tempo (see “The Sounds of Science”, for example). Even as the sonic texture changes—during the famous “cowbell solo”, for instance—the relentless beat goes on. It’s not surprising that “Hey Ladies” was chosen as the record’s lead single, for its consistency makes it especially danceable.

Just because the tempo and groove of “Hey Ladies” hold steady doesn’t mean that it’s not a song of great complexity. The Beasties are dropping names and cutting up tapes just as much as ever. Bits of lyrics from “Funky President” by James Brown, “War” by Edwin Starr, and “Hush” by Deep Purple, among others, are dropped precisely into the track to contribute (sometimes ironically) to the song’s meaning. The shaky, goofy-sounding line “She thinks she’s the passionate one” from Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” serves as a self-deprecating reminder that the Beasties aren’t taking their own bravado too seriously.


In fact, given that as the lead single “Hey Ladies” formed the first impression many had of Paul’s Boutique and the post-Licensed to Ill Beastie Boys, it’s important to note how much irony is present in the track as a whole. Sure, the overall message of the tune (like so many of the Beasties’ songs from this era) seems to be that the boys are really, really good with the ladies. Every woman the boys see are a potential sexual conquest waiting to happen (“I’ll bring you back to the place and your dress I’m peeling”). They’re ridiculously confident in their own abilities and physical appearance (“Me in the corner with a good looking daughter / I dropped my drawers and it was welcome back, Kotter”). They have the ability to sweet-talk anyone (“The gift of gab is the gift I have”), especially those women who aren’t especially intelligent (“Educated? No. Stupid? Yes”). However, their machismo is apparently based on falsehoods (“I’m telling her every lie that you know that I never did”). We get the impression that we’re listening to the tales not of experienced travelers who have been around the block a time or two, but rather goofy adolescents who make up crazy stories in the locker room.

In a way, the faux-masculinity motif that has been ubiquitous more recently in pop culture (see Flight of the Conchords songs like “Crying” and “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)” and Saturday Night Live digital short “Dick in a Box”, for example) stems from the Beasties’ mock-heroic tunes of hyperbolic sexual exploits. The line “There’s more to me than you’ll ever know” seems prescient, given that the influence of “Hey Ladies” and other songs like it has reached further than anyone could have predicted in 1989.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

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Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

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(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

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(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

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​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Criterion Collection)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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Film

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