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ABF Friday:  Really Catchy Edition!

OK, this is a tough one.  I was thinking the other day about “Groove is in the Heart,” which I believe was recorded by an East Coast liberal elite outfit called “Deee-Jon.” And then I was thinking about “I’ve Been Thinking About You,” which was released by Dijonbeat at almost exactly the same time, the waning months of 1990 to be almost exact.

So here’s the problem. Which one is catchier? Take the groove test at home:


On the one hand, an infectious groove, great club-diva vocals, Q-Tip, Bootsy Collins.  On the other hand, an infectious hook, great Levi-Stubbsian vocals, synchronized crouching on “what can I do.”

Indeed, what can any of us do?  In Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul DeMan—which, coincidentally, was published at the same time these songs hit the charts—David Lehman wrote, “Deconstructionists would obliterate the differences between Roger Rabbit and Henry James.  The function of criticism is reduced to description and analysis; the task of evaluating works of art is left undone.  Abandoned is one of criticism’s foremost responsibilities:  the making and revising of critical discriminations.” Yow!  At the time, I believe I remarked that Lehman had chosen a truly unfortunate pair of examples:  since Roger Rabbit is by any reasonable measure a virtuoso piece of work, one suspects that Lehman was unaware of the truly significant differences between Roger Rabbit and Huckleberry Hound.  ABF Friday Fail! But the larger point remains.  We don’t want to be like those deconstructionists!  We have to make and revise critical discriminations!  And yet when we come up against a world-historical question like which is catchier, “Groove is in the Heart” or “I’ve Been Thinking About You,” we confront the awesome possibility—previously considered unattainable except in the Tevatron—that the two songs, released at almost exactly the same time, are in fact equally catchy, both hitting 99.99999954 out of 100 on the Groovimeter.

What are the odds?  Don’t answer that.

For those of you Grey Pouponians who shrink from the making and revising of critical discriminations when the going gets tough, I have an alternate video just for fun:

That would have to be one of Ringo’s first appearances with the band.  Stuff like this makes me think that it’s just a matter of time before the entire Alexandrian Library turns up in Google Cache.  And I think we all can agree—even you deconstructionists—that that’s gonna rock.

Posted by on 05/08 at 11:06 AM
  1. Frankly, Michael, I think your Groovimeter needs recalibration. “I’ve Been Thinking About You” has it all over “Groove is in the Heart.”

    However, if this Lehman dude just then complaining about the deconstructive abandonment of evaluation, he’d been asleep longer than Rip van Winkle. That cow’d been kicked out of the barn a loooonnngg time ago.

    Of course, you’re right about the respective merits of RR and HH.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  12:32 PM
  2. oooh, Bill, not so fast: “Groove is in the Heart” has it, if only because groovy bass lines are inherently superior to groovy guitar hooks, They leave deeper grooves, see?

    But close: maybe a .00000006 gap on the Groovimeter.

    And they’re both spectacularly dated—ah, what fun those early nineties. Or is that really the end of the eighties?

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  12:45 PM
  3. "Groove ...” had Bootsy on bass, and I happen to think a killer bass groove is much catchier than the hookiest synth vamp.

    ‘nuff said.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  12:50 PM
  4. Yeah, I think Bill’s Groovimeter needs to be looked at by a professional.  I can refer you to this guy, he might be seeing new patients.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  01:14 PM
  5. Y’all are listenin’ with your memories of BC (Bootsie Correctness) not to the actual sounds. Bootsie’s groove may be deep, but it’s filled with sludge, and the sludge don’t budge, I judge.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  01:22 PM
  6. No, m’fren’, we are listenin’ to les bruits réels, and there are all kinds of great things to hear on the high end, too.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  01:28 PM
  7. Come to think of it, this very blog might have a solution to your problem. Perhaps you should contact Michael Obvious-Schmuck Bérubé, Director, and see if the Institute for Advanced Extraction of Plantstuff from Mammalian Nasal Cavities has a device that could extract wax from ears.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  01:31 PM
  8. I happen to think a killer bass groove is much catchier than the hookiest synth vamp.

    Indeed.  And if the songs in question were exclusively composed of those items, GIITH would rightly triumph.  There remain, however, such minor elements as the vocals.  Or, to get technical in the case of GIITH, the possibly-illegal* drowning of a cat.  And if you were merely showering with your cat instead of drowning it, which one of these would you be likelier to sing?

    Now, it’s true that the LB crew aren’t engaging in the same breathtakingly over-the-top use of “The 70s are totally back in.” Is this a plus or a minus?  It might depend on whether you think the Cornell mustard guy was being satirical or not.

    *I believe that cat-drowning laws should be left to the states.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  01:31 PM
  9. Ah!  It was the Cornell mustard guy, with wax in his ears from the candlestick, in the library.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  01:46 PM
  10. You got the wrong DeeLite song. Good Beat is the one. Bootsy and the gang and as an ex once said “that is a good beat”.

    Groove is nice but not the “one”.

    Posted by PenGun  on  05/08  at  02:13 PM
  11. Thanks for the tip about groovy dave lehman. I found this hot quote that just nails a palimpsestic fail! of Paul de Man/Ringo Starr:

    “Poetry has the executive privilege of the imagination. It can afford to be uncompromising, since it has nothing to lose. Journalism, on the other hand, is full of concessions to one’s editor, to one’s audience, and is accountable to fact, to truth in a fairly narrow sense. If I am writing a poem inspired by an event in my life or in the public record, I sometimes change things around, like the sex of the characters, or the city they live in, just to revel in the discrepancy. You know, the paradox of all writing is suggested in the conclusion of Beckett’s Molly: “Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight, The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining.’”

    to which i can only add: hot cha!
    and: walter pincus aint got nuttin’ on me..

    Posted by neill  on  05/08  at  02:28 PM
  12. Kill me now. Well played!

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  02:37 PM
  13. 12 -> 9

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  02:50 PM
  14. Twelve is indeed greater than nine.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  03:00 PM
  15. 14: You’re having entirely too much fun here today, aren’t you?

    Mustard boy has got to go!!

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  03:34 PM
  16. Judge things on their own merits. All comparisons are invidious.

    Posted by Hattie  on  05/08  at  03:34 PM
  17. Go back and carefully listen to James Brown. Then get back to us.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  03:41 PM
  18. Hattie is right. Every number is its own special snowflake.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  03:43 PM
  19. Best I could do for Cornell Mustard.

    What about Yale lox?

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  03:46 PM
  20. I rule that GIITH is the winner.  I also rule that Cornell Mustard is guilty as charged.  And Hattie is out of order.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  03:53 PM
  21. A groovy bassline is way better than groovy synth, and for funk you would be embarrassed to even oppose the question in the first place.

    Also, invidiousness rocks!  (on Friday, anyway)

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  04:01 PM
  22. DeeeLight is way more delightful. Still, as a resident of Cincinnati, I feel obliged to mention that the presence of Bootsy Collins does not, in fact, imply a song must be groovalicious. Who, for example, has actually feared da tiger?

    Also, Michael, why’d you neglect to mention that Lehman is a poet? And that that’s actually a decent book...if you can manage to get past the seething (and lo, does he seethe).

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  04:04 PM
  23. I’m going with Groove is in the Heart because I remember seeing it in a commercial somewhere. That tips the scales for me. rasberry

    The most talent award goes to the Beatles of course.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  04:17 PM
  24. Ah, but what if the assertion is that twelve is a pointer to nine?  What then?  (Answer: your C program will fail to compile.  It wasn’t rhetorical this time.)

    Nice try with the Flickr find, Mr. Benzon, but everyone knows that Cornel Mustard is at Harvard.

    And I see that The Big B is spreading the Cornell Mustard at Pandagon, too.  I am going to retroactively assert that it was an intentional coinage on my part, and demand appropriate recompense.  (And don’t get me started about “the elusive Janet Lyon.")

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  04:26 PM
  25. Oh noes!  The mustard is coming from inside the blog!

    We should probably both be paying royalties to this guy, mds.

    Posted by Michael  on  05/08  at  04:37 PM
  26. This episode, for the first time, makes me realize that, while the web was invented while I was at college, I cannot imagine what it must be like for current students in this environment. Everyone talks about Facebook and embarrassing pics and such, but what about signing up for courses with the foreknowledge that one of the possible profs has humiliated himself thus on an international stage?

    I realize that a controlled experiment on this subject has been underway in Tennessee for most of this decade, but this episode really throws it into relief.

    Posted by JRoth  on  05/08  at  04:45 PM
  27. There’s also the uncontrolled experiment in Wisconsin.  The data from that one are most alarming.

    Posted by Michael  on  05/08  at  04:49 PM
  28. I’m not sure I can respond to the question posed without further information: what does it actually mean for a song to be “catchy”?  Is it more prone to get stuck in one’s head?  Is it more likely to get folks out on the dance floor?  Is it more likely to get kids to buy the album or single?  Or is it something less tangible?  How can we analyze something critically without first agreeing upon our terms??

    (*cheeky grin*)

    If we’re just talking personal preference, though, my booty prefers to shake to the de-groovy bass licks of Groove Is in the Heart.  No question.

    Posted by Liz  on  05/08  at  05:52 PM
  29. NYTimes so perfectly hoist on its own petard that it makes Cornell Mustard look like Oliver Wendell Holmes. But will anyone other than the shrill even notice?

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  06:03 PM
  30. CDF is one of two detectors that physicists use in the Tevatron tunnel to observe collisions between protons and antiprotons. As large as a three-story house, each detector contains many detection subsystems that identify the different types of particles emerging from collisions at almost the speed of light. Analyzing the “debris,” scientists explore the structure of matter, space and time. In 1995, physicists from both experiments observed the first top quarks ever produced by accelerators.

    And yet the CDF failed completely when it was trained on Cornell Mustard’s blog post in an attempt to quantify said post’s relevance.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  06:09 PM
  31. Tough guys--or goils--don’t groove. 

    (Or like have branford marsalis squeal o’er the bootsy groove or somethin’.....)

    Posted by Ezra Hound  on  05/08  at  06:19 PM
  32. I have several thoughts on the matter:

    1. Bootsy Collins > synthesizer riffs

    2. “Groove is in the heart,” as philosophy, trumps “I’ve been thinking about you.”

    3.  In terms of catchiness, but not philosophy or Bootsyliciousness, this probably beats both:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu_moia-oVI

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  06:25 PM
  33. Of course, the full name is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” which is a quadruple pun of the sort most beloved by lit crit types.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  07:18 PM
  34. Yeah, can I get some spicy mustard to spread on this rickroll?

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  07:27 PM
  35. … everyone knows that Cornel Mustard is at Harvard.

    Alas, no ceegar. The Cornel was chased out of Harvard by Larry “Economic Advisor to the Obamanation” Summers and is now at Princeton.

    Of course, the full name is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” ...

    Actually, that’s more than full. There’s no question mark in the title, making it a declarative statement telling us which person did the deed. Cue these guys, or these (for a more historicist version), or these (semiotics).

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  07:52 PM
  36. The Cornel was chased out of Harvard by Larry “Economic Advisor to the Obamanation” Summers and is now at Princeton.

    You’re thinking of Cornel West.  Cornel Mustard is the one with a joint appointment at the New England Conservatory.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  09:40 PM
  37. Are we inadvertently paying tribute to Dick Clark Productions and their 30+ year reign of mustard terrorism under the name American Bandstand?  He must have loved spilling that stuff on every part of the stage, judging by the color of this piece (most AB material is now pulled from online due to DC’s desire to maximize his territorial domain through acts of mustard spilling).  At least this classic has all the necessary attributes to score a 99.

    Posted by  on  05/08  at  10:35 PM
  38. ’Catchy Grooves Friday’ is good, but I would like to point out that what this blog really needs is more Kool and the Gang.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  12:51 AM
  39. That brings up two questions.

    Does this mean that American Idol is the ultimate repudiation of that Dark Night of deconstructionist nihilism and soulless relativism?

    And wouldn’t “Groove is in the Heart” groove better in the ear if they’d turned down the treble on that tambourine, or whatever it is? Maybe it’s just that I’m listening through my laptop. “Thinking about You” is a goes-down-smooth groove, but in every other respect it’s pedestrian compared to Dijonbeat, which is, except for that one flaw, non-stop delight all the way to the very end.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Robert Zimmerman  on  05/09  at  01:05 AM
  40. Oh!  My groovimeter is broken.  Couldn’t listen to either.

    Was taking refuge in the Beatles when some coot in the Bentley next to mine interrupted for some mustard.

    But for the bass line, first one I always think of is <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw54-rCIrPs&fmt=18">Tina Weymouth</a> and dancing around the University Theater at the midnight showing of Stop Making Sense.  I know that’s cheating; the fabulous sound system and the soundtrack polished to the nth of the nth micron, but, wow, talk about getting the lead out of the tipsy codgers!  Yep.  Tina.

    Posted by 99  on  05/09  at  04:00 AM
  41. Oh, sorry.  I’m too tired and messed up the code.  Sorry.  Sorry.  Good night.

    Posted by 99  on  05/09  at  04:01 AM
  42. it’s just a matter of time before the entire Alexandrian Library turns up in Google Cache.

    That’d be nice!  My great-great x8’s grandfather’s card was revoked in 32 BCE for delinquent late fees, and I’ve often wondered what we missed in accrued generational wisdom as a result.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  04:18 AM
  43. I’m not sure I can respond to the question posed without further information: what does it actually mean for a song to be “catchy”?  Is it more prone to get stuck in one’s head?  Is it more likely to get folks out on the dance floor?  Is it more likely to get kids to buy the album or single?  Or is it something less tangible?  How can we analyze something critically without first agreeing upon our terms??

    Liz, these are great questions.  Ordinarily, here in Chávezian Airspace we define our terms clearly and carefully so that no commenter has to grapple with foggy notions of “catchiness.” This time, however, we’re just gonna say if you have to ask, you ain’t never gonna know, because that puts the A in ABF Friday!

    And to Robert’s two questions:  yes, American Idol killed deconstructionist nihilism dead.  That’s why people love it!  And no, “Groove” needs all that jangly trebly stuff up there—this would be clearer in a club.  Laptops are notoriously weak on the low end.

    Posted by Michael  on  05/09  at  10:33 AM
  44. Else they’d be lapbottoms.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  10:48 AM
  45. Michael has ignored another possibility. It is entirely possible that those songs aren’t equally catchy without one being catchier - they might be incomparable. Why should the set of grooves be totally ordered?

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  11:12 AM
  46. 45: It’s been awhile, but is it not true that although past a certain point all of the songs in a Catchy sequence are within an arbitrarily small measure of catchiness of each other, they are still ordered?

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  11:41 AM
  47. I think that JP Stormcrow should be given some type of fabulous prize for comment #44.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  12:28 PM
  48. I think that JP Stormcrow should be given the Fields Medal for comment #46.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  02:48 PM
  49. Last year’s winner of the Fields Medal.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  05/09  at  03:03 PM
  50. I’m guessing that WC didn’t know much about catchy sequences.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  03:39 PM
  51. Last year’s winner of the Fields Medal.

    Gosh, You like me, you really like me!* If you don’t mind I’ll take my prize as a Kobe beef burger with Goot Essa cheddar and Vidalia onion mayo on a freshly-baked brioche-like bun.

    *Is there a term which precisely describes misquotes (such as the one above) that have entered the vernacular at the expense of what was actually said? It seems similar to a mondegreen, an eggcorn or a malapropsim only different. Maybe “plagansam” or “armstrong”.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  04:10 PM
  52. or something incorporating “apocryphal”

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  04:31 PM
  53. Cutie-Pies won again, MB, on kitsch-freitag.

    Posted by Ezra Hound  on  05/09  at  05:25 PM
  54. Yes, I admit it’s shameful, embracing frivolity instead of dealing with the deep issues raised by a post with a Londonbeat video in it.

    Is there a term which precisely describes misquotes (such as the one above) that have entered the vernacular at the expense of what was actually said?

    How about a “Houndagain?” The fact that the actual etymology of the term doesn’t accurately connect to the definition would be a plus.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  07:25 PM
  55. Now, now, Ezra, be a good little doggie. You’re gonna lose that bone if you keep this up.

    JP Stormcrow: good question. How about “paracite”?

    Posted by John Protevi  on  05/09  at  08:21 PM
  56. How about ........ Poodle-tevi!

    ooo la la la la la la la, as Mlle Dijon sez

    Posted by Ezra Hound  on  05/09  at  08:52 PM
  57. If you listen to Londonbeat again you will realize that Gnarls Barkley did not break any new musical ground. Sounds exactly the same. Too bad they didn’t have the Atlantic Records promo machine behind them like GB.

    e.

    captcha “cent” as it that’s my two cents.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  09:18 PM
  58. Now, now, little puppy. Don’t go projecting again after your performance on the other thread. Licking the hand to prevent a beatdown? Is that really how a Raubtier acts? It’s not good to talk the talk build the strife when you won’t walk the walk.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  05/09  at  09:52 PM
  59. I feel quite confident saying that “Groove is in the Heart” is the catchiest of the three songs posted; indeed, it is one of the catchiest tunes of all time.

    Posted by bitchphd  on  05/09  at  10:28 PM
  60. Checked em out and have no opinion but I wish the sound was better on the Beetles clip.
    I was wondering if anyone else has trouble enjoying music music with video.  I have to roll the video up screen to concentrate on the vocals or mute the sound to enjoy the visuals.  Same problem at concerts.  Yah I’m weird.

    Posted by  on  05/09  at  11:17 PM
  61. have branford marsalis squeal o’er the bootsy groove

    Branford was last seen squealing o’er the bootsy Lesh-y groove of The ("Living") Dead last week in New Jersey. FW that’s W.

    Posted by  on  05/10  at  12:33 PM
  62. I can’t argue the catchiness of the groove in “Groove,” but that element is negated by the grating everything-but-the-groove in the song. If not for the Bootsitude of the bass, that track would be total garbage.

    “Thinking,” on the other hand, is as bland as a catchy song can be. Nothing irks, and the beat is nice and bouncy, but there’s not much to it.

    I call it a draw.

    Posted by Jason B.  on  05/10  at  02:46 PM
  63. "Groove is in the Heart,” by a mile. But perhaps that’s just my rockist prejudices.

    Posted by  on  05/10  at  05:39 PM
  64. Since the captcha is “higher,” and the groove-de-la-groove of Sly’s stones takes us back and forth and up and down, i give a shout out to Sven.  I plan on getting my share of the Leshification Rhythm Devil groovination this coming Saturday, while my own children get it tonight in the SF homelands.

    Posted by  on  05/10  at  08:03 PM
  65. Lesh and the Grateful Hep--about as radical as like Spamalot, or the Obama campaign for dat matter.  With Branford the Dead at least verges on Vegass-like competency, which is to say listenability…

    Posted by Ezra Hound  on  05/11  at  11:12 AM
  66. "Groove is in the HEART”? and here all this time I thought it was “Rubies in the Hall”. Just goes to show that a good bass line trumps lyrics every time.

    Posted by Joanna  on  05/11  at  03:02 PM
  67. and now for something completely different--Damn this Government!

    Esau killed a hunter back in 1969, while Esra sniveled incessantly in 2009”

    meanwhile the groovimeter gets pegged.

    Posted by  on  05/12  at  05:07 AM
  68. The answer is that - listeningwise- it’s a tie. ‘thinking about you’ has a catchy guitar part, catchy tune and catchy shebaap-baaps but is kind of lightweight and snoothly easy listening.

    Groove is in the Heart has the smokin Herbie Hancock riff, the tambourine, the finger in cheek popping noises, the cartoon fallin bomb whistles, and the sexy Ha-a-a-a-art vocals.

    Dancin’wise it’s no contest. Play Dee-lite at any public event and the place rocks wit da boogie, play I’ve been thinking about you and people might gently tap their foot.

    Posted by  on  05/12  at  07:16 PM

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