During CMJ my good friend Katie was putting on a week of events at 205, a club on Chrystie street. She hit me up last-minute-style one day and asked me to put together a quick "top 5" type article for a 'zine they were going to give out at the event. I had an idea I had been sitting on with no place to put it, so I fleshed it out and gave it to her. For whatever reason, it didn't run in the 'zine. Not sure I blame her or whoever made the editorial decision, as this kind of thing probably only amuses me. In truth, I had a blast writing it, and I hate seeing it go to waste, so I added some videos, and put it up here for y'all to check out. Enjoy...or not.
Presented for your approval:
Un-Google-able. Five Songs With “The Nothing Chorus”.
Ah yes, the songs with “nothing” choruses. Is there anything better? Sometimes they go “whooaaa whoa whoa”, sometimes they go “ah ah ahhhh”, and rarely do they make any damn sense at all. This is fine. Their lack of words and “lyrics” show a kind of primal sophistication that says, “To hell with a message, let us just yelp a bunch of sounds and really feel it.”
What follows is a list of five classic songs with “Nothing” choruses. They might not be the most obvious choices, but they are definitely the most aggressively idiotic, exuberant, and hilarious.
1. Howard Jones: “Things Can Only Get Better”.
This 80’s relic might not seem like much, but wait until this beast comes on in the grocery store while you’re rippin’ through the malt-o-meal aisle. Howard’s brainless chorus of (I’ll do my best here) “Whoa whoa whooooaaahh whoooahh whoa whooooaaahhh” interrupts absurdly optimistic verses and blaring horns that do nothing but turn your life into one of those sweet 80’s “turning-your-life-around” montages. This song was playing on my headphones once when I saw a bum pooping on the street and it made me want to high five him and go cram for a midterm.
2. The Kills: “Getting Down”.
Kind of a new one here. This song actually kind of sucks, but in the best way possible. Over nothing more than a punchy drum machine and a simple bass groove, The Kills eschew a proper chorus in favor of a good ol’ “ah ah ahhhh ow ow ahhhh” chant that will burrow its way into your brain and stay there until Howard Jones comes through to dig it out. I finally got to say “eschew” in a sentence. Fuck yeah.
3. Baltimora: “Tarzan Boy”.
Yeah, yeah, Listerine commercial yeah. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? That too. Before all that though, Baltimora was just a simple Italo-Disco Project with a prancing Irish frontman. You know, a typical working band just trying to make their mark. To craft their massive hit, they took Tarzan’s war cry, savagely beat it in the basement of an Italian drag show, and unleashed it to scream atop a pile of canned 80’s instruments and lyrics about “monkey business…on a sunny afternoon”. Don’t ever watch this video. Ever.
4. Sam Cooke: “Good Times”.
Some next level “whoa”-ing here. Sam swings open the track with some golden “whoa”-ing and “la la”-ing and lets his voice melt the raw “whoa” into pure verbal honey, “It might be one o’clock and it might be three, time don’t mean that much to me, I ain’t felt this good since I don’t know when, and I might not feel this good again”. By the end of the barely three minute song it is clear: Be it “whoa” or words, Sam Cooke is an actual genius, not an accidental one. There’s no clever comment to add here, he’s a goddamn genius.
5. Black Rob: “Like Whoa”.
Alright yeah I know, there are other words in the chorus, but “Whoa” is the centerpiece. For Black Rob, “Whoa” can mean anything. And isn’t that the point? The musical “whoa” replaces words with pure feeling, no matter what the occasion. Doc Strange in the Range? Whoa. Grenade through your window? Whoa. Losing control of your brand new Semi Truck because you were screwing with the radio? Whoa. The “whoa” transcends language and crosses borders, and it will unite us all…which is totally what Black Rob was talking about. Duh.
In summation, the “Nothing Chorus” represents pop music at its most base and simple. Sometimes the human language isn’t big enough to express the emotion of Howard Jones, or Sam Cooke for that matter. Sure, there are lyrics between the primal yelps and hollers, but it’s the yelps and hollers that punctuate the words and give them feeling. For our short list, the evolution of language is an afterthought. As long as we can make the “whoa”, we’ll be fine. In “whoa” we trust.