A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[MUSIC] Pet Shop Boys, “Single-Bilingual”

Back in June of 2017, I had selected the Pet Shop Boys’ 1996 song “Single-Bilingual” as my song of the week.

I had noted at the time that this song was not as big a hit as their iconic global singles of the 1980s. Perhaps it was because this song, like the rest of their album Bilingual, was a shift from their previous European-styled electronica, incorporating Latin rhythms. This is a shame, because this song and others are among the group’s slyest.

The songs of the Pet Shop Boys, like those of all great songwriters, can say many things. See “Single-Bilingual”. Listening to the peppy song, Neil Tennant singing in the voice of a self-styled cosmopolitan businessman who claims to be the master of his world, there is humour. As Wayne Studer points out, this man is not all he thinks he is. He’s just a cog in the machine.

They call this a community
I like to think of it as home
Arriving at the airport
I am going it alone
Ordering a boarding pass
Travelling in business class
This is the name of the game
I’m single, bilingual
Single, bilingual

I find myself wondering, too, if this song fits on the soundtrack for Brexit. From a pretended cosmopolitanism down to an actual solitude?

The universal appeal of this song, I now think, lies in what I believe to be the near-universal fear of being exposed as an impostor. We might aspire to be cosmopolitan, but does our reach exceed our grasp? Are we like the character in this song, desperately chatting people up in the hope that we are the people we have always meant to be? We might be, we might not: At least we’ve something to listen to as we await the final revelation.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2019 at 11:45 pm

%d bloggers like this: