1998, Music

Stunt (1998) by Barenaked Ladies

You can count me among the many (millions?) of Canadians who were shocked by the success of this record in the USA when it came out. To me, Barenaked Ladies were a comedy novelty act who had some funny songs and videos, which I had mostly grown out of by the time this record came out. To me, they were the more polished, less weird Moxy Fruvous. I once had to learn how to play “If I Had a Million Dollars” on guitar in school. And My friend’s cousin was in one of their videos. They were just some big local band.

So the success of this was surprising and unexpected. And the (semi) seriousness of the songs was also unexpected. Maybe they had gotten more serious over the years, but I hadn’t been paying attention. There was still some humour in these new hits, but (seemingly) a lot more earnestness. I can’t say I knew what to do with them, and I can’t say I was impressed. (Also, I was 16 and didn’t listen to contemporary music.)

20 years later, I definitely understand, to a certain extent, why it was popular, though I’m not sure I understand why it was this popular. The melodies are catchy, the production is very, very clean and there’s just the teeniest hint of idiosyncrasy, in the often goofy lyrics, and in Ed Robertson’s vocals, which often involve speaking or pseudo rapping in addition to singing.

This is all very professional but it is very slick. And the quirkiness that is in the lyrics is safely subsumed by the catchy melodies and the clean, professional performance and recording, which leaves no warts. This is the kind of thing which I can intellectually understand why people like, but which I have no time for. There’s so much music in the world, why listen to generic, slick power pop?

6/10

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