In Partial Defence of ‘Accidently Kelly Street’ (sic)

Most Australians of my vintage would be familiar with this single from 1992:

It’s mentioned only as a subject of mockery these days. Oh, Frente! Oh, that daggy song.

Yes, there is something wrong with the song. But it’s not the notoriously banal opening lines …

Here’s a door and here’s a window
Here’s a ceiling, here’s a floor
The room is lit like a black and white movie
The TV’s on, that’s what it’s for

… and it’s not the tune, nor the girlish vocals, nor the video.

No, here’s what’s wrong with the song: every one of its elements is twee. Twee lyrics, twee music, twee performance (in this case, audio and video), and twee production. At no stage did anyone say, of bass player Tim O’Connor’s innocent, nursery-rhyme song, “Hey, how about for this bit we go against the material?”

It might have been different. Look at those opening lines again, and imagine them slowed down, sung by Randy Newman, and with bordello-piano backing …

The room is lit like a black and white movie
The TV’s on, that’s what it’s for

Well, now ya got something! That’s a little satirical dig at suburbia, that is. Some of the elements are tugging against one another, and there’s tension.

I’ll admit, though, that not much could have been done with these lines …

Perhaps this optimism
Will crash on down
Like a house of cards.
I know that my decision
To change my life was not that hard

Some twee is just too twee.

I got to thinking, and so in the following diagram, there’s a little bird for every twee element, and for its opposite (“cool” is the best I can come up with), a pair of sunglasses. Click for full size:

tweecool

Obviously, my choices are subjective. I picked the best-known songs I could think of, but they still say a lot about my background, and taste. Your list might be much more indie and hip. Still, I think my overall point stands: you can deliberately inject twee elements into a recording that is otherwise cool, especially if you’re trying for irony, or camp, but you better have something that’s cool in there. Popular songs need elements tugging against one another; and if not they need to be very, very, very cool.

Other singles deserving four sunglasses: Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”, Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side”, Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”.

Other singles deserving four birds: Wham’s “Last Christmas”, Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me”, Paul Anka’s “(You’re) Having My Baby”, MC Hammer’s “Addams Groove”.

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2 thoughts on “In Partial Defence of ‘Accidently Kelly Street’ (sic)

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