Trivia can be a great thing when you’re competing in a field where it’s almost impossible to lose (see: music). However, what it can also do is reintroduce you to songs that you always sort of knew but never really paid much attention to until it’s the question that costs you pole position and jugs of free beer. Coincidentally, Huey Lewis’ only hit from Sports was a fixture not only at my local trivia but also on a recent episode of our much-loved music trivia TV show, ‘Spicks & Specks’, where the contestants had to guess a whole lot of unimportant things about including what cut Lewis’ shirt is and what colour the sandbuckets are. Combined, these two random occurrences served to do only one thing effectively and that was bore the chorus deep into my skull where it’s been lodged for the better half of this week.
Huey Lewis (and his News) had only two cultural blips on our meter given that we were born in the late eighties, and neither of them refer directly to his own music. The first is that he sang a version of Smokey Robinson’s ‘Cruisin’ with Gwenyth Paltrow in that shocker movie, Duets, while the other is that he’s the musician of choice for Bret Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, the film adaptation of which has a painfully long scene where Christian Bale affirms his band as the best thing ever about music via a complete mental flipout before murdering some poor dude with an axe. “The whole album has a clean, crisp sound” he says of Sports as he puts on a poncho “and a sheen on consummate professionalism that really gives the songs, a big boost.” Safe to say, after seeing that, I think I actively avoided listening to this record for a really long time.
But what really attracts me to ‘If This Is It’ and what keeps drawing me back to it is that it seems to be one of the few pop songs from the ’80s that’s so endearingly earnest without trying to trumpet it to all and sundry. Sure, the video sets that mission back at least 5 paces, but we’re about songs here. Lewis’ voice is all gruff and throaty, like he’s been crying for days or something. The bridge is one of the best harmonic lines of the whole era and you can hear it reworked into so much ‘alternative-electronic’ music today it’s ridiculous, but the winner is and remains the chorus – even if one of fiction’s most reviled serial killers likes it. Rock ballad meets doo-wop meets show tune all in eight bars, what more could a pop fan ask for? It’s well constructed, it moves effortlessly and the best bit is the turnaround at the end of each phrase – the bit where Huey wails ‘Just say so’ – which climbs back up to the lofty peak from which the lyrics start again. Trust me on this one, it’s a winner. And I won’t even kill you if you disagree with me.
Huey Lewis & The News – ‘If This Is It’
[audio:https://1songday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/07-If-This-Is-It.mp3|titles=07 If This Is It]