The perfect pop song
It's Always the Last to Know, by Del Amitri. Click the link on the left, then come back.
Yes, dull video. Now shut your eyes and listen again. Yes, great song.
"So you're in love with someone else". What a killer first line, economical, direct, intriguing. You're involved immediately. It begs loads of questions. Who is in love with someone else? Why is he writing a song about it? What happened before? This first line could be the beginning of a thousand great novels. And a thousand bad films. Then it goes: "Someone who burns within your soul". Wow, that's serious. Not just a new boyfriend, someone she's hooked up with on the rebound, but in love and he's burns within her soul. You can sense your narrator is really cut up about it. Then the clever bit: "I am the last to know". This phrase ends each verse, but changes subtly each time.
So, you get the back story, the uplift in the middle eight, then the unbeatable twist at the end; even Cole Porter couldn't have bettered this: "Or is he cheating on you like I cheated on you? You were the last to know".
Songwriting is all about tension and resolution. Nursery rhymes appeal to children because they start somewhere, somewhere safe, move off to somewhere slightly less safe, then come back home. Play G major, then a D7. See how long you can stand it before you have to resolve back to G major. Do this first thing in the morning and it could spoil your whole day. The resolution, the perfection of Always The Last To Know hits you with that last line, the circle completed. It is a lesson in the craft of songwriting. Sure, Justin Currie was inspired in the first place, but a great idea doesn't complete itself. There's loads of hard work here, especially in the economy. You couldn't trim this any more.
I've only mentioned the lyrics. This song, like all great songs, would work a capella, but the tune, the arrangement and the feel do justice to a great piece of work.
Deee-lite's Groove is in the Heart is a great record, but not a great song. In fact, it's gibberish, but as soon as you hear the opening notes, you can't stop your feet moving. Well done, Deee-lite. Great record, terrible song. Always The Last To Know deserves to be on the curriculum, to teach us all about the craft of songwriting. Inspiration + perspiration.