Bop Or Not: Fine Young Cannibals “Johnny Come Home”
Does it make sense to rank songs? Of course not. Ranking art is an inherently silly thing, one in which we constantly cannot help but assume that our own preferences are in fact artistic and universal truths. So much of the internet could be avoided if we managed to get past our inability to acknowledge the inherent subjectivity of art. With that out of the way, let’s play another round of Bop Or Not.
I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, I agree. The Fine Young Cannibals did achieve musical perfection with “She Drives Me Crazy” a song that literally could not be any better than it already is. The song’s clincher is its absolutely massive hook and Roland Gift‘s delivery of it.
Gift’s voice is as unique as they come. It is impossible to imagine confusing his warbling, higher-pitched-than-expected delivery with anybody else before or since. Except that “higher-pitched-than-expected” might not quite be the right way to describe what Gift is doing with his voice.
But this isn’t about “She Drives Me Crazy,” a song from the band’s second album, The Raw And The Cooked. This is about “Johnny Come Home,” a song from the band’s debut album, one very creatively titled Fine Young Cannibals. Here is an actual transcript from the decision to title the album:
“What are we gonna call our first album”
“Cmon guys. Something creative.”
“Okay, fine, how about the name of the band?”
Anyway, that first album featured “Johnny Come Home,” a weird little track featuring a heavy bass line, a muted trumpet, and Gift’s alway odd delivery. Here we have a perfectly good song: listenable, memorable, fun.
But folks: this song is not a bop.
The original rules of Bop Or Not made it clear that the song had to make you want to get up out of your seat to dance, even if you didn’t actually do so. This song just doesn’t achieve that (even if its wonderfully cheap video does feature some truly remarkable…uhh…dancing). I have a sneaking suspicion that the thing holding this song back from Bop-dom is its hook, which just isn’t big enough.
The “She Drives Me Crazy” hook is just about the biggest thing in music.
And perhaps that is the precise reason that the band never got any bigger than it did with this particular track. “She Drives Me Crazy” hit a perfect balance of the group’s odd sound and going all out when it really mattered. “Johnny Come Home” exists several evolutionary steps behind it; a great song, and an impressive achievement, but not a Bop.