Saturday, January 30, 2010

January 30: The Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"

Artist: The Eurythmics
Song: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"
Album: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Year: 1983

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They key to success of nearly every hit song comes in the form of either an amazing lyric or an unforgettable guitar riff. It is this element that makes the song immediately recognizable, and often times what makes the artist in question different form their peers. However, there are a handful of pop songs that can be considered absolute "classics" that have achieved similar success with unorthodox sonic approaches, and these songs tend to mark pivotal moments in the history of music. Though they have each gained great notoriety as solo performers, the musical team of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, better known as The Eurythmics, penned one of the most extraordinary songs in history in the form of the 1983 hit, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)." The song itself was a hybrid of a number of different sounds and styles, and it is also the song that introduced much of the world to the unparalleled vocal stylings of Annie Lennox. Powered by what may be the most memorable synthesizer riff in history, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" was, in many ways, the song that gave legitimacy to the "new wave" movement, and over the years it has been covered by countless artists across the music spectrum. The fact that the song is still covered today, as well as remains in regular radio rotation serves as a testament to its greatness, and as of yet, there has still been nothing quite like the brilliance of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)."

The wide ranging appeal of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" can be seen in the cover versions, as everyone from Audioslave to Tori Amos to Reba McEntire has performed the song, and yet the most famous cover comes from a very different artist. More than a decade after The Eurythmics released the song, the song found new life when it was brilliantly covered by the industrial metal freak-show known as Marilyn Manson. The Manson version of the song was far more aggressive, yet its presence and success further proved that the original was nothing short of an iconic song which crossed all musical boundaries. This universal appeal is likely due to the overall sound of the music, as one would be hard pressed to find a more perfect balance of dark moods that keeps hold on perfect pop appeal. The core synthesizer riff of the song is without question one of the most famous musical progressions in history, and the truth of the matter is, this riff was a pure accident. As the legend goes, Dave Stewart was playing a song they had already recorded in reverse, and the riff appeared within the "reversed" bass track. This riff, combined with the programmed drums, is an almost perfect balance between the sounds that had been pioneered by groups like Kraftwerk, mixed with the pop sensibilities of the era. The minimalist musical approach, combined with the fact that the dark feel remains the entire song, makes "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" one of, if not the most unlikely pop hits in music history.

While the music certainly sets the tone for the song, it is the absolutely stunning vocals from Annie Lennox that make the song a true classic. Providing both the melody and harmony parts, the multi-tracked vocals from Lennox are nothing short of iconic, and it is with "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" that the world was blessed with one of its most talented vocalist. Showing that she knew no boundaries in terms of pitch, her performance on the song is without question one of the most impressive moments in music history. Furthering the overall strangeness of the songs' success, though most do not pay them much attention, the fact of the matter is, the lyrics of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" are about sadomasochistic sex. This fits perfectly with the overall dark tone of the song, and the meaning behind the song is solidified in the repeated refrain of, "...some of them want to use you, some of them want to get used by you...some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused..." The fact that a majority of people have overlooked this clearly questionable subject matter for nearly three decades serves as a testament to the overall greatness of the song, as one can see countless examples throughout music history of songs with similar themes being "banished" from radio. The continues success of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" stands as proof that, regardless of one or two things that may be questionable within a song, truly great songs will always overcome such hurdles.

Try as you might, but the fact of the matter is, it is impossible to find a song that even slightly resembles the sound and story behind the 1983 hit, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" by The Eurythmics. Seemingly coming out of nowhere with the song, the duo threw down the gauntlet of pop music and proved that a great song would find success regardless of the style in which it was played. Quickly topping the charts in the U.S., the song was also helped by the equally iconic music video, which featured an androgynous looking Annie Lennox in a fitted suit, wielding a cane. The video remains almost as memorable as the song itself, and one cannot deny the fact that the video helped the group achieve their well-deserved success. The imagery within the video in same ways make the lyrical content a bit more clear, yet there is little question that the risqué nature of the songs' words continue to go over the heads of a majority of listeners. This ignorance of the true nature of the song is largely due to the fact that both musically and vocally, the song is nothing short of phenomenal, and to this day, there has still been nothing similar. The iconic synthesizer riff from Dave Stewart remains fresh and exciting, even after nearly thirty years, and the absolutely glorious vocal performance from Annie Lennox ranks among the greatest in recorded history. Ignoring every "rule" that had been set forth for pop music success, The Eurythmics re-wrote the books in a wide array of areas with their landmark 1983 hit, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)."


rocknancy said...

When this song came out, it just blew me away and still does!

JRF said...

Great choice and interesting review.

Parijat Pandya said...

Its good...but a rip off of ozzy
Crazy train by Black Sabbath..they thought no one would notice it because of difference in genres