Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” A Lesser Pet Shop Boys Outing.

The Good: Good lyrics, Good vocals.
The Bad: Dreadfully short, Vastly more expensive than it is worth.
The Basics: A decent song which makes poor use of the c.d. single medium, “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” flops in the one-track radio-release version.

I like the Pet Shop Boys. In July 2010, they were my Artist Of The Month (check out my reviews of Discography by clicking here and Actually by clicking here) The duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe has had a far more dynamic career than I initially thought at the outset of the month. So, as I review the final single I was able to get in of theirs, I find myself wondering why the duo has not had more commercial success in the United States. As inane pop artists have risen and fallen, the Pet Shop Boys have frequently been offering a higher caliber of lyrics to their dance pop and their inability to gain traction on the charts here baffles me.

That said, sometimes they have tracks that simply are not worth it. “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?,” more commonly abbreviated on the market as “Seriously” makes it a little more understandable. At least with the one-track release of “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously,” the rise of the Pet Shop Boys to commercial success is understandable. The one-track version of the single was released only to radio stations and has since filtered into the secondary market where fans and collectors are able to buy them at a pretty steep price. But considering that there are import and commercially-available versions of the single – not to mention Behaviour, the album the song is from – available at pretty inexpensive prices, it is hard to justify the expense of the one-track version of the single.

With only a single track occupying 4:10, “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” is a standard dance-pop song by the Pet Shop Boys. In an anomaly for the band, the radio-release single is actually fifteen seconds longer to accommodate a longer intro to the song. The duo of Tennant and Lowe wrote the song. Tennant provides the lead vocals and Lowe plays the keyboards with the band being credited as co-producers of the track. As such, this is clearly the sound the band intended to make, at least at the time.

Instrumentally, “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” is a very standard synthesizer-driven dance pop song. The beats all come from a percussion machine and they resonate with the clear intent being to get people dancing. The instrumental accompaniment is instantly evocative of a sweaty nightclub and it is hard to hear it without picturing strobe lights. The tune is largely unmemorable and it lacks the usual sense of a hook that Pet Shop Boys songs are known for.

Vocally, Neil Tennant is on his game as he presents the lyrics to the song produced well ahead of the throbbing instrumentals. The vocals have Tennant in his lower range and there are moments he has an almost mechanized sound to his voice, but the song comes across as satirical and serious in its delivery because of the vocal force with which Tennant delivers the lines.

Lyrically, “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” is a rant against superstardom or those who waste their time in the spotlight. With lines like “You live upon a stage, and everyone's agreed / You're the brightest hope by far that anyone can see / So when you take the limelight you can guarantee / You're gaining fame and claiming credibility / Tell me baby are you gonna get high as a kite? / Tell me baby are you gonna let it happen every night / How can you expect to be taken seriously? / You live within the law, and everyone assumes / You must find this a bore, and try something new / You're an intellectual giant, an authority / To preach and teach the whole world about ecology / Tell me baby are you gonna make any other claim? / Tell me baby are you gonna take any of the blame? / How can you expect to be taken seriously?” the band makes a pretty strong indictment against the superstars who take on issues only to bolster their own popularity. The Pet Shop Boys manage to educate and enlighten while entertaining and their railing against entertainers who stop singing and dancing and performing just to preach is called out well by the lines of this song.

It is also arguably why it never gained much traction. Criticizing the current, vacuous flavor-of-the-month on the charts is alienating and the Pet Shop Boys discovered that with this song. But even for fans who do like the song, there are better ways to get the radio edit of it than the one-track disc. This is for the serious Pet Shop Boys fans only: everyone else can get the commercial release with the bonus tracks and be much happier for it.

For other c.d. single reviews, please check out:
Wonderwall - Oasis
Don't Look Back In Anger - Oasis
Right Beside You - Sophie B. Hawkins


For other music reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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  1. I've never heard about a 1-track promo cd-single of "Seriously". It's also not listed on the extensive discography website psb-discography.com

    Can you supply further details about this 1-track promo, like a catalog number, etc? Is it American or European? Is something like a version title listed behind the song title, such as "perfect attitude mix"?

  2. Hi!

    Thanks for the comment. As I tried to make clear in the review (possibly did not, sorry!) the one-track was the one given to U.S. radio stations for airplay. Some of these have made it out into the marketplace.


  3. Hello W.L,
    I did understand the things you mention, but like I said: I've never heard about a 1-track US promo, nor is that item listed on the discography website I mentioned.

    Are you able to supply any details, like some kind of catalog number, a remix title, etc.

    "Seriously" was released as a seperate single in the USA. In Europe, the song was a double AA-side, together with "Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)".

  4. Sorry, I don't have that information (or the disc anymore). Most of the reviews I have are actually a few weeks old; I'm getting them off another site I used to write for and blogging them myself. The site I used to write for used to actually have a lot of one-track, radio release singles in their database. I happened to get ahold of some as part of my library's efforts, but all of them have since been returned. Sorry!


  5. Hi ! I don't know about this one-track cd too but Seriously is one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys songs. I've bought both the U.S. maxi cd single which contains 6 tracks and the european maxi cd single which contains 4.

    My only regret about it is that the Brothers in Rhythm single mix is dreadful compared to the original "Behavior" album version. I'm sure that this would have been a huge hit if they had released the album version instead.

    But they didn't and it flopped (figures), so the boys didn't even include it in any of their hits compilations (and there are 3 now : discography, popart and ultimate !).

    It's a shame because in its original "remixed by the pet shop boys themselves" form, it had much more energy and potential. And the lyrics are (like it's often the case with the boys) very witty and ironical.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      With 1-track singles, it is VERY hard to get a recommendation from me; it's such a poor use of the medium!

      Thanks for reading!

  6. I understand you very well. That's the reason I don't like those promotional cd that are sent to radio stations with only one track on them, it's such a waste.

    To me, a single doesn't even deserve to be called a single if it doesn't have 2 tracks minimum. (and I'd say 10 tracks at least for an album).

    1. Most companies don't even make singles anymore . . . except for radio stations!