Saturday, May 29, 2010
"Funkytown" by Lipps, Inc. (1980)
“Funkytown” proves something very rarely considered but widely accepted: that a strong composition absolutely transcends genre and era. “Funkytown” is one of those very rare things in music: a universal. What I mean by that is that, technically, it's a late-era disco/pop cross-over, and technically it is from that grey area between the 70s and the 80s (chronologically, I mean: though sonically that's appropriate too), having been released in January 0f 1980. But none of that matters: I have a feeling that if you played it in the roughest C&W honky-tonk bar, somehow it would be accepted and loved. Why? Well, one thing about the song is how completely unassuming it is: not a drop of attitude or bad vibes. It's just a simple, breezy pop song with no agenda whatsoever. So no reason to dislike it, right? More importantly though: it's just a well-crafted song, packed with incident. It has that timeless keyboard riff, it has those guitars in the chorus. It had a chorus, and verses, and linking bits, and it progresses from one part to another with an indisputable logic. It was catchy and it was fun. It wasn't wildly funky, but it had a touch of the funk – enough to justify the title anyway. Still, it made people feel funky while listening to it, and it's one of those songs that lets people dance as badly, and un-self-consciously, as they want: without delving too heavily into cliché, it does take people to... well, to a place where music is fun and you can enjoy it without pretense.
It fit, decades later, into the sountrack of a cartoon, Shrek 2, with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever. With nothing changed or updated, it was suddenly a 21st century kids' song. And why not? All things to all people, there is nothing “Funkytown” can't be, no shape of a hole this square peg won't fit effortlessly into.