Monday, February 06, 2006

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #19 - Kids In America by Kim Wilde

Alyson: Pop is a tricky beast to analyse on this list – I’m never sure we’re doing things justice when we analyse them. You could probably by now a make a serious distinction – there are 3 types of song on this list – songs that are on here for our own, biased personal reasons to give them a credit and a positive write up, songs that are on here because of their historical pop importance, and there are songs that need to be in here because they are fantastic and overwhelmingly fun, and because we’ve probably grown up singing them into our pink hairbrushes. Too often these “greatest songs” lists have all sorts of songs that no one knows, like a Tool B side, to show off the creators vast and fascinating knowledge, when no one is likely to want to play them for enjoyment, as if the sin of creating a fun, catchy pop song you can cherish by singing into your hairbrush and have fun to is a terrible thing. Kids In America, of course, is a definitive hairbrush classic.

Kim Wilde was the daughter of 60s pop star Marty Wilde, and was thrust forward into the world with Father Wilde pushing her forward as a new wave star and backing her all the way. Kim, especially early, never looked fully self confident in her role, blinking nervously through interviews and video clips, but doing her best and imbuing her songs with as much fun as possible. She would go on to do many great things with her pop career, not least of all the quite remarkable “Cambodia”, 1980s synth pop meets strident political statement She would find herself in the charts time and time again, before packing it all in and becoming a gardener. It’s strange that the Kim Wilde story seems to have fallen into the cracks of musical history, but with Kids In America, she should always be exalted when lists like this one are collated.

Kids In America would be in anyones synth pop hall of fame, bouncing along on a heavy early 80s keyboard beat, the perfect tune for all aspiring pop fans to dance along to (and probably, we fell in love with Kim for her nervous dancing in the film clip, which threatens but never quite manages to hit it’s stride). It’s an exhilarating and thrilling single shot of adrenalin through the pop system, celebrating pops ability to lift you out of a dirty town. Above all though, this song is definitively fun and funky, full of a delirious and giddy child like joy. If the ethos of Into The Groove is solving your woes through dance, Kids In America is about the power of imagination, that youth is best lived with pop on the stereo, and with an innocent joy that if you could just get out, that if you could get over to the other side of town, things would be an awful lot better. And there’s no question that for anyone, particularly girls of my age, it’s been turned up LOUD on a hi fi or record player, and serious joyous dancing is undertaken.

After all, Kim Wilde, an English genteel pop star, blinking nervously, extolling the virtues of the kids of east California, a world she didn’t know, with joyous, nervous energy and excitement? It’s hard to think of a more apt summation of Pops power to make you dream. Take THAT Bob Fackin Dylan.

Shane: What makes a pop song, well, POP? Is it the catchy lyrics, a chant that gets into you head and under your skin, simple yet brilliant riffs, or the ability for it to transport you back to how old you were when you first heard the song? Well, when you are talking about Kids In America, then you can answer yes to all of the above; in spades.

From the endless chants of Na Na Nanaaaa and the repetition of the title, to that keyboard that travels through at least half a dozen memorable riffs in the requisite 3 and a half minutes – KiA has it all.

Someone told me that the true mark of great pop is if it makes you, to quote Madonna, "dance for inspiration". There is no way that you can hear KiA and NOT dance – believe me, you WILL be dancing like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club within a minute. Or your money back. And you can't tell me that you, regardless of gender, haven't hairbrush mimed to this song at least one. I know I have, and was I inspired? You better believe I was. I was as inspired when I was a kid as I am to this day; and for that I salute you, Ms Wilde. Huzzah!

And now, on a more critical bent - the lyrics, which show us the eternally upbeat power of dancing and having an all in knees-up against the bleakness, cruelness and unkind nature of the city (as portrayed by the aforementioned keyboard, with their imitation of car horns and other modern annoyances). Even the shout-out to East California (take THAT, LA) is full of sheer unbridled positivity, the likes of which would not be touched upon until a little lady named Gibson plugged the kids into the mains.

And like it or not, THAT is the power of pop


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