Kool and the Gang – Celebration

First Hit #1: February 7, 1981

I’m going to have to admit, I don’t like Celebration. The fact that it’s incredibly overplayed doesn’t help – it continues to pop up whenever someone wants to have a celebration, which makes a degree of sense – but my main problem is that the song itself is so calculated, even if it’s arguably a fairly well constructed song.

The issue is that it’s so vague, so fitting for any celebration, with a fairly simple dance beat and a nicely done chorus of voices to get people excited. It is a song for celebrations, it sounds celebratory, almost as if it was deliberately designed to be just that, a bit of background music for stuff which it has been decreed represents a potential good time. It just sounds so calculated, and reduces the free-form joy that represents celebrating into a mechanical and corporate disc of vinyl, then plastic, and eventually just plain data. The song tells you what it wants, what you’re expected to take away from it, and where it is to be played. It is squarely on the commerce side of that intersection of art and commerce.

I don’t know if this opinion is driven by any flaws in the song or simple overexposure, but I can’t glean any fun from the song, it’s just too perfect for its little pigeon hole. Feel free to berate me for hating fun.

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One Response to Kool and the Gang – Celebration

  1. Robert Berman says:

    Picking on poor Kool and the Gang! For shame! I kid. But I’m also not sure why they get critiqued for allegedly pandering to partygoers for commercial gain, while Dolly Parton gets to be “incredibly smart” while fanning the flames of class warfare by pandering to the proletariat 9-to-5 workers who are convinced they are “just a step on their boss man’s ladder.” Country music has a long history of such antics. See also: “Take This Job and Shove It”, plus the different sort of pandering, I mean populism, in the zillion “Southern Pride” songs that have made the Country Top Ten. Really, very few of these Number One songs were written by people who wouldn’t have sold their souls to reach that pinnacle, if that Faustian option had actually been available. Not jaded John Lennon circa 1981, but even struggling John Lennon circa 1963.

    If it helps: In its original heyday, “Celebration” was used less in its modern role of calling out actual celebrations (birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, wedding receptions) as such, and more as a song you might hear on the radio while sitting in your cubicle at work, “waiting for the day your ship will come in” (in Dolly’s words). In that context, “a party going on right here, a celebration to last around the year” (in Kool’s words) took on rather a different meaning.

    I can also confirm firsthand that when either song came on the loudspeakers at the skating rink, the arcade emptied out, and the skate floor filled up.

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