Mr. Mister – Broken Wings

First Hit #1: December 7, 1985

I’m going to start off on a wild tangent and hopefully it all ties in at the end.

I’m currently shopping for a new car. My old car isn’t bad, and I might even keep it, but the old car is familiar, and I’ve had it for about four years already. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar, and I like it. But there are new cars out there, with new things and clever features. I find myself shopping not because I need a new car, but because I like the novelty of getting one.

In a sense, this is why trends build and fade. Whether we like the old stuff or not, it becomes too familiar, too comfortable and we want a change into something a bit novel and exciting. Or, of course, we decide to sit in our familiar environment for the rest of our lives, that could also happen. But in a field like pop music, novelty is a big deal, because it’s driven by youth, and youth are much more interested in the new and exciting than the old pair of shoes that’s perfectly fine.

So, like my old car, there’s a point in pop music when the trends get a bit too comfortable and one starts to crave novelty again. With my car, it was this February. With ’80s trends, it was Broken Wings.

It’s a fine song, but it’s so much of the era that I can’t really approach it on its own terms. It just is 80s music, big chorus, lots of synthesizers. I’ve praised this stuff before, and I actually generally kind of like Broken Wings outside of this context, but while it’s a comfortable sound that I generally approve of, I’m sitting here wishing the prevailing trend would move on. So just as I want a new car, I want a new trend, a break with the prevailing ideas of ’80s music. That’s one of the tough things about this project and following pop music as a whole – the shift in trends moves slightly slower than one’s tolerance of them.

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One Response to Mr. Mister – Broken Wings

  1. RBerman says:

    If you think it’s tedious to walk through the 80s in this fashion, imagine the excruciating ennui of living through it! Kidding. Obviously the needs of the music critic are different from those of the listening public, who displayed impressive willingness to listen to minor variations on the same theme repeatedly from the likes of Chubby Checker, Lionel Richie, and Nickelback.

    Which brings us to Mr. Mister, one of those interesting cases in which a band pulls a one-two punch at the top of the charts and yet vanishes forever without leaving any sort of permanent mark. The two songs (the other being “Kyrie”) share a vague spirituality owing to Richard Page’s church background, but stylistically, the latter is joyous bombast, while the former is all brooding mystery, with a Knopfleresque honking guitar like a lonely wail in the distance. The relationship has fallen apart; He wants it to fly again, but they can’t even hold hands now. So yes, this is clearly an 80s song, awash in string pads and drum programming, but one of the rare dark hits like “In the Air Tonight” or “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

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