Monday, February 20, 2012

Song #128 of 9999 - Our Lips Are Sealed by The Go-Go's

Song #128 of 9999

Title: Our Lips Are Sealed
Artist: The Go-Go's
Year: 1981
Album: Beauty and the Beat

It's 1981 now so let's start with something fun. Guitarist Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's and Fanboy Three singer Terry Hall have crafted a nearly perfect pop song in "Our Lips Are Sealed." (check out this link to hear the Fanboy Three version, a big hit in the UK) The song is so infectious it really is no wonder it remained on the charts in America for almost a year and has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Pop Songs of all time.

So what's so great about it? Aside from being just super-fun, with a spirited vocal track from Belinda Carlisle, "Our Lips Are Sealed" has some sneaky little harmonic and rhythmic tricks that make it pretty unique. It's essentially a three-chord pop song (I-bVII-IV), but the bit of the chorus that precedes the refrain is particularly clever. Starting with "Pay no mind to what they say..." we get the progression bVI-IV-bII-V before arriving at the tonic and the tagline. I can't even tell you how giddy that succession of chords makes me.

Later, during the bridge, we are treated to two lovely details in the arrangement: first, Jane Wiedlin's airy soprano delivering what will become a descant in the verse that follows; and second, a really cool bass line in the upper register layered over guitar arpeggios in 6/8 that create a polyrhythmic effect with the 4/4 in the drums. In this moment, it's as if the song could just float away! When the verse kicks back in and Wieldin continues to sing over Carlisle's lead vocal, it's one of the coolest moments in 1980s pop. (For what it's worth, as a 13-year-old, I was more interested in the splashing about in the fountain than the chord progression. :D )

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