Sunday, September 13, 2020

"It's a Sin" by Pet Shop Boys

Top 10 Alert!

Song#:  3256
Date:  09/05/1987
Debut:  70
Peak:  9
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Pet Shop Boys' 1986 debut album Please became a platinum success reaching #7 thanks to two Pop Top 10 hits including the #1 "West End Girls." Following its success, the duo retreated to the studio to record a follow-up. It would be titled Actually and this first single got things kicked off. In their UK homeland, the song was a major hit topping the chart for three weeks. In the US, the tune steadily climbed the chart until it finally became their third Pop Top 10. It also got to #3 at Dance.

ReduxReview:  The timing of this post is odd, yet fitting, publishing on a Sunday. The lyrics were sort of a satirical eff-u to band member Neil Tennant's Catholic school upbringing and at least one former teacher wasn't too pleased spouting off in the press. Tennant's lyrics courted a little controversy as did the tune's melody (see below), but it all worked in favor of the song with it hitting #1 in the UK. At the time I loved the track. It was the height of theatrical excess for the duo and I bought into it. I wasn't sure if the rest of the US would, but luckily it cracked the Top 10. What is unusual about the song is the lengthy opening. Typically, a pop song will have reached (or even finished) its chorus by the 1 minute mark. Vocals on this track don't even start until 45 seconds in with the chorus beginning around the 1:18 mark. That's a long time in the pop world to make folks wait for a hook, yet the song was strong enough to keep folks interested while building to the chorus. I still like the song, but these days I'm less intrigued by the bombastic 80s production, which kind of overwhelms the track. I prefer when the Boys are more sparse and less dramatic as I think it serves their songs better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Not long after this song hit #1 in the UK, it became a subject of controversy. Jonathan King, a singer/songwriter/producer who had also been a TV show host and a columnist in The Sun (a UK tabloid newspaper), publicly accused Pet Shop Boys of stealing the melody of Cat Stevens' 1971 hit "Wild World" and using it for "It's a Sin." He talked about it on the radio and wrote about it in The Sun. King, who himself wasn't shy about creating controversy, was so adamant about his accusations that he went into a studio and recorded his own version of "Wild World" in a synthpop/dance style like "It's a Sin" just to prove his point. It was released as a single, but it failed to chart. Pet Shop Boys were not going to take King's accusations lying down and sued him for libel. The case didn't get very far with King settling out of court with the duo. Pet Shop Boys then donated the settlement to charity. Under his own name or pseudonyms, King scored five Top 10 hits in the UK in the 70s and 80s. He also set up a record label (UK Records), hosted and produced the Brit Awards for a few years, and was involved in finding the UK entry for Eurovision in the 90s, which culminated in the 1997 winner "Love Shine a Light" by Katrina & the Waves. King also was the first person to sign a little teenage band that he would christen Genesis. King would produce the band's first album, 1969's From Genesis to Revelation. It was unsuccessful and the band parted ways with King. Their next LP, 1970's Trespass, would kickoff their career. King later found himself in trouble when he was investigated for child (teenage) sexual abuse in 2000. It led to a trial where King was found guilty and sentenced to serve seven years in prison. After serving four, he was paroled. He was again arrested in 2018 and brought up on charges, but the handling of the investigation by the police came under scrutiny and the trial cancelled. King adamantly proclaimed his innocence throughout it all.


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