Monday, December 28, 2020

"What Have I Done to Deserve This?" by Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3360
Date:  12/12/1987
Debut:  60
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The UK duo escaped the sophomore curse with their second studio album Actually going gold thanks to the #9 "It's a Sin" along with this even bigger follow-up. The duet with 60s UK blue-eyed soul star Dusty Springfield hit all the right notes and nearly topped the Pop chart. It was the duo's fourth Top 10 in the US. The song also got to #1 at Dance, their second to top that chart, and #14 AC.

ReduxReview:  In an article by Nick Levine in the UK music magazine NME, he stated of this song that "before it's even finished, you already want to play it again." I can't agree enough. The oddly structured song was loaded with hooks and it ended up being very influential on me. Mainly because it was the way I discovered Dusty Springfield. I was slightly familiar with her because I was familiar with her first hit, 1963's "Wishin' and Hopin'" (#6 US Pop). Other than that, I knew nothing. But her voice on the song fascinated me and so I dove deeper and the first stop was her beyond classic 1968 recording Dusty in Memphis. After I heard that, I was utterly hooked. I've been a huge Dusty fan since then. Selecting her for this track was an inspired choice. Her husky, soulful voice softened and gave life to Pet Shop Boys' more rigid and mechanical synthpop style. It was a match made in pop heaven. While I loved "West End Girls," for me this was, and still is, the duo's best moment on record.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was written by Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) along with Allee Willis. The structure of the song was a bit unusual. There was a spoken word part along with two sections that were quite different. Each part had its own distinctive hook, which is not like a typical pop song that has a verse and a catchy chorus. The song ended up this way because each composer wrote a part of the song and those three chunks were then stitched together. It was an unusual approach, but it worked out and made the song stand out from the normal pop chart fare.  2) The song had been written three years prior to it getting recorded and from the get-go, Neil Tennant had only one person in mind for the duet, Dusty Springfield. Springfield was a 60s music icon who earned nine Top 10 hits in the UK between '63 and '68. She was so popular that she even had her own TV variety series for four years. She was less popular in the US earning only three Top 10s in the same time period with her 1968 #10 hit "Son of a Preacher Man" arguably being her most iconic song in the States. That song was featured on her classic LP Dusty in Memphis, which continually appears on lists of the best albums of all time (#83 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest). Initially, the duo's label wasn't thrilled with the Springfield choice because she hadn't had a significant chart entry since 1970. They suggested Tina Turner or Barbra Streisand, but Tennant was adamant and after some coaxing, Springfield came on board. The hit helped revive her career and in 1989 Pet Shop Boys wrote and produced five tracks for Springfield's comeback album Reputation. Two of those tracks became Top 20 hits in the UK. Unfortunately, none of the singles made the US Pop chart, but the track "In Private" did get to #14 at Dance. Springfield would pass away in 1999 from breast cancer.


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