Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some things were meant to be.

Time to defend another product of overpopularity and subsequent backlash with yet another installment of "Defending the Defenseless."

Defending the Defenseless

UB40 - Can't Help Falling in Love
From: Promises and Lies

I've never met anyone that owns a proper UB40 studio album. I know plenty of people with a "Best of" collection or two, but even they seem to have those on grounds of "Oh... I kind of liked that one song, I suppose I should have this?"

For most people, that "one song" is "Red, Red Wine," and while that's a nice enough cover of Neil Diamond (Diamond, in fact, found it a little too nice and openly complained that the band had misinterpreted the lyrics due to their happy musical backing), it's also one of those songs you can only really stand to hear at some summer barbecue every three years. Seriously. If you heard it in July 2006 and then listened to it this past July, you probably would've said "Didn't I just hear this last year?" It's one of those.

While there's probably something to be said about a group of Brummies that specialize solely in reggae, UB40's largest selling point -- they're ability to virtually turn any song into a Birmingham reggae -- also works most strongly against them. Some songs were never meant to be reggaes (hello, "I Think It's Going to Rain Today"), and their schtick can spread itself a little thin every now and again. And again. And again.

Other songs, though, seem to benefit from their reggae touch, and mind you -- it's not so much authentic reggae as it is reggae, mixed with mid-1980s UK dub music. For whatever reason, "Can't Help Falling in Love With You," which was of course originally made famous by Elvis. Presley, that is. Not the guy that just said he may never play in England again.

The song was buried on their 1993 album Promises and Lies and may have resigned itself to obscurity had it not been for the movie "Sliver" -- one of those prestigious roles Sharon Stone surely locked up by having shown her "baby place" (as Hank Hill would say) the year before in "Basic Instinct." Apparently "Sliver" was popular, I obviously wasn't allowed to see it at the age of 11, and have yet to see it, but I guess it had some pretty racy stuff (by early 1990s standards) and was originally dealt an NC-17 rating. God knows Billy Baldwin and Tom Berenger weren't going to be half the box office draw that Stone's naked body was, so while it didn't have a lot going for it, at least someone decided to slide the UB40 song in as a good marketing move.

What I do remember is the UB40 video for "Can't Help Falling in Love" being all over VH1 that year and I think it even got them a spot on "Saturday Night Live" during what I now in all seriousness refer to as the show's golden years.

Listening to the song now, I question the validity of the beats being acoustic as opposed to processed, and while I know real horns were used in the video, I don't know about things when I listen to them here. It might not be TRUE reggae, then, in the spirit of things and it might work to annoy you about UB40 just a little further still, but stop and listen for a moment.

The ridiculously lush balladry is gone, there is actually a good beat there (even if it's not acoustic), and damned if this isn't the best the song's ever sounded.

I'm still not buying a UB40 album, though.



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