Song #40: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” — Bonnie Tyler (1984)
Song #41: “Closer” — Nine Inch Nails (1994)
“We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks!”
Ahhhh, the Guilty Pleasure. A song so bad it comes back around to something — sublime. Well okay, maybe not sublime, but awe inspiring for sure, as in your jaw will drop for sure. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is just such a song, one so bombastic and ridiculous it achieves something akin to greatness. Or, something.
The Bonnie Tyler hit came out the semester my girlfriend at IUP broke up with me, and my rampant self-pity initially gave me little defense against its purple prose. And then I saw — the video. One night at a house party I was forced to take refuge from my ex and her new boyfriend, and hid out in a room where someone had left MTV on. “WHAT the HELL was THAT?” was all I could muster after it was done. The… it… uh… oh just watch it:
There is no possible response to this other than bafflement and derision.
The thing is, you make fun of something long enough, you begin to appreciate it in a way. For years, whenever we popped our ‘guilty pleasure’ quiz on friends, this was my pick. It’s awful, in that overly-earnest way so many Meatloaf songs are rendered, but, like Mr. Loaf’s operatic delivery, it can also be quite a bit of fun. And of course, it was eminently entertaining to mock, as so many people have done so well since the arrival of youtube:
Strangely enough, TEOTH developed a cult following among musicians, even if it was mostly ironic, and there are now dozens — dozens! — of cover versions available for sale on iTunes. After a while I realized “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was popular enough I could no longer claim it as a guilty pleasure on my tax return. (It has since been replaced by “anything from The Alan Parson’s Project.”)
If the angsty Judy Blume-stylings of “Total Eclipse” represent one end of the pop culture spectrum of what love is ‘supposed’ to be, then Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” is at the other. Pure. Animal. Sex. Nothing hidden, nothing held back. Passion so naked and raw it leaves scratch marks on your back. Then there’s the video, which also held nothing back. (VNSFW, as if you didn’t know). I rather like this artsy take on the unrated director’s cut though:
Unapologetic, “Closer” is a master’s degree in carnal knowledge. And, for as disturbing as some of the imagery is in the video, it is far more honest about love and relationships and the pain they bring than the cheese sandwich that is “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”