Thursday, 12 March 2009

1982 Irene Cara: Fame

Recorded in 1980 as for the soundtrack of the eponymous film, 'Fame' didn't get a single release in the UK until two years later when the TV series it also soundtracked took off.

For a song celebrating an Academy of music and dance, 'Fame' is a surprisingly limp listen. Instead of some James Brown type funky walking bassline, the backbone of the song is driven by a blaring keyboard riff that struggles to impose any kind of structure on the track and it's not helped by the pretty feeble programmed drums that are buried well down in the mix.

Ultimately, it's reliant on Cara's classic gospel shout to maintain order, making it just as well that 'Fame' is essentially one big shouty chorus on auto repeat for virtually the whole running time of the song. There are verses there, but Cara can't wait to rush through them to get to the chorus which kicks in after barely twenty five seconds. And it's a laser guided nuclear missile of a chorus that every man, woman and child will instantly recognise:

"Remember my name

I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly"

Hell, even your dog would know it and be able to sing along. Inspirational and aspirational, 'Fame' in 1982 possessed a positive message that everyman could relate to and the song had an existence outside the context of the New York High School of Performing Arts storyline.

Hearing it again in the twenty first century though, you can't help but be reminded of the recent vogue for endless TV talent and reality shows where media hungry wannabes struggle to achieve fame for it's own sake regardless of talent, and this pursuit dilutes the message of the song somewhat by altering its meaning to modern sensibilities as surely as it would if some wag decided to use 'Blowing In The Wind' in a baked beans commercial.

But you can blame neither the writers nor Cara for the foibles of modern life that have made 'Fame' a song out of time. No such considerations applied in 1982 where the track won an Academy Award for best original song, and 'Fame' is probably best remembered and best appreciated in it's proper context - a song as 'eighties' as legwarmers and pastel suits.

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