Thursday, 6 August 2009

1987 Starship: Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now

There's pedigree here. Starship evolved out of seventies pomp rockers Jefferson Starship, who in turn evolved from the ashes of Jefferson Airplane, doyens of sixties acid rock psychedelia and led for the most part by Grace Slick (who also sings on this), the High Priestess of West Coast counterculture who wrote their anthem/funeral march 'White Rabbit' (but more of her later). 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' was written by Albert ('The Air That I Breathe', 'It Never Rains in Southern California') Hammond and the queen of eighties power balladry and patron saint of dry ice manufacturers, Diane Warren.

How much Hammond actually contributed to this is moot; 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' is four and a half minutes of eighties soft rock par excellence, the sort of stuff that Warren could churn out by the yard and which force feeds a 'building dreams together', 'never letting go' inspirational Reaganomics message, so beloved of the decade, down the throats of it's audience with the subtlety of a mallet pummelling food down a funnel.

It's a typically American world of never losing sight of your goals and whatever it takes dude yadda yadda that would have occasioned more than one teary group hug at Senior Prom, while the music grinds about its workmanlike business in the background with the efficiency of a bulldozer shifting sand and with just as much excitement or interest.

It's the sort of low gear drive that's built to illustrate and emphasise a succession of images (I don't think it's any co-incidence that 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' is taken from a film soundtrack) - a drum crack underscores a sudden look, a power chord details a car smashing through a window; fleeting images that hang together well in aesthetic yet meaningless two second bursts of sharp cutting but which fall away into the ether when any closer examination or contextualisation is attempted. Which is a bit like this song when taken in isolation, reverting it to a one key bore that mistakes shouting loudly with actually having something to say.

This isn't to particularly single out Starship as some kind of whipping boy(s). All this was a blight that affected an entire crop of eighties AOR designed with one eye on an MTV playlist and had this been recorded by Belinda Carlisle or Heart* etc, then it would have merely afforded the same eye rolling yawn of predictability I'd give a troupe of clowns who start a custard pie fight - you don't expect anything else of clowns right?

But it's the presence of Ms Slick in the song and the video that elicits a further emotion as well as same old, same old boredom; a crushing sense of disappointment and a feeling of being badly let down by someone who really should know better. Its like finding out your local vicar has been arrested for possessing child porn; the offence by itself is bad enough, but the identity of the offender somehow makes it all the worse, and her golly gosh pantomime exclamations on "Let 'em say were crazy, what do they know?" generates wince inducing embarrassment for someone so willing to trample all over her own legacy.

But that's one for Slick and her conscience to sort out. For the matter at hand, just about the best thing you can say about 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' is that it's not as drop dead awful as their previous 'We Built This City'. But as that song truly was Drop Dead Awful, I guess that's a case of damning with feint praise.

* Actually, Heart did record 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now', only they called their version 'All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You'. And it's worse. Far, far worse. Oh my god is it worse.

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