Commercial Break: Goldey & Creme Don’t Know How to Play [GTA IV]
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 18, 2008
You cheat, you lie
There are some hit songs that just don’t seem co-optable. Songs whose very presence in the pop sphere are so bizarrely anonymous, practically asymptotal in the first place, that you have trouble believing that they ever existed at one point, much less that they could be re-appropriated at a later date to further a separate agenda. So when I heard the new commercial for the PC version of GTA IV–already a cutting edge ad campaign by soundtracking standards for their use of LCD Soundsystem’s “Time to Get Away” and the Greenskeepers’ “Vagabond”–I refused to believe my ears to the sounds of the swelling synth-strings, pulsating bass line and wafty guitar line. For I knew those sounds, and they could not possibly belong to the song I thought they belonged to. But yes, lo and behold, Grand Theft Auto IV was basing a new promotional video around Godley & Creme’s “Cry.”
Godley & Creme in general were a very odd phenomenon. Their history, between their numerous bands, side projects and collaborations, can be traced through nearly thirty years of pop music, from Hotlegs’ unfortunately forgotten late-60s one-hit “Neanderthal Man,” through a whole bunch of 70s megahits with 10cc (“The Things We Do for Love,” “Dreadlock Holiday,” “I’m Not in Love”), and into the music video era with a bunch of the most innovative clips of the time (Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Two Tribes,” Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It,” Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill”). Oh, and one of them is named Lol, which should’ve turned into a half-decent internet meme sometime this century (still might, I suppose). Still, the only reason why you’d ever hear of them on their own is probably the clip they made for their own hit as a duo, the morph-happy, “Black or White”-foreshadowing vid for “Cry.”
The clip itself, while no longer particularly technically impressive in 2008, must’ve been a real doozy back in 1985, because it got the public to send a song that had no business being anywhere near a top 40 station to #16 on the pop charts. Not that “Cry” is a bad song–I adore it, and it currently ranks just below Positive K’s “I Got a Man” as the song I’m most pissed off about never being able to find at karaoke bars–but it’s, welll..it’s probably the wussiest song ever written. There are songs that are more effeminate out there, maybe, and songs that are possibly more embarrassing, but no song that I can think of has ever been as nakedly weak and vulnerable as this.
It’s a song written entirely about hurt feelings–specifically, the lead singer’s. He’s not angry, he’s not placing blame, he’s not trying to explain himself or get back together or anything. It’s just a whole world of sad. “You don’t know how to easy my pain / YOU DON’T KNOW!!!” “You don’t know what the sound is darlin’ / That’s the sound of my tears falling.” And of course, “You don’t know how to play the game / And you cheat / you lie / YOU MAKE ME WANNA CRYYYY-YYYYYYYY!!!” The song’s titular proclomation isn’t even a statement of quiet integrity, like the Temps’ “I Wish it Would Rain Down” or Smokey’s “Tears of a Clown”–he’s not saying that he’s crying over his loved one, he’s saying that his loved one makes him want to cry. ‘Coz, y’know, she’s a big meanie.
And of course, the music doesn’t exactly help. If it was a more stately production, perhaps, with big drums, a huge guitar solo, and a nice, effective coda to close out, it could’ve masqueraded as just a particularly self-pitying power ballad of sorts. But instead, the song just plods along, more ethereal than rocking and not nearly grand enough for encore status. Even worse, the song’s rhythm section is not-so-subtly structured to sound like a heartbeat, just in case the song’s subject matter forgot which part of the singer’s body they were breaking. And when you think the song can’t outpour its emotions any more wallowingly, they start kicking it up octave after octave in the song’s finale–“Cryyyyyyy…. / Crryyyyyyy….. / CRYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!” Dear lord.
And yet…this is the song Rockstar games has most recently deemed fit to promote their ultraviolent, ultrasexualized and decidedly unwussy franchise video game. I am sort of powerless to defend this position, only able to posit that before the vocals come in, the song is does have a sort of widescreen cinematic effect to it that works well with some of the shots, and that once the violence inevitably appears in the commercial, there’s a marginally effective irony at work. Also, the use of “Cry” in promotion of action is not entirely unprecedented, as there’s an entire Miami Vice episode finale (with Ted Nugent, remarkably enough) that uses the song as its backdrop–and no one knew soundtracking in the 80s like Michael Mann and the MV crew. So maybe they know something I don’t.
Honestly, though, I’d probably stick with Eazy-E for these. For future reference.