10 Years, 100 Songs: #61. “This Heart Will Start a Riot in Me…”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 5, 2009
Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.
It was a sobering day in my existence when I first learned of High School Musical. Something like six of the songs from the movie debuted on the Billboard charts on the same day, one of them as high as the top five, a sure sign of a genuine pop culture phenomenon. And not only did I not care about it–I had no fucking clue what it was. I had never heard of it from anyone, hadn’t the foggiest idea who Zac Efron or Vanessa Anne Hudgens were, couldn’t possibly imagine how something had apparently gotten so unbelievably popular without it even making the slightest register on my radar. And then it hit me as clear as day–I was old. Well, not old, precisely–I was still only 20 at the time, not even of legal drinking age–but I was on my way out from the realm of the young, and I would have to make peace with the fact that High School Musical would be the first of a long line of emerging youth movements that I simply would not be a part of. I knew that day had to come eventually, and once I wrapped my head around it, I more or less made peace with the idea. I just hoped as I grew older, that even if I was no longer to relate to the pop culture that would come to define future generations, that I would at least be able to understand it.
That was one of the reasons I was so glad when Paramore really broke huge in late ’07 / early ’08. They were clearly of an era after mine–firey lead singer Hayley Williams was even a few years younger than I was, and rather than acknolwedging Nirvana and Green Day as the bedrock bands of their youth, Paramore covered the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World. When I heard smash breakout “Misery Business,” I recognized the self-righteousness and angst that I had not actually felt myself in about a half-decade. But I was also instantly able to see why the kids loved them–I saw the spunkiness and charisma of a young Gwen Stefani, the snotty energy of mid-90s Offspring, and at least a couple thematic and fashion-based lifts from early Avril Lavigne. The songwriting was still a little bit raw, but once they got there, I was confident that they would prove to be one of the most important rock bands for the next generation of modern rock fans, and I was very OK with that.
They arrived there sooner than I expected. “Misery Business” proved that Paramore had balls (relatively speaking), and follow-up “CrushCrushCrush” showed that they had brains as well (still the only rock song in recent memory to point out the unmatchable allure of a quiet evening alone), but third single “That’s What You Get” was the one that showed they had heart, too–and when you’ve got those three things, you’re in pretty good shape. “That’s What You Get” also showed up with a hard-earned confidence that seemingly only comes with a couple of quality hit singles under the belt, the guitars and drums hammering from the very beginning on the intro, like the band had now officially arrived, and no longer cared to waste time with frivolities. Before Hayley has even sung a note, the song had unapologetically commanded the audience’s attention, practically clearing out a path for her to properly do her thing on the song’s verses.
The key to the verses is how they seemingly pack four beats’ worth of song into three-beat measures. Songs in 3/4 time are supposed to sound like waltzes, but the verses to “That’s What You Get” just sound like a song being performed by a band so antsy that they can’t help but keep skipping ahead a beat. It works brilliantly, as Williams seems particularly emotionally fidgety on this song, sounding mixed up and hopelessly unsure (“I can’t decide / You have made it harder just / To go on,” “How am I supposed to feel / when you’re not here? / ‘Coz I burned / Every bridge I ever built / When you were here”), her good judgement all in tatters as the result of an emotionally perplexing relationship. The missing beats keep up that fabulous tension throughout ech of the verses, until guitarist Josh Farro greatly simplifies things with one loud guitar chord, leading the way for the song’s chorus to clear things up just a little bit. And really, the chorus does a perfect job of that, totaling the entire song with one line (and some whoa-ohs, of course)–“That’s what you get when you let your heart win.” By then, the song’s gone back to a simple four/four, as if Hayley was able to properly gather her thoughts for the first time in the song. She even offers a basic explanation for her scattered behavior: “I drowned out all my sense with / The sound of its beating”–one of the best, most concise summations of love-induced craziness in 21st century rock.
The best of the song is saved for the last verse, though. Not nearly as frenzied as the first two, Hayley just seems to be pleading for some kind of sanity amidst the confusion (“Pain / make your way to me, to me / And I’ll always be / Just so inviting”) before delivering the song’s killer climactic line, and sneaking in a reference to the song’s album title while she’s at it: “If I ever start to think straight / This heart will start a riot in me.” There’s one final chorus after that line, which temporarily turns the song into an all-ages singalong, and in which Hayley pulls that old songwriting vet trick of changing a repeated line for the last time out, as the second part of the chorus becomes “Now I can’t trust myself with / Anything but this.” Then the slamming guitar-and-drum part that introduced the song comes back to bookend it, and we’re out–all in all, four of the craftiest, catchiest and most emotionally striking minutes of pop-punk to be found throughout the entire Naughty Oughties.
To Paramore’s extreme credit, “That’s What You Get” proved to be a grower–not a huge smash chart-wise, but a song that stuck around modern rock radio and FUSE TV perhaps longer than even the more nominally successful “Misery Business”–it even became an unexpected Rock Band favorite around these parts, though unfortunately singing the “woah-oh-ah-oh-oh” parts an octave lower saps a little bit of the enthusiasm out of them. Paramore were rewarded for their patience with the song with the more immediate chart success of “Decode,” their highly underrated contribution to the Twilight soundtrack, which proved they could handle big-budget, Evanescence-style atmospherics and theatrics as well as they could their quainter emo-pop stylings. It also did the band the favor of permanently associated them with the decade’s second-most-pronounced pop culture phenomenon to be the sole province of the young–an all-too-rare example of film and music synergy in a decade that saw the soundtrack fade into irrelevancy, and one that I’d hope keeps up for the rest of the series.
The kids are all right, it would seem. Good to know.
(Have any thoughts or rememberances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)
The List So Far:
100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia”
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)”
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly”
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar”
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious”
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space”
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below”
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
90. Cassie – “Me & U”
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater”
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’”
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel”
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood”
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over”
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent”
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It”
81. 311 – “Amber”
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite”
79. Nas – “Made You Look”
78. Royksopp – “Eple”
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha”
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)”
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet”
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz”
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes”
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone”
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!”
67. Incubus – “Stellar”
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together”
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard”
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie”
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure”
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite”
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get”