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10 Years, 100 Songs: #37. “Lucky, Lucky, You’re So Lucky…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 22, 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.

American pop in the Naughty Oughties was not terribly kind to our friends across the pond. Sure, we let a couple harmless piano-players past the velvet rope, and Estelle and Lady Sovereign got through for a minute with endorsements from Kanye and Jay-Z, but generally speaking, the biggest cultural UK phenoms of the decade–bands like The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, rappers like Dizzee Rascal and The Streets–were kept rather firmly at bay, not even allowed Oasis-in-’96 levels of exposure. Doing their damnedest to keep the Euro torch alive stateside, however, were dashing Scots Franz Ferdinand, who in everything from their dress (sleek and stylish) to their sense of rhythm (they had one) to their name (inspired by the Austrian prime minister whose assassination largely set off WWI), absolutely screamed “Y’all ain’t from around here.” They weren’t particularly innovative, but they certainly sounded like nothing else on the radio, and the fact that they were allowed modern rock airplay in between Velvet Revolver and Breaking Benjamin jams seemed damn near revolutionary.

“Take Me Out” was their breakout hit and their only song to really cross over, getting extensive MTV airplay, being featured in both Madden ’05 and the original Guitar Hero, and even getting the ultimate seal of commercial approval by being covered in a Weird Al Yankovic polka medley. It’s the first song of theirs I loved, it’s a stone classic, it’s the best song on their best album, and undoubtedly, it’s the song they will be most remembered for 20 years from now. But against my better judgement, I didn’t go with “Take Me Out’ for this list, but rather the lead single from their sophomore effort, You Could Have It So Much Better, “Do You Want To.” And that’s because while “Take Me Out” might be their most enduring song, I think “Do You Want To” is the song that much better encapsulates what it was about Franz Ferdinand that made them so cool and different and fun in an often turgid mid-00s rock scene. And hey, if such things matter to you–I also think it’s actually a better song.

Something that struck with me from the release of “Do You Want To” back in the summer of 2005 was a phrase that All-Music Guide writer Heather Phares used in describing the single, saying that it sounded like Franz Ferdinand taking a “victory lap.” Though she meant it somewhat pejoratively, I think she’s totally right–the song wasn’t a big statement, a forging in a new, unexpected direction, or really anything that sounds like Franz were really making an effort to step up their game. In fact, the song’s ’05 release came barely a year after the breakout success of “Take Me Out”–a shockingly swift return in this day and age–and it didn’t sound much more than a year-evolved from their debut. What’s more, it seemed to be imbued with all the arrogance and laziness that bands had the bad tendency to develop shortly after becoming rock stars, with the “Lucky, lucky, you’re so lucky” chant coming off as particularly asinine. Hell, the damn thing even sounded like it was recorded at the pace of a slow jog, while Franz took in their accolades and blew kisses to the crowd. It was, in just about every way, shape and form, a victory lap single.

But here’s the thing–perhaps no band in history, and certainly no band in the Naughty Oughties, was better fit to a victory lap single than Franz was. Smug? Arrogant? These things were already fairly accurate descriptors of Franz Ferdinand in general, except that they weren’t quite in a place to go totally all out with it while they were still languishing in relative obscurity (though critics on both sides were on them from their debut single, so they were never that obscure). But with a hit record under their belt, they had both the confidence and the justification to let their douche flag fly, to be as despicably smug and smarmy as they damn well pleased. In essence, they didn’t really become any more smug and arrogant–they just became more like themselves. It was like taking a straight shot of vodka after being weaned on alcohol through Screwdrivers and Bloody Marys–to those who weren’t really that interested in the first place, it was probably more than a little off-putting, but to those of us who were buying what they were selling from the get, it was pretty damn fine.

And what exactly were they selling? Well, a lot of things we certainly weren’t getting much of stateside. Thick come-ons. Trashy artiness. Vaguely danceable beats and full-band bridge breakdowns. Rampant homoeroticism. Despite an impressive and much-appreciated return of the synth in the second half of the decade, we didn’t get much of a real New Wave comeback from a fashion or cultural standpoint in the mainstream, so Franz Ferdinand felt like an entire 1982 revival packed into one band. And from the very first notes of the song, which instantly jumps into the pre-chorus (“And when I woke up tonight I said I-I-I-I / I’m gonna make somebody love me…”), the boys seemed determined to make the most of their alotted time in our hearts, which they certainly must have known would be fairly brief. They demanded your attention at all corners, whether they caught it with faux-shocking lyrical twists (“Your famous friend / Well, I blew him before you, oh yeah”), mildly insiduous backing vocals (some of the better “Do-Do”s of the decade) or just a killer guitar part (still love that grinding bridge).

The key part of the song, of course, is the previously mentioned end to the “make somebody love me” hook–“And now I know, now I know, now I know / I know that’s youuuu / You’re lucky lucky you’re so lucky!!!” It’s just too perfect, especially the cheesy vocal bend that lead singer Alex Kapranos does on the “youuu” and (seemingly) the entire band yelling the “so lucky” part. The lyric isn’t just smug, it’s downright insulting, and just in case they didn’t seem like assholes enough singing the line as a chorus hook, Franz also stick it in the song’s climax as an exit chant, even giving the chant a super-corny soft-loud crescendo. By the time it’s all over, it’s somewhat hilarious how much Franz seem to want you to hate them, but the whole thing is so exaggerated that it’s never doubtful that the band is in on it–or at least that they’re just too in love with themselves to notice or  give a fuck (which, for a band like Franz Ferdinand, would be just as good if not better).

It’s kind of funny–the song I always associate “Do You Want To” with is The Killers’ “When You Were Young,” another follow-up single to an unlikely smash debut, one that became big around the same time as Franz Ferdinand’s first effort. I loved both songs, but for entirely different reasons–unlike with “Do You Want To,” I admired how The Killers had changed things up  and set their sights a little higher, going bigger into near-U2 and Springsteen territory with the scope and production (and into near-Duran Duran territory with the music video). But whereas I probably like “Do You Want To” more now than I did when it was first released, I can barely even listen to “When You Were Young” anymore–it sounds like a band over-extending itself, of not quite understanding their identity or their limitations, of trying just a little bit too hard. Ultimately, I think The Killers and Franz Ferdinand were two very good bands that just weren’t quite at the level of the true greats, but while The Killers tried to shoot the moon anyway, Franz realized and accepted this and just decided to have as much fun as possible riding out the string. I admire The Killers for giving it their best, but it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s Franz’s later stuff that has aged much better.

And while Franz might not have been a great band, it’s not to say that they weren’t an important one. They made dance-rock an acceptable genre hybrid once more, helping to encourage disco-infused hit singles from such unlikely sources as Good Charlotte and Finger Eleven (whose “Paralyzer” is dangerously close to a straight rip of “Take Me Out”) in a way that underground discopunk revivalists like !!! and the DFA bunch probably never could have. And while it’s “Take Me Out” that gets the credit for most if not all of that, it’s “Do You Want To” that I now turn to on the jukeboxes and karaoke books, the one which reminds me how grateful I was and should be that a bunch of insufferable, self-satisfied Scotsmen crashed the brooding party of American rock and roll a half-decade ago.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances 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 (Now With Links!):

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
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold
37. Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To”

4 Responses to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #37. “Lucky, Lucky, You’re So Lucky…””

  1. Brent said

    Actually, Finger Eleven going disco on “Paralyzer” wasn’t wholly unlikely given that they started out as a bit of a Red Hot Chili Peppers rip off back in the 90s…that’s your cancon tidbit for the day. (Evidence: “Circles”)

    Personally I had the opposite reactions to yours on this and “When You Were Young” but I have a low tolerance for smugness at the best of times where as over-reaching is a lesser sin if only because the results are often more interesting than playing it safe. “Do You Want To” is the one time FF’s swagger went too far into smugness for their own good, and as a result I can barely listen to it anymore.

  2. MKA said

    Probably safe to assume that is the best video Franz ever did too. I don’t know if I’ll ever not enjoy such hammy mugging for the camera.

  3. Mitchell Stirling said

    If only Yancy voted.

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