In 1981 Kraftwerk’s legendary electronic classic “Numbers” launched a musical revolution. “Numbers” was the musical platform that inspired the electro r&b hits “Play at Your Own Risk” by Planet Patrol and “Planet Rock" by Afrika Bammbattaa and the Soul Sonic Force. Coupled with the advent of rap music “Numbers” goes down in history as being a spark that would help ignite the musical genre we know today as hip-hop. Years later in the 21st century this trend setting classic is still influencing young electricians like Ganymede and W.I.T who gave us the “Numbers” influenced electronic gems “Are You Falling In Love Again?” from Ganymede’s “Euromantique” CD and “Hold Me, Touch Me” from W.I.T’s “Whatever It Takes” CD.
But “Numbers” was not the only ‘80’s synthetic single to have a major impact on musical trends. New Order’s hi-nrg electronic classic “Blue Monday” put a new face on dance music giving it a faster harder and darker edge, at the same time it gave synth popsters new and exciting electronic tricks to toy with. With rapid fire drum beats, haunting guitars and wicked synth work “Blue Monday” became an instant electronic classic. The pop potential of New Order’s timeless concoction did not go unnoticed by trendy pop bands like Dead or Alive, Bronski Beat and Bananarama. These bands and many others mined the gold of “Blue Monday” and came up with a rich cache of radio ready pop hits.
The electronic miners who benefited most from New Order’s “Blue Monday” were the Stock-Aitken-Waterman team of PWL. This team saw the synthetic hi-nrg electronic potential of New Order’s “Blue Monday” and used it as a platform to create synthesized dance club and radio mega hits and it became the foundation on which the PWL Empire was built. The PWL team used the “Blue Monday” template to create the monster smash “Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)” by British pop/dance icon Hazell Dean in 1984. This “Blue Monday” clone was the catalyst that essentially created the “The Sound of Young London” the PWL sound. But it is what the PWL team did with “Blue Monday” and underground cult movie icon Divine that would create some of their best and legendary work.
Using Divine as a conduit for the release of their brand of frantic electricity PWL used him as a musical instrument just as they would their Linn’s and Yamaha’s. PWL realized that Divine could do more with a song than simply sing it, with a demeanor like a junk yard guard dog he could give it a vicious personality. PWL stripped “Blue Monday” down to it’s hi-nrg base and then force fed it through Divine who would then release it in seething waves of synthesized electrical acid that would eat through everything including your brain. Aimed more at the dance and alternative crowd PWL’s work with Divine was not like the elegantly produced frothy pop of Kylie Minogue, it was dark seedy uncompromising and dangerous. The sparsely produced nature of these songs made them raw, mean, nasty, menacing and evil electrical powerhouses that matched the larger than life persona of Divine. The first of the records was the outrageously delightful “You Think You’re A Man”. Like Hazell Dean’s “Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)” it was another “Blue Monday” clone but it made no room for the sweet trappings of pop music and got down and dirty spitting caustic electricity all over the place. With the next Divine single the PWL team took “Blue Monday” a step forward, actually it was a step backward as the PWL electricians broke “Blue Monday” down to it’s basic core components of raw undiluted electricity and drum beats that raced like a heart during an anxiety attack. This created the incredibly sensational unbelievable frenetic electronic monster piece “I’m So Beautiful”.
Years before techno/trance there was “I’m So Beautiful”, it is hard electricity with haunting synth washes, pulse pounding beats and a trance-ish middle. Divine snaps and growls as moody keyboards moan out an eerie synth wash giving the song a dark edge. With chugging, throbbing, aching keyboards and rapid-fire drumbeats fired from a synthetic assault rifle this song is one of the best pieces of work put out by PWL.
PWL was so pleased with this production that they used some of it’s electronic tricks in the tune “I Wanna Be A Toy” from Dead Or Alive’s PWL produced still quakin’, still shakin’ “Youthquake” CD.
“I’m So Beautiful” doesn’t exactly duplicate the sound of “Blue Monday” it uses it as a template, reconstructing it yet retaining its original urgent synthetic energy. One listen to “I’m So Beautiful” and it becomes apparent that if not for the “Blue Monday” blueprint things may not have been so, beautiful. As Linn’s tommy-gun shoots rapid fire bpm’s through your mind the song takes on a electrical hi-nrg identity of it’s own. It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s sinister and it is indeed beautiful. Like a powerful illegal drug the enveloping electrical darkness of “I’m So Beautiful” gets inside you and fries your brain to a crisp leaving you glassy eyed and drooling. So when Divine screams out “I’m So Beautiful” you agree because with the state you’re mind is in everything looks good to you, it’s ecstasy, pure ecstasy.
Remember that growl that Roy Orbison makes in his oldies radio classic “Pretty Woman”? Well Divine’s growls in “I’m So Beautiful” make Mr. Orbison sound like a timid little kitten as Divine comes across like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s roaring trademark Leo the lion. Divine censors himself as he belts out the lyrics of “I’m So Beautiful” with a voice that roars like a tractor-trailer engine. But the onslaught of the electronics cannot be censored as an electronic blitz pounds out the expletive message that the demure lips of Divine cannot utter, “I’m f*cki*g beautiful and if you don’t think so I’ll kick your g*d*amn m*th*f_*king a*s, you f*-king piece of sh#t, so you can kiss my mu*h#f*cking fat electronic a#s”….it’s electronics with a major AT-TI-TUDE, and it’s wonderful, just wonderful.
Divine dominates “I’m So Beautiful” inhaling it, chewing it up and spitting out harsh mind-numbing electrical arcs. In one of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films a cackling Freddy Kruger is behind the wheel of a runaway school bus terrorizing frightened teenagers, that’s what Divine’s “I’m So Beautiful” is like. Only in Divine’s case the thundering electricity of “I’m So Beautiful’ is like a runaway locomotive and Divine is the twisted conductor behind the controls cackling out his hearty throaty growling intimidating laugh as big hair is flying wildly in the wind. Like a WWF tag team Divine and the PWL machine vocally and electronically mow down every thing in their path.
“I’m So Beautiful” has stood the test of time with excellent aplomb, its electrical energy retains it full potent strength sounding like a piece from the 21st century and not an archeological finds from the 1980’s. PWL teaming with Divine made for an incredible and unforgettable hi-voltage combination. “I’m So Beautiful” is an incredible slice of electronica as everything is done absolutely right. For me it’s the best thing the PWL crew has ever done, from vocals to electronics it’s so beautiful.
As for “Blue Monday” the song that is responsible for the birth of “I’m So Beautiful” it to has stood the test of time. It now influences young electricians of the 21st century as artist like Echo Image, Ladytron and many others construct their synth sculptures with tools found in the “Blue Monday” electronic toolbox.
Don’t burn it, buy it.