In honor of KWSS 93.9 FM’s Guilty Pleasures Fall Fundraiser at Last Exit Live on Saturday, November 23, a couple of Phoenix New Times writers reveal the music whose praise they do not speak aloud, but get down to when no one is looking.
Van Halen’s 'Why Can’t This Be Love'I’ve withheld a terrible truth from my loved ones, fearing that they would turn their backs on me after I admit that Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love” absolutely slaps.
There’s that gigantic keyboard vamp, Sammy Hagar’s Cheese Whiz vocal histrionics, the rock-steady beat, and the bit of wordless scatting to Eddie Van Halen’s guitar-playing. It is a sincere, big-hearted power ballad that doesn’t forget how to rock.
It’s also the only good thing to come out of the Van Hagar era.
Hagar bears the distinction of being only the second-worst singer in Van Halen’s history (congratulations, Gary Cherone!). The problem with Hagar is that he doesn’t have a smarmy, sleazy, or ironic bone in his body, which were the qualities that made David Lee Roth the perfect Van Halen singer. The Diamond Dave-era albums were powered by a friction generated from the brothers Van Halen’s desire to dominate listeners with their instrumental virtuosity rubbed against Diamond Dave’s “Ain’t I a stinker?” Bugs Bunny energy. It was like listening to a version of Led Zeppelin in which Robert Plant was 100 percent in on the joke and openly riffing on the absurdity of the enterprise.
Hagar’s inability to play the prankster is what makes “Why Can’t This Be Love” so good. Only he could sing a line as profoundly stupid as “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time” with feeling and conviction. For three minutes and 44 seconds, he makes you believe that there’s life after Roth. Ashley Naftule
Hilary Duff’s “What Dreams Are Made Of”In 2003, I was preparing to enter fifth grade. I still believed in Santa Claus and watched the Disney Channel religiously. Yellowcard, Switchfoot, and blink-182 crept into my headphones, but a blissful love for manufactured art still dominated my life.
I happily watched The Lizzie McGuire Movie on repeat with my younger siblings. We’d often returned to the climactic scene in which Hilary Duff performed the song “What Dreams Are Made Of” in the Coliseum. During her outrageously triumphant performance, everyone realizes she is immensely talented. She even exposed a manipulative Italian pop star as a fraud.
But self-awareness arrived in one fell swoop. Only one Phoenix-area Catholic elementary school still employed nuns for teachers: mine. One afternoon in October, my mom relayed some strange messages from the parent-teacher conference she had with my teacher Sister Jan. She was concerned that I played four-square, not basketball, at recess. I spent too much time socializing with girls. I was embarrassed and cried. I didn’t like the right things, and Sister Jan wanted to fix that.
I won’t demonize Sister Jan, because this would’ve happened regardless. But with maturity comes liberation. Each year, I come closer to recapturing the unabashed enthusiasm of my elementary school self. I would argue that while the production or message of “What Dreams Are Made Of” hasn’t aged well, the track has some great melodies. When a song becomes interwoven with the essential memories from your adolescence, you just own it. Anthony Wallace
KWSS 93.9 FM’s Guilty Pleasures Fall Fundraiser, featuring performances by Harper and the Moths and Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers, is scheduled on Saturday, November 23, at Last Exit Live. Tickets are $15 via Eventbrite.