Monday, April 23, 2018

Musical Monday - Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: December 22, 1979 through December 29, 1979, and January 12, 1980.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: December 22, 1979 through January 5, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

According to Cash Box, Escape was the first #1 single of the 1980s. According to Billboard, it was the second. I mention this because before I began compiling records for this project, I thought that this song had been released a couple of years earlier. It just sounds like a song from 1977 or 1978, and not what I would think of as a song from 1980.

That said, this is a terrible song. The story that runs through it is of a guy in a relationship that has gone stale who answers a personal ad only to discover that the person who placed the ad was his own partner. Once the two realize who the other is, they both share a laugh about the fact that each was willing to toss aside their relationship and run off with someone based on four lines of newsprint.

But that's not what makes this song really terrible. The really terrible part is that the allegedly enticing ad created by the lady that the singer is "tired of" lists just about as banal a set of "shared interests" as one could come up with, and the fact that neither member of the couple has thought to bring these up seems to indicate that they basically never talk to one another. Let's go through them:

If you like piña coladas

Okay, so a shared interest in coconut flavored frozen drinks. That seems to be a kind of flimsy basis to build a relationship upon. Also, if one was that concerned about a shared interest in frozen alcoholic beverages, one would think that one of the two people featured in the song would have brought it up at some point. I mean, I only discovered that my wife liked piña coladas after four years of marriage because I asked her in the context of listening to this song, but neither of us really considers the other's preferences in frozen alcoholic drinks to be a big deal one way or another.

and getting caught in the rain

This one is weirdly specific. I mean, its not just calling for someone to enjoy going out into rain, but rather someone who enjoys getting caught in the rain. On the other hand, I can see this not coming up in normal conversation, as it is really quite specific. That said, a love for finding oneself unexpectedly in downpours seems like an odd basis for a relationship.

If you're not into yoga

Now this line just makes me question the relationship the characters in the song have. Making not being into yoga a big deal seems to imply that they both think that the other is into yoga. I am just picturing the two of them pushing the other to regularly go out and do some yoga while secretly hating every second of the experience because they mistakenly think their partner is into it. I'm not sure how they would have both come to the same mistaken conclusion other than the fact that these two apparently never actually talk to one another.

if you have half a brain

When the singer finds out that his "lady" had written the ad, this line should eat at him. She's looking for someone with half a brain to run away with. The obvious takeaway from that is that she thinks he doesn't have half a brain. I may not be an expert on relationships, but if you've been together long enough to have "fallen into the same old scene" and she is looking for someone with "half a brain", it doesn't matter if you have a funny little story of meeting up when you thought you were meeting someone else, your relationship is probably doomed.

If you like making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape

Okay, so this is really telling. This pair have clearly been together long enough that they should have at least some idea of their partner's lovemaking preferences. I mean, I don't expect couples to talk about their preferences for accidentally getting caught in thunderstorms, but if you've been with someone long enough to get "tired" of them and don't know that they like making love at midnight, then you've got a problem. I suppose one could say that the key there is that it is making love "in the dunes of the cape", but that kind of begs the question: If everyone knows what cape one is referring to, then maybe knowing that someone likes to have late night sex on them isn't information that should be so hard to come by.

Then I'm the love that you've looked for, write to me and escape

All right, we have a drink preference, a weather preference, a desire for someone to be halfway intelligent, and a desire to have sex in the middle of the night on some sand on a cape. And this is the basis for a relationship? Or rather, this is what defines "the love that you've looked for"?

In a later verse, the singer responds to the personal ad, leading off by saying that he does, in fact, like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain, but adds a line of his own in response:

I'm not much into health food, I am into champagne

First, this seems to me to be nonresponsive. The original personal ad mentioned neither health food or champagne. I suppose health food and yoga could be connected, but this text seems to raise similar questions as the previous yoga reference - is he currently being force-fed health food by his girlfriend who also hates it and only chokes it down because she mistakenly thinks he likes it? There is also another reference to a beverage preference, which seems kind of trivial. I mean, liking champagne is nice, but that seems like a thin strand to base a relationship on, especially given that it is probably one of the most common kinds of drink out there. His response is as trivial and meaningless as her initial personal ad. But it gets worse:

I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon and cut through all this red tape

I left wondering who has "red tape" in their relationships? What kind of dating has this guy been doing that he thinks that they need to cut through some red tape in order to get together? Does he also have organizational charts that he refers to when dating? Spreadsheets? Balance books? Of all the ridiculous lines in this song, this one about "red tape" has got to be the most ridiculous.

This relationship isn't destined to fail because he got "tired of his lady" and found out that she was tired of him too in a humorously ironic twist. No, this relationship is destined to fail because these two people have no idea how normal humans communicate.

Previous Musical Monday: Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) by Pink Floyd
Subsequent Musical Monday: Rock with You by Michael Jackson

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Please Don't Go by KC and the Sunshine Band
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Rock With You by Michael Jackson

Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Rock With You by Michael Jackson

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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  1. The way I took the words was not that they don't know these things about each other. It's that they are each looking for someone who has a lot of the desirable attributes of their partner, but who will be exciting and new to them in the way that their partner no longer is -- and the denouement is both of them realizing that the problem is not that the other person has become boring, but that they both have stopped appreciating, and working at, their relationship.

    1. @JJ: I don't know. I think that train of reasoning is undercut by the line in the song where the singer says (upon finding out that the personal ad writer is his current girlfriend) "I never knew that you liked piña coladas and getting caught in the rain".