So Poison’s on tour right now. Did ya know that? Yeah, after 35 years those skimpy dudes are still going at it. 2020 is a depressing time if you’re a metalhead: All the great bands are dropping like flies. Sabbath, Slayer, and soon Priest are going to be no more. It sucks to like decent music nowadays! (I, being a cochlear implant recepient, am a metalhead in more ways than one.)
…Can’t believe I just said that. That was cheesier than Eddie Trunk saying that he and Wolverine are similar because they have metal in their veins. Trunk is just a cooler person. More metal. Metal is synonymous with cool. And…where am I even going with this?
Anyway, Poison. For someone who takes heavy metal seriously, Poison is a fascinating case study to me. It’s an open secret that the 1980s thrash and glam metal scenes were somewhat hostile to each other. One side took the genre seriously in order to vent their aggression and tackle relevant world issues. The other side just wanted to have fun and party, and sell lots and lots of records.
For the last 15 years, I would frequently listen to Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” on my iPod/iPhone. Recently, I listened to it with a trained ear and couldn’t help but pick up on some of the more jarring features of the song that indicated one thing: the guys from Poison have no skill whatsoever. Or maybe they do, just not that much. And maybe “jarring” is a bit extreme. I think “quirks” is more appropriate. Plus, I’m in no place to criticize anyone’s musicianship, seeing as how I flunked out of my guitar lessons all those years ago.
Anyway, what is it about Talk Dirty to Me that I can’t get over? Well, there’s Bret Michaels’ voice: it’s mediocre. There are some verses where he sounds like he’s got a clothespin on his nose. He also misses some notes.
And there’s the rhythm section. The bass and drum lines have a rather cartoonish quality to them. And CC DeVille’s guitar is just…okay. It’s catchy, but not the work of a virtuoso. Every member’s contribution to the song is nothing to write home about. So, why, WHY is this song so damn catchy? Why is it so hard to ignore it when it shows up on your playlist?
Because Poison knows how to create a hook. That’s really all it is. Every song needs to have a part where the band’s swagger is shown. A little oomph.
“‘Cause baby, we’ll be
At the drive-in
In the old man’s Ford
Behind the bushes
Til I’m screaming for more
Down the basement
Lock the cellar door
Talk dirty to me.”
The chorus above is the hook in question. Bret Michaels isn’t a great singer, but lord does he have energy and charisma. You see, most of the time, people don’t care if you’re knowledgeable about what you’re doing: you just need to do it with panache. Maybe we can learn a lesson or two from Poison here.
Maybe some things in life don’t take skill. They take confidence.