Tonight, we’re gonna party like its 1988.
“Shut Up and Dance,” the sugary mega-hit from Walk the Moon, has been bothering the upper reaches of the charts for months now. This week, the tune sits comfortably in the iTunes Top 10 song downloads roster, some seven months after its initial release. Why the endurance? It’s simple, really. The song’s hook is indelible. It’s the type of tune that sticks in your head, even if you’d rather it didn’t.
The tune is made up of three primary elements, and together, they conspire to make “Shut Up and Dance” the stuff of pop-hit dreams. First, there’s the chiming, digital delay-fueled guitar riff, which owes on obvious debt of gratitude to U2’s the Edge. Then there’s the disco/’80s alt-pop mélange that forms the tunes basic musical bed – this is dance music, after all, and the melody is subservient to the four-on-the-floor groove. Finally, there’s the lyrics, which are not exactly deep, but boast the sort of everyman relatability that is required of a pop hit.
The story is an old one – dude is out at a dance club trying to impress the ladies, talking too much to ward off self-consciousness, and is finally told by the far more in tune with the rhythms of the body female object of his desire to can the philosophizing and start shaking it.
That’s pretty much the whole story, though there are some nice flourishes – a nice distorted bass line, the open/closed high-hat pattern that fuels the relentless forward motion of the groove, handclaps, reverb-drenched backing vocals, a hyper-cheesy synth solo, and a breakdown tailor-made for the “everyone wave your cell phone in the air” moment that is invariably a part of every modern arena-pop bacchanal.
This is total ’80s pop throwback material, though its success is predicated on the attention granted it by listeners who probably weren’t yet born when Rick Springfield was doing the same thing with “Jessie’s Girl,” some 30 years back. So Walk the Moon is benefiting from cultural amnesia, to be sure, but does anyone really care? Probably not. It’s a catchy tune.