Savage Garden Re-Invents Pop Music for the New Millennium
divisiontwo staff writer
January 3, 2000
With the popular new single "I Knew I loved You," available in stores tomorrow, singer/songwriter Darren Hayes and instrumentalist Daniel Jones of the Australian-bred Savage Garden, who revolutionized pop music in the mid-nineties with that cherry cola song, are well on their way to revolutionizing music once again for the new millennium.
The single, the first off the Album "Affirmation" which was released last October, has been climbing the charts steadily for the past three months and looks poised to break into the top ten next week, which will put the band in good company with other current revolutionary artists like Lou Bega, Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys and Jennifer Lopez. "I Knew I Loved You", a courageous pop-rock ballad with a defiantly sentimental melody, breaks with tradition and dares to deal musically with the heavy topic of falling in love too hard. Due to profound lyrics and ground-breaking instrumentals, many radio stations have refused to air the single. Los Angeles-based KABC says of its decision not to add the single to its playlist, "We're a news station, we don't have a playlist." WCTY of Minnesota has rejected the song on the grounds that it is "not country", while New Mexico's KTJO steadfastly refuses "anything that is not tejano." All this controversy has only added fuel to the already blazing popularity of the single, and the radio station bans haven't thus far prevented thousands of fans from adopting the song as an anthem for the lovelorn.
A message posted to the music-oriented newsgroup alt.rock.contemporary sums up many fans' reactions to the new single. "It's like the soundtrack to my relationship. I've never heard anything like it before. It's beautiful, honest, sweet and romantic, and it makes me feel good about love again. I call my boyfriend every night and play the song into the phone while he moans softly and makes slapping noises, probably tapping his thigh while humming the song's infectious melody."
"Who would have thought a song about love could be so slow?" asks another poster to the newsgroup, referring to the song's revolutionary new slow instrumental style that Sony Music calls "neo-languid exulta-rock." Regardless of whether the name catches on, the musical style itself is sure to influence the direction of music in the new millennium. The single has been turning the heads of many columnists and music critics in the industry, and many of them predict that thanks to the boys of Savage Garden, we may very well see other slow songs about love being released in the coming months and years.
"No one expected it to be as popular as it's turning out to be," admits E! Online music critic Daniel Mauser. "Historically, slow, sugary pop songs about falling in love haven't had much success breaking into the mainstream."
Brent Childs, musical editor of Entertainment Weekly, says the song is nothing short of a revolution in modern music. "If you had come to me ten, even five years ago and told me that a song about love would be topping the pop charts in 2000, I would have laughed in your face and had security escort you out of my office," he admits. "But if you told me that same thing today, well, maybe I wouldn't laugh quite so hard. We'll have to wait and see where this goes."
It seems few in the industry saw the popularity of "I Knew I Loved You" coming, least of all the band members themselves. Darren Hayes is quoted in a People Magazine interview a week before the album's release as saying, "Will it be as popular as our chicka-cherry cola song? Who knows. Making predictions about musical trends is more of waste of time than praying to Jesus for salvation."
But Hayes has changed his tune somewhat in recent weeks, as the sales figures on "Affirmation" have soared and the album was certified gold on December 10. In a promotional spot set to air on MTV every fifteen minutes during the month of January, Hayes says, "I think the popularity of 'Loved' is indicative of the public's changing musical tastes, and I believe the song is strong enough to remain popular over the next thousand years."
The surprise success of "Affirmation" isn't coming without a little backlash, however. Many original fans of Savage Garden's 1997 self-titled debut album have accused the band of "selling out" with its new release and watering down its hard-core style for a more mainstream audience. "I listened to the whole album and didn't find one nonsense word or reference to cherry cola," complained one angry fan at a Record Town retail music store, "that's not the Savage Garden I knew. They're corporate now."
Another fan complained that most of the tracks on "Affirmation" aren't as annoying as those on the band's debut album. "They've changed," said Molly Obershore, a freshman at the Minneapolis School of Arts. "Their lyrics don't get into my head like they used to, they don't make me want to punch my radio or put a gun in my mouth to end the torture."
Other fans insist the band hasn't changed at all, only gotten better. divisiontwo Celebrity Gossip columnist JoJo insists, "They haven't really changed. The new song is just as insipid as anything on the first album, the only difference is that it's more subtle here and you have to listen to the lyrics to realize how bad it is."
The Columbia Records press statement accompanying the release of "Affirmation" describes it as "a brave new journey, more intimate than ever and yet with a reach that's universal via its prevailing themes of love and love lost, despair, and the hope and faith that come from learning to channel emotions into lessons learned minus lessons forgotten, while remembering all that was sacrificed in the name of this journey." But many parent groups, including the Tipper Gore-founded Parents for Keeping Children Ignorant (PKCI) have called the new Savage Garden album "disgusting and offensive," and have petitioned discount chains including Wal-Mart and Target to discontinue sales of "Affirmation" due to its of its sensual lyrics and erotic rhythms.
"If kids hear this song," warned PKCI president Christina Frigids, "they could take it as an encouragement to fall in love, and from there it's only a short leap to kissing, over-the-clothes groping of breasts and scrotums, slow, tantalizing disrobing, hand jobs with hot scented massage oils, oral stimulation that goes on for hours, sex play that takes them higher, higher into ecstasy, until, ultimately, there is penetration and the raw, passionate, uninhibited sex of youth. And then comes the abortion."
For its part, Wal-Mart has re-affirmed its commitment to the conservative Christian family by requiring age verification upon sale of "Affirmation," but also made it clear that Wal-Mart policy only bans the sale of albums that feature foul language such as criticism of Wal-Mart.
A Sony Music executive laughed at the PKCI's efforts to ban "Affirmation" and reminded them that music is about pushing the envelope and discussing topics that some may deem controversial. The spokesman also questioned the PKCI president's "suspiciously enthusiastic" description of a hypothetical scenario involving young people encouraged to have sex after hearing the song, and warned that she may herself be horny or ovulating.
The band says they were inspired to write the lyrics to "I Knew I Loved You" after accidentally spotting a hooker and a john cavorting in the shrubbery of a Melbourne city park at night.
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