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LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics: Corey Hart vs. Richard Harris

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Welcome to the next matchup in our continuing search for the most satisfyingly cheesy pop songs of all time! A LeBlog Cheestastic Classic should be both undeniably corny or over-the-top while also possessing some quality that makes some of us grin and pump our fists in gleeful irony. Some people might also use the term “guilty pleasure.” But I’m not going to. For our purposes here, these are “LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics.” The skill and talent involved in producing some of these songs may, in fact, be quite impressive and at their core these songs might actually be rather superior to some which are considered cool. But somewhere along the way the songwriter or performer took that wrong turn at Albuquerque and landed themselves in the land of cheese.

Today we’re looking at two of the most notoriously cheesy pop songs of all time; one from the 1960s and another from the 1980s. It can be argued that neither song could have been conceived, financed, and become popular in anything but their own decade. Let’s have a chat and decide whether these recordings fit our understandings of Cheesetastic.

Last week most of our voters were pretty well satisfied with both of the presented songs as valid entries into our list of Cheesetastic Classics. Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud” won more than 72% of your approval and Meat Loaf raked in over 83% of “yes” votes for “I’d Do Anything for Love.” This means that those songs are now official members of the club along with Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” and Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero.” The more songs we approve and deny, the closer we’ll get to understanding what the moniker means.

First up is one of the bigger pop music bros of the 1980s. For a good decade, a really high percentage of television beer commercials seemed to be directly inspired by some of the visuals in this and other pop videos featuring self-proclaimed cool white dudes.

Dig that synth! Corey Hart crashed out of Canada and into the American pop music scene in 1984 with this ode to the dangerous and unhealthy use of eyewear.  The story goes that the song was inspired by poorly placed air conditioning vents which were blowing into the crew’s faces (including producer Jon Astley who would later have a minor hit with the fun song “Jane’s Getting Serious”). This led to everyone wearing sunglasses in the studio and Hart improvising lyrics about wearing them during evening hours. This apparently then developed into the song as we now know it and raced up the singles charts to #7 in the summer before my eighth grade year.

It’s a little hard to believe that Hart was an unknown when he conceived of this butt-puckeringly self-important performance focused on such a ridiculous premise. Is it just me, or does he look like he’s in danger of inventing the “duck face” expression that would become so puzzlingly prevalent some twenty-five years later many times during the video? Well, whatever faults we may find from the distance of so many years, this song and its high-rotation video kick started Hart’s recording career, which would eventually land him eight more top40 hits. Eight. Would anyone else have guessed at a discography with that much success? I honestly once considered writing him up as a part of my “Nope, Not a 1-Hit Wonder” but a quick look at the long run of hit records he had accumulated pushed him way down the list. Combine that with the fact that his most famous song is not actually his highest-charting song. That would be the also pretty darned memorable “Never Surrender,” which rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 almost exactly one year after his first big hit. Was that actually the better choice for Cheesetastic Classic status? Should it be nominated at a later date?

While Hart made his bones in the sleek as polished plastic 1980s, our next nominee is actually most famous as an elderly schoolmaster. Yes, this is that Richard Harris. If you’re not yet familiar with his hit song “MacArthur Park,” well…buckle up, hit play, and listen close.

That’s about as bizarre as it gets, isn’t it? Well, “MacArthur Park” has seen both ends of public regard. In 1968 it received heavy radio play and climbed all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, but by 1992 the selfsame song was selected by a high-profile poll as the The Worst Song of All Time. For most artists, either one of these events would inexorably define their careers. But Harris was not a pop singer by trade. He was already a successful actor, having appeared in prominent films such as The Guns of Navarone, Mutiny on the Bounty, and This Sporting Life. In 1967 he starred in the hit musical film Camelot, for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy. That same year he released his first album, but it was his second, A Tramp Shining, that brought us an overwrought meditation on the poor match of cake and rain. Harris was a handsome and successful leading man with real insider esteem for his skill as an actor.

And boy did he enjoy himself. While he continued appearing on stage and screen, with credits such as A Man Called HorseRobin and MarianOrca, and Tarzan the Ape Man with varying success, he developed a notorious reputation as an inveterate party machine. He would quit hard drugs after a cocaine-related health scare in 1978 and become a teetotaler a few years later, but public fascination with his hell raising lifestyle continued to score him points on the late night circuit.

A return to relative sobriety helped him with a renaissance in his career, with notable appearances in films such as The Field (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), Patriot Games, Unforgiven, and Gladiator. But the role he would gain long-lasting attention for was that of Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films. He had initially resisted taking the role, feeling reticent to take on the responsibility of a series of movies, but his granddaughter insisted that he accept the offer. Unfortunately, Harris’ health failed before he could complete the series and he passed away in October of 2002 due to complications from Hodgkin’s disease. He left behind multiple children, including his son Jared who is known for playing Lane Pryce on Mad Men and Professor Moriarty in a 2011 Sherlock Holmes film with Robert Downey Jr.

Okay, so there’s a little about each of the songs and the men who brought them to us. Now we get a chance to decide on whether or not these songs belong on our list of Cheesetastic Classics. Vote here and comment below!

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Posted on July 27, 2016, in Awards, Cheesetastic Classics, Movies, Music, poll and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Two enthusiastic “Yes” votes from me this morning. These songs are both cheesetastic and classic. Confession: I didn’t realize Richard Harris sang “MacArthur Park”. I remember the first time I actually listened to the lyrics of that song. Still puzzled by them. As for Corey Hart, surely he was in on the joke, right?

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    • daffystardust

      Hart may have been “in on the joke” as far as the ridiculous nature of the lyrics in the nominated song, but if you listen to large portions of the rest of his output you’re still going to find the high-fiving-white-guy beer commercial style that plays a big hand in making that song so cheesy to begin with.

      Yes, I remember when I first connected Harris and this song. It was a little bit of a brain kaboom moment. If you think drug use hasn’t gone down in this country, just take a look at some of the stuff that was popular for a good thirty years. That doesn’t all happen in a vacuum.

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      • Those early videos were probably directed by the same guys who made beer commercials as their day jobs. Look, if I looked like Corey Hart in the 80’s, I’d have been pretty serious about rocking my shades in the evening. I suspect there’s an element of self-satire in that video. I mean, he’s imprisoned by a hot chick for his choice of eye-wear. Now, the degree to which Hart was spoofing vs. taking himself waaay too seriously is up for debate. And that’s partially what makes the video so awesome. Say what you will about him, he really committed to the concept of the video.

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      • I think from now on Corey Hart should be known as The High-Fiving-Beer Commercial-White Guy; bless Corey Hart for never surrendering.

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  2. I just think that MacArthur Park is terrible.

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    • Define “terrible”. Because I think the line “Someone left a cake out in the rain” is pretty awesome. But then it is immediately topped by the sincere delivery of “I don’t know if I can take it. Cause it took so long to bake it and I’ll never have that recipe again.” If that’s not cheesetastic, I don’t know what is.

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      • I think the words are silly and the overwrought drama is preposterous. It’s a bad song. I guess I would probably have to change my vote. It’s definitely cheesy. I just don’t like it.

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        • That’s the thing about a Cheesetastic Classic. It’s going to be a little different for everybody. Some songs just won’t allow us to break through to the other side and enjoy their cheesiness, while others invite us there.

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  3. It’s just a bad song, like “Muskrat Love” or “Wildfire”, although it’s not about animals.

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  4. Bleh. McCarthur Park is awful. I’m gonna have to go with ‘Sunglasses At Night’. It’s not that hokey, it just doesn’t make sense. It has a good beat and a distinctive keyboard riff. Not the kind of music I listen to, but I can tolerate it with little complaint.

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  5. Yes Yes yes on Corey Hart. I mean, maybe this is his cheesiest song, but I think Corey Hart is one of the reasons the decade of the 1980’s gets branded as cheesy. “Never Surrender” is my favorite of his, but that song & music video together also equals a cheesetastic processing plant. Bonus points for “Sunglasses at Night” being on the “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” soundtrack (which delivers the 80’s hair, glam, pop, New Wave, and Spanish cheese on radio on a very self-aware level, but mostly all are memorable tunes in some way). Thanks Daffy for including the origins of the song as well, since it’s pretty funky.
    I decided no on Richard Harris here, since “MacArthur Park” reminds me of something Leonard Cohen could possibly sing, but in his more solemn tone.

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    • ‘Sunglasses’ at least lends itself to pop-culture in jokes. It’s fun for that. MacCarthur Park, not even interesting enough to joke about. No memes gonna be going around for that.

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  6. I appreciate the writeups, but I don’t think either song is cheesy! I think a “cheestastic” song has to have a certain type of sincerity that these songs lack. The Dan Hill tune definitely was in right.smack.dab in that zone. These two? Not even close, in my view.

    “Sunglasses” is just meant to be fun, I would guess, and it’s got some purposeful 80s bombast. If you call this “cheesetastic,” then about 75% of the 80s could be so labeled, and the word would have too broad a meaning to be useful. For example, is “Union of the Snake” by Duran Duran cheestastic? It’s another bombastically dramatic and overblown song. I wouldn’t call it cheesy.

    “MacArthur Park” is not a normal song and was never intended to be. It’s 7:21 in length and was released at a time when even 4-minute songs on the radio were rare. it’s supposed to be crazy in content and execution as well, I think it’s safe to say. Such a song may or may not be good, but I don’t think “cheestastic” is appropriate. Again, any weird song in the world could fit the definition in that case.

    To me, “cheesetastic” is a song that has these qualities:

    Overly heartfelt, sincere, sentimental in content; i.e., “cheesy.”
    Extremely sincere and preferably overdone in performance; i.e., more cheese.
    Possessed of some redeeming qualities, such as its melody, hooks, vocal performance, etc.; i.e., “tastic.”
    Trying to play the pop game on its own terms; i.e., not a satire, novelty, or otherwise unusual song.

    Now, you can disagree with my definition above, fair enough, but I think your implied definition is way too broad to be interesting or fun. But again, good writing–I simply disagree!

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    • I appreciate your very thoughtful comments on what is intentionally a relatively vague topic. Cheesetastic is in large part in how a song makes you feel, and that’s going to be very different for most people.

      In planning for this series I have had to build a very large list of nominees and then select them week by week in pairs. While each of the last two weeks has seen pretty strong agreement in the affirmative when it came to voting, I’m pretty sure we will nominate plenty of songs that will not be considered right for our shared definition. If every song gets inducted the series runs the risk of getting boring.

      For that reason I highly value your very strict definition for your own voting. I’m going to keep on presenting you with songs which don’t match it so you can try to convince the rest of us not to accept them.

      Thanks again!

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      • Hey, Daff. Thanks for your reply! I greatly enjoy your writing on this site. I’ll keep telling you what I think about the tunes. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have probably put more thought into defining what “cheesetastic” means to me than is healthy. I keep coming back to a line in your intro.

        Some people might also use the term “guilty pleasure.”

        When I’m considering a song, I ask myself “Is it cheesy”? Overly sincere and sentimental songs are obviously cheesy. But I think cheesy can also mean other things. A lot of the cases you have presented have been based on the artists being overly self-important. Going over the top can be cheesy. When an artist is winking at themselves as I believe Corey Hart is, that’s a hard line to draw. Is intentional cheese still cheese? It’s fuzzy.

        I then ask “is it a classic”? If a song is too good, I won’t consider it cheesy enough to qualify. That’s where the guilty pleasure part comes in. If the song is completely guilt-free, I don’t consider it a cheesetastic classic. But it can’t just be bad. It has to be a pleasure too. This, a down vote for Friday. It has to be a song that I like listening to despite questionable merits. I’m still figuring out what that means to me, but I have been pretty selective with my up votes this far as a result.

        Whatever the outcome, I’m finding the discussion interesting.

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        • daffystardust

          The line I would draw between a “guilty pleasure” and a Cheesetastic Classic is that a guilty pleasure is a song you know is objectively bad but that you personally just like anyway. That leaves a lot of leeway for people who just have bad taste. A Cheesetastic Classic has to have that element of delicious cheese which is a large part of what makes it both less and more than a standard good song. That will, itself, be subject to personal interpretation, but not as much as a simple guilty pleasure. My guess is that some of the songs I present here will be identified by some voters as mere guilty pleasures or just as bad songs, or even as fully legitimate songs that are not cheesy enough.

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        • It’s a really difficult distinction to make. I find myself asking “Why do I like this song?” “Is it too good, not good enough?” “Is this cheesy?” That’s a surprisingly difficult call to make. Most of these songs are old and out of date. That alone can make them feel cheesy, but compared to other songs from that time period, they weren’t viewed that way when they were playing on the radio.

          If you think about this too much, you can go cross-eyed.

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    • I really see your point. Overall for me, I vote in a positive way, since I like most of the songs except for “Friday”. Thing is, most people do believe 1980’s music is cheesy (even if they barely heard a careless whisper of it), like how people believe that the 1990’s music is glum (a lot of it is:-). With Corey Hart’s song here, I don’t know, the song’s subject matter is so off the wall, so maybe just on that fact the song might be disqualified from being cheesy (I look at Corey Hart’s overall 1980’s output, and I feel he’s responsible for a lot of cheese). Thing is though, I like cheese. But yeah, I believe this is a pretty broad topic, and with music being subjective anyway, this really is something of a free for all.

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  7. I said above, “your implied definition is way too broad to be interesting or fun.” Sorry, that sounds rather jerky. I didn’t mean that the resulting articles wouldn’t be fun… just that the definition itself would be so broad that it wouldn’t be as fun to play with as something more narrow.

    Re Lebeau’s comments, I think “guilty pleasure” is part of the concept, indeed. It may be true that all cheestastic songs are guilty pleasures, but not all guilty pleasures are cheestastic (not that you said they were).

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    • I didn’t take that as rude. I felt like I knew what you meant.
      While I encourage readers to be very specific in how they choose to define Cheesetastic for themselves, I’m going to present lots of nominees who are all over the place and rely on the readers to create the ideal and more narrow definition based on which songs they induct.

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      • Daffy, cool. 🙂 Absolutely, there is no official definition for “cheestastic” out there, so you gotta crowdsource it. 🙂

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  8. I wasn’t going to vote for MacArthur Park until I both found out it was sung by Dumbledore and that it has a bizarre section about he being upset a cake was left out in the rain because he’ll never have that recipe again!

    As for Sunglasses at Night, that song has always bothered me because I think it is about a delusional stalker who thinks he’s in a relationship with woman who may not know he exists.

    Here are the lyrics:

    “I wear my sunglasses at night
    So I can so I can
    Watch you weave then breathe your story lines
    And I wear my sunglasses at night
    So I can so I can
    Keep track of the visions in my eyes

    While she’s deceiving me
    It cuts my security (has)
    She got control of me
    I turn to her and say

    Don’t switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no
    Don’t masquerade with the guy in shades, oh no
    I can’t believe it
    ‘Cause you got it made with the guy in shades, oh no

    And I wear my sunglasses at night
    So I can so I can
    Forget my name while you collect your claim
    And I wear my sunglasses at night
    So I can so I can
    See the light that’s right before my eyes

    While she’s deceiving me
    She cuts my security
    She got control of me
    I turn to her and say

    Don’t switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no
    Don’t masquerade with the guy in shades, oh no
    I can’t believe it
    ‘Cause you got it made with the guy in shades, oh no

    She’s deceiving me
    It cuts my security (has)
    She got control of me
    I turn to her and say

    Don’t switch the blade on the guy in shades oh no
    Don’t masquerade with the guy in shades, oh no
    I can’t believe it
    Don’t be afraid of the guy in shades, oh no
    It can’t escape you
    ‘Cause you got it made with the guy in shades, oh no”

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    • That’s the great thing about writing, lyrics, or music: I can totally see where you’re coming from with your interpretation of the lyrics. It’s interesting that apparently this song in general was pulled out of thin air…or thin air conditioner.

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    • That’s pretty cool, and it goes to show that just because you’re wearing shades, that doesn’t mean you can’t still read.

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  9. I just heard “Sunglasses At Night” (it was dark by then) about an hour and 1/2 ago, due to one of my cats (I think it was Angel) knocked over my radio. When trying to reset it to the classic station, I came across “Sunglasses At Night”!

    Like

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