Tuesday, October 12, 2010

She Laughed for Twenty-Eight Years

This is a post about a laugh that you have heard before if you have any awareness of pop culture. Think of it as a pop music equivalent to the Wilhelm Scream.

Though I like to consider myself someone with a good knowledge of 80s music, I occasionally discover an artist that has escaped my notice. The all-too-frequent cause? Britishness — theirs, not mine.  I sometimes forget that that little island over there has culture (or something approaching it), and that the less-brightly-burning stars of the motherland usually stay there, resulting in total confusion for us American media gadflies when we run across headlines like this one: “Sinitta ‘texted Cole over Gamu X Factor axe.’” There are at least three things in that sentence that I don’t understand. If you can explain it, don’t. Just don’t.

Most recently, the 80s singer who came to my attention is Samantha Fox, who had a worldwide hit in 1986 with her debut single “Touch Me (I Want Your Body).”  I don’t know how, exactly, but she just existed in a cultural blind spot for me until this week. And it was one of those instances where the person I’m talking to says, “Oh, when you hear it, you’ll recognize it.” Nope. No flicker of recognition. In any case, Fox has continued to record through today, releasing lesser hits and a dreadful cover of Dustry Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” that would maybe tie Kylie Minogue’s remake of “The Loco-Motion” as the best musical evidence aliens could use to support a plan to mercy-kill our planet. Truth be told, I didn’t even dig any of her songs all that much, but I’m posting one, “I Wanna Have Some Fun,” for this simple reason: It contains a laugh that I’d heard before around the 1:30 mark.

Here, see if you’ve recognize it:

If you’re like me, you heard that echoing laugh and immediately thought of the song “Situation” by Yaz, which features the laugh about twenty seconds in.

And if you had ever been stuck in traffic next to someone who was blasting “Macarena” — and this happened to me this year, I should note — you would have had an opportunity to hear the laugh again. Evidence: here. (And no, I’m not embedding a video of “Macarena” on my blog, because I have standards, and I will only write about bad music most people don’t already know. And yes, the laugh only can be be heard in certain versions of the song, which I know because I actually watched a five-minute-long video for the wrong one, thus necessitating a second listen-through of a different version. Hell christ.) Take my word for it, the laugh is there, right at the beginning.

So what’s up?

It turns out the laugh belongs to Alison Moyet, the female half of Yaz (and, later, the singer of “Love Resurrection,” which doesn’t suck and the video for which features camels). Wikipedia and a few dozen other sites claim that anywhere between several songs and thousands of songs also feature the laugh, but I can’t find anywhere that lists these. I’m genuinely curious to know. These invisible pop culture trends fascinate me, and now I’m wondering if other songs I know have this lady’s throaty laughter, still echoing, hauntingly, as if she saw something funny in a tile bathroom.

Hit the jump for more examples of the Moyet laugh. (And I will warn you now that from here on out it’s a mixed bag, inasmuch as a bag mixed with different kinds of shit is still technically a mixed bag.)

The Moyet laugh can be heard in a not-terrible 1982 Ser & Duff track that’s vaguely Girl Talk-like in its sample craziness. Hear the laugh at the 5:54 mark.

It’s also in Simon Harris’s 1988 track “Bass,” the video for which is at least educational about how weird pop culture got at the cusp of the 90s. You can hear the sample just after the one-minute mark.

It’s in the 1990 Deee-Lite track “What Is Love?” (and no, it tragically has no relation to the Haddaway song of the same name). Listen for Alison’s laugh about six seconds in.

Some drag queen named Ondina used it in her 1997 song “Summer of Love,” about fifteen seconds in. The resulting track sounds remarkably like a spoof song from “Deep House Dish.” I think Bill Hader would play Ondina.

A 1990 atrocity, “Tequila,” by the group Latino Party, features it around 1:47 in. The song sounds like a cross between a jock jam and what an ill-fated Fly Girl would have heard in her head as she fatally overdosed.

And it appears in the 1999 Belgium dance track “Party Time,” which I can only imagine being useful to cults for brainwashing purposes, what with its incessant chanting of “Tonight is party time / It’s party time tonight.”

Finally, though Heidi Montag’s 2009 song-like thing, “Body Language,” steals almost every part of “Situation,” it weirdly omits the laugh.

Thing is, I’m not sure that the Moyet laugh actually adds anything to any of these songs aside from just making them part of this weird group that features the laugh. The meme exists only to continue the meme. Which, I mean, good for it?

80s music, previously:

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