Sunday, July 12, 2015

If Everybody Wants You, Why Isn’t Anybody Calling?

Listening to Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” is like being trapped at lunch with a friend who is so focused on criticizing some extraneous person that you begin to wonder about the nature of the obsession. “You’ve been going on and on about this Gloria person. Are you sure you actually don’t like her?” you ask at long last. “I think you’re in love with her.” Your friend puts down her fork. Your insight was not appreciated.

So that, only you can dance to it.

I’ve actually been wondering what Gloria’s deal was for a while now. It’s been eight years since I posted about the strange lyrics on this blog, and it took me until this week to find out why this song exists.

Here’s the story.

The song was initially released in 1979. Sung in Italian by Umberto Tozzi, this version of “Gloria” is a straightforward love song about a man infatuated with a woman who may be imaginary but whom he nonetheless misses “in the air,” “like salt” and “more than the snow melts the sun,” at least according to this translation .

Jonathan King translated the lyrics into English later that same year. Tozzi later re-recorded this version as well.

Eventually Laura Branigan decided she too should record a version, but simply re-using Jonathan King’s translation proved doubly difficult. Had she just kept the subject of the song as is — this alluring woman named Gloria — it would have skewed too sapphic for mainstream pop in the early ’80s. And simply substituting all the references to Gloria with a man named Mario didn’t have the same impact. Thus, Branigan and a collaborator re-wrote “Gloria” as essentially a hate song, with the narrator calling out the subject for living life bigger than she should.

(Note on the Gloria-Mario business: The Wikipedia page on the matter cites People Weekly as the source of this info, but I can’t find the article, and a search of the archives, if that’s the publication it’s trying to refer to, turns up nothing. However, the search did lead me to a 1983 article that refers to Branigan’s gay following as “the AIDS circuit,” and that is certainly something that helps us see where were are as a society now versus thirty years ago.)

The song broke records on the Billboard Top 100, so clearly these creative decisions helped it connect with American audiences, but isn’t that an odd solution to the problem? “We have this catchy song, and we don’t want to our girl to sound like a lesbo, so let’s just have her be obsessively critical about this Gloria bitch?” Lyrics such as “Feel your innocence slipping away / Don’t believe it’s coming back soon” seem intended more to hurt than help, but I suppose constructive criticism hasn’t ever been a big theme in pop music. Of course, today, Branigan would have just covered the song as is, and no one would have blinked an eye about her singing a love song about a woman.

That’s the explanation. In case you’re ever along for the ride, listening to “Gloria” and someone points out how odd the lyrics are, offer them this background, even if it doesn’t completely explain why Gloria is living under an alias. (Spies? Spies!) Personally, I want someone to write Gloria: The Movie and further flesh out the world of sin and scandal that this woman has descended into, a la the movie adaptation of “Ode to Billy Joe.”

And speaking of that, is it strange to anyone else that there’s not been a movie version of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”? Doy, there totally was a Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment