How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1990
Original album - Behaviour
Producer - Harold Faltermeyer, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - single (UK #4,* US #93, US Dance Sales #10, US Dance #19)

*In the U.K. this was one side of a double-sided single with "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)"; as such, both tracks deserve credit for the single's #4 placement.

A somewhat snide comic putdown of the pretensions and hypocrisies of one or more unnamed rock stars. Allegations and speculations have cited Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and George Michael, among others. (One of my online correspondents has intriguingly suggested Phil Collins, who released his …But Seriously album about a year before Behaviour came out.) But Neil has specifically stated that it's no one artist in particular. (He would write in his 2018 book One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem that it's "A satire of late eighties rock stars relentlessly saving the planet.") The facts, however, that it was released as a double-sided single with "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)" and that the music videos for the two tracks are clearly linked in style (with the "Seriously" video recapitulated in high-speed reverse at the start of the "Streets" video) have long been interpreted to suggest that Bono and his band U2 are, at the very least, among the targets—if not the chief target—of its satire.

It was the second single from the album in the U.S. but the third in the U.K., where it was a "double A-side" with the non-album track "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)." The instrumental track of the album version of "Seriously" borrows heavily from the jagged "new jack swing" hip-hop style of then-popular Bobby Brown, especially his 1989 hit "Every Little Step." But the single and video versions of the PSB song were dramatically remixed by Brothers in Rhythm into a lusher, more fluid soundscape. The video depicted the Boys, especially Neil, acting out their roles as preachy, pretentious rockers.

By the way, the titular question is almost certainly rhetorical. Pop stars actually can expect to be taken seriously when they take public stands on ecology, politics, social issues, and so on simply because so many people—primarily their fans—do take them seriously. The Pet Shop Boys only point out how questionable this all is. More than one of their fans, however, have noted the irony that, in more recent years, the Boys have themselves occasionally taken certain public stands of the sort that they seem to be calling into question in this song.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

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