An Open Mind

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2019
Original album - (none)
Producer - Stuart Price
Subsequent albums -(none)
Other releases - (none)

This song is one of the bonus tracks accompanying the single "Dreamland," released on CD and in digital bundles in late October 2019. Produced by Stuart Price and recorded during the sessions for the Pet Shop Boys' album slated for release in January 2020, it boasts a bright, light, almost summery feel that lends a wistful air to the lyrics, which seem to be a personal reminiscence about a friendship characterized by a shared devotion to (and a somewhat conspiratorial attitude toward) pushing the boundaries of fashion, taste, and social convention. The very first line, "We walked in high heels over broken glass," establishes a recurring theme in the song: a conscious, almost studied iconoclasm that, depending on one's perspective, can be viewed as both admirable and offensive. This is underscored by the later assertion "There is beauty in ugliness and ugliness in beauty." As Neil sings:

We took two steps forward and one step back
That was our plan of attack

In other words, there's no progress, either in fashion or in social morés, without taking chances and challenging the status quo of what is "acceptable" and in "good taste." Neil's language ("We were all there for pleasure at the latest whatever") suggests that, at least from the perspective of the narrator and his friend, the precise character and nature of the ensuing changes didn't matter as much as the fact that they were simply different, something new. Sometimes there might be setbacks, but the overall movement was onward. But in order to take part in such a movement—either as an active participant or as an appreciative observer—one needs the titular open mind. That is the essential trait shared by the narrator and the friend to whom he appears to be singing: "Yes, we kept an open mind."

I may be wrong, but I can't help but feel that this song may have been inspired by the same old friendship of Neil's that had famously inspired several older songs: "It Couldn't Happen Here," "Your Funny Uncle," and, most notably, "Being Boring." In fact, "An Open Mind" shares several images and references with the latter song, including the line about high heels and, pointedly, the affirmation "We were never left behind"—a clear echo of the older song's "We were never being boring." Indeed, having an open mind would be a virtual prerequisite to not being boring.

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