Friday, February 9, 2018

Between bravado and collapse

Bobby Fuller Four
Few songs capture heartbreak and its flip-side more evocatively than Bobby Fuller Four's "Let Her Dance." Released first in 1965 on Mustang, "Let Her Dance" is a dance song about fierce longing, stinging sorrow, wobbly confidence, defensive good cheer, and dance songs, not necessarily in that order. With its distressing lyric set against an irresistible four-four beat and catchy melody, the tune's both a lament and a celebration. A pop song can collapse under too much meta, but it's hard to listen to "Let Her Dance" and not realize that it's likely providing for its unhappy listener the very scenario that Fuller's broken up about—somewhere, someone's dancing to "Let Her Dance" like she doesn't even care, when just yesterday she danced with him the very same way. (And it was their favorite song, to boot.) The melody's a balm of sorts and—if it's correct that rock and roll is fun songs about sad stuff—then the hooks will help him forget, too. The generosity in the title is real, but wouldn't be there if not for the naively hopeful marching rhythm and the pep talk of dance let her dance let her dance dance dance, or is it a kind of a mantra? Is it the guy's bravely insisting inner voice, or his buddies' at the bar? Either way, he vows to turn the tables soon enough.

But I'm not so sure that he's as optimistically large-hearted as he appears in the last verse. As writer Lucy Grealy said in a different context, we have to re-learn are epiphanies every morning. The song's pitched at that teetering spot between bravado and collapse. It's got a beat and you can dance to it. That's the problem.


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