Single (aka Single-Bilingual)
Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1996
Original album - Bilingual
Subsequent albums - PopArt
Other releases - single (UK #14)
In contrast to "Discoteca," the extremely serious track that precedes it on Bilingual, "Single" is meant to be funny. One can hardly hope for a better or more succinct explication of this song than the one that Neil has himself provided: "The narrator is a very glib Euro businessman, a glib Eurocrat who flies business class and likes all his privileges. He tries to pick up chicks at meet 'n' greets. He's pretending to be a sophisticated ladies man: 'Single! Bilingual!'. But he's not really communicating either and he knows it. In actual fact he's a hopeless, tragic wreck."
The reference in the lyric to "UK PLC" has proven confusing to many. In the U.K., "PLC" stands for "Public Limited Company"that is, a public company limited by shares which may offer those shares for purchase by the general public. "UK PLC" is apparently a term commonly used by British financial analysts to denote a "generic" U.K. corporation. So the song isn't referring to a specific organization by that name. Neil's character is simply describing himself a figure within this generic company, presenting himself as important but actually, as one of my site visitors has put it, "an entirely insignificant cog inside a relentless machine." It might also be a satirical jab at the Boys' homeland itself, suggesting that the entire nation has become a PLC in the new economic order of things. In fact, it seems that the British press has itself used "UK PLC" in precisely that manner, describing the United Kingdom as a humongous corporation.
More than one commentator has cited a strong rhythmic similarity between this track and the 1993 Latin hit "El Matador" by the Argentinian group Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. One fan even asked the Boys on the official website (back when they used to respond to fan questions there) whether they had heard this song and if it had influenced "Single." Neil replied that they were indeed familiar with "El Matador," having heard it repeatedly during the South American leg of their "DiscoVery" tour, but said nothing more about it. Personally I fail to find much of a resemblance between the two songs, but enough others have heard one that it's probably worth noting here. But whatever the case, rhythm alone is hardly copyrightable.
The only thing I might add is that, when this song was released as the album's third single, it was retitled "Single-Bilingual" to distinguish it from another song in current release also titled "Single." And it was by that "expanded" title that it would resurface in 2003 on the Boys' PopArt compilation.
- "They call this a community" – Undoubtedly a reference to the European Economic Community (ECC).
- "Traveling in business class" – Business class, available with many but not all airlines, is an intermediate level of service, more lavish, comfortable, and expensive than regular economy class, but not as lavish, comfortable, and expensive as first class. As its name indicates, it's designed primarily for those who travel frequently on business.
- "From U.K. p.l.c." – As noted above, PLC is an initialism for "Public Limited Company," a U.K. legal entity roughly equivalent to a U.S. public corporation with shares traded on the stock exchange.
- "Staying in a junior suite so there's room to meet and greet" – A junior suite is a type of hotel accommodations a step above an ordinary standard or double room, but not as large or lavish as a full-fledged suite or penthouse. Junior suites usually hae a small living room area, a dining area, a kitchenette, and a separate bedroom. It's just the sort of thing a low- or middle-level executive might have on a business trip. A meet and greet is a small reception where an executive, politician, or celebrity socializes with others who are often specifically invited.
- "Perdóneme, me llamo Neil" – Spanish for "Pardon me, my name is Neil." It's interesting that, although Neil has stated clearly that the character he's portraying in this song is not himself but rather "a glib
Euro businessman," he gives this character his own name.
- "Brussels, Bonn, and Barcelona" – Of course, major cities in Belgium, Germany, and Spain, respectively. A lesser lyricist might have offered something like, oh, "Paris, Rome, and Barcelona." But Neil gets his alliteration on with the voiced bilabial plosives and, in so doing, serves up this subtly semi-comic delight.
- "¡Adelante!" – Spanish, "Forward!" which is used idiomatically to mean "Come in!" or "Come on ahead!"
- "Un momento, por favor" – Spanish, "One moment, please."
- "'Muchas gracias, señor" – This background comment heard under the mix is Spanish for "Thank you very much, mister [or, more idiomatically, 'sir']."
- "Tapping at my PC" – That is, typing on his personal computer (probably a laptop). The use of the words "tapping at" rather than "typing on" suggest the narrator's glib (to use Neil's own terminology) or even mildly disdainful attitude toward the activity.
- "¿Hay una discoteca por acqui?" – Spanish, "Is there a discoteque around here?" These words, taken from the preceding track, "Discoteca," enhance the thematic link between the two songs while also suggesting the narrator's after-work leisure interests.
- Mixer: Bob Kraushaar
- Album version (3:48)
- 7" mix (3:30)
- Mixer: Baby Doc
- Baby Doc Mix (5:45)
- Original Baby Doc Mix (5:29)
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