Invisible

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2012
Original album - Elysium
Producer - Andrew Dawson, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

This slow, lush, but rather dour electronic ballad was intentionally "leaked" online in June 2012 as an advance teaser from the Pet Shop Boys' upcoming studio album Elysium, scheduled for release in September 2012. Although many fans initally believed this meant (bolstered by its accompanying video) that it was going to serve as the album's first single, this turned out not to be the case; instead "Winner" took that honor. As the official website quickly confirmed, "Invisible" was unveiled online simply to "give an idea of the album's sound."

The Boys wrote this song while on a visit to Berlin sometime in early 2011. Neil has stated that it was inspired by a woman's comment he read that "you reach the age of 45 and from then on when you walk into a room you're invisible." The lyrics articulate the narrator's concern, if not outright dismay, at his having indeed become "invisible" after having been "for so many years the life and soul of the party." Nowadays, however, it appears that no matter what he does, he isn't really noticed by those around him, so caught up they are in the "chatter and hum" of life. Instead he finds that "the party's over and I'm not much use."

Not unusually for a PSB song, these lyrics lend themselves to various interpretations, any or all of which may be perfectly valid:

This last interpretation applies directly to the Pet Shop Boys' own circumstances, their having been for more than two decades highly successful in the U.K. and many other nations around the world—lives of the party in many ways. Yet mainstream pop/rock radio, with its relentless focus on youth and "the new," rarely plays their latest songs anymore. (Their previous single "Together" was virtually ignored on the radio and made it only up to #58 on the U.K. singles chart.) They're still around, still making great music, yet to increasingly large numbers of people they do in fact appear to be turning invisible: a very sad state of affairs.

The last stanza is particularly haunting:

It’s a journey so they say
But in this desert I was only a hazy, lazy mirage anyway

It's an acknowledgment, perhaps, of the Pet Shop Boys' always somewhat tenuous relationship to the pop mainstream, described remarkably as a "desert." After all, they've cast themselves more often than not in the role of outsiders, hard to pin down, what with their early "melancholy" and at times "contrary" image, not to mention their frequent use of costumes and lyrical personae. It's difficult for at least this commentator to view it otherwise.

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