Party Song

Writers - Tennant/Lowe/Casey/Finch
First released - 2006
Original album - Format
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Release 2017 reissue Further Listening 2001-2004 bonus disc
Other releases - bonus track with single "Numb"

In light of the fact that it shares the status of "Numb" bonus track with "Bright Young Things," and that the Pet Shop Boys recorded the Noël Coward standard "The Party's Over Now" around the same time for a similar prospective purpose, there was early speculation that this might be that same song under a different title. That, however, proved not to be the case. It's a fast, raucous, synth-heavy, and rather discordant original that sounds every bit as much the "Party Song" that its title suggests.

As revealed in the May 2007 issue of the offical Pet Shop Boys Fan Club magazine Literally, the music originated with Chris and Neil working on a possible cover version of Nirvana's grunge-rock classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which had been suggested to them by Elton John. But they quickly turned it into a different song altogether, retaining only their bass line.

On first listen there seems little to interpret here. But that all depends on one very important question: just who is Neil's lyrical persona in this song? If it's Neil himself (or someone very much like him), then this song can probably be taken at face value simply as a celebration of "goodtime" music appropriate for a party. There is, after all, an important place in the world for such songs. But what if it's someone quite different from either of the Pet Shop Boys? Could it be a somewhat misguided fan complaining about the plethora of recent "non-party" PSB songs—such as "Numb" itself or, for that matter, the entire albums Release and/or Fundamental? Or perhaps it's a record company executive lodging a similar complaint, urging Chris and Neil to write and release more "party-oriented" material ("I'm gonna help you pick it"), presumably as a means toward greater popular appeal. (I can easily imagine such executives ignorantly believing that, in their earlier, more commercially successful days, the Pet Shop Boys cranked out mindless party songs by the score.)

Actually, as Neil states in the aforementioned issue of Literally, he wrote the lyrics from the perspective of "a guy at a club harassing the DJ to play a record he likes.… [T]hey hate it… because DJs just don't really operate like that nowadays, and haven't for many years. The song sympathizes with the DJ."

Part of the charm of this song lies in the very fact that it would seem to meet the criterion of being a "party song" while teasing us with its sarcasm. Once again, its the ambiguity that makes it most interesting. As they had done previously with "Between Two Islands," the Boys interpolate a bit of a pop classic into the song—in this case, KC and the Sunshine Band's 1975 disco standard "That's the Way (I Like It)." (Thus the co-writing credit for Henry Wayne Casey—"KC" himself—and Richard Raymond Finch.) Neil and Chris did this to show how the narrator gets his way in the end, with the DJ playing a party song after all.


List cross-references