Released - 2023
Chart peak - UK #4, US #89*

*The U.S. chart figure is for album sales only. The primary U.S. album chart, on which Smash hasn't appeared, covers both sales and streaming.

Subtitled The Singles 1985-2020, Smash—which, as a design consideration, might more formally be stylized in all-caps, SMASH—is the fourth Pet Shop Boys hits collection, released in June 2023. Promoted as "the complete collection of their singles in chronological order," it appears in several different formats, including a three-CD set as well as a box set featuring those three CDs plus two Blu-ray discs offering all of the videos for their singles and "extras." The album cover consists of a still shot from a radically blurred zoom-effect animated sequence based on the Boys' single sleeves. For instance, just above the space between the M and the A you can discern a bit of the sleeve for "Go West." The internal sleeves for the vinyl edition of Smash display different stills from the same animated zoom-sequence.

It's worth noting that, unlike their three previous singles collections Discography, PopArt, and Ultimate, this anthology doesn't offer any brand new, previously unreleased singles as an appeal to hardcore fans of a "completist" disposition. Apparently they feel that such an addition isn't necessary for one or more possible reasons: (1) they're appealing to more casual fans who don't already own those releases; (2) the previous collections that aren't already discontinued soon will be; and/or (3) hardcore completists will almost certainly want this release anyway despite their already having all of the songs, if only to get their hands on all of their videos in high-quality Blu-ray format. Still, it's remarkable that the record company (Parlophone) didn't insist on a new single. It's perhaps testimony to the Boys' clout that they could refuse any such demand, assuming one were made. As they themselves had only recently told an interviewer, hit singles have ceased being important to them on account of changes in how pop music "works" these days. The "single" as a format doesn't seem as important in general as it once was. Of course, persistent ageism in the pop music marketplace, including pop radio—and it has pretty much always been that way—very likely played a role in that decision as well.

Perhaps in response to widespread fan speculation about the pending release, the Pet Shop Boys organization provided some background information about it: "The Smash project developed out of [a] request from Warner Bros. for a vinyl version of the 1991 compilation Discography to be released as it was unavailable. Neil and Chris suggested extending it to include every single they have released." It was originally going to be called Hit Music (taking its name, of course, from one of the tracks on Actually), but then Chris came up with Smash instead, which they preferred for several reasons. First, it struck them as "very Roy Lichtenstein," a famed American pop artist of the 1960s and '70s, whose comic book-inspired artworks often used interjections like "POW!" and "WHAM!" Second, it's a word commonly used as an intensified synonym for a hit single, as in "A straight out of the box smash!" Finally, "also there is the connection with Neil and Smash Hits," the magazine for which he served as writer and editor before gaining even greater notoriety as a Pet Shop Boy.

An interesting aspect of Smash is the particular breakdown of tracks across its three CDs. CD 1 is equivalent to Discography, bearing exactly the same tracklist, representing "Phase 1" of their career. CD 2 continues chronologically through to the two brand new singles, "Miracles" and "Flamboyant," that were tacked onto to their second hits collection, PopArt, which might be considered the cap on their career's "second phase." It's thereby essentially (and very neatly) "Discography Volume 2." That leaves CD 3 to provide the post-PopArt singles, making it, in effect, "Discography Volume 3." Does it also therefore signal the conclusion to "Phase 3"?

The Pet Shop Boys had, even before they announced this collection, revealed that they're working on a new studio album, which will almost certainly be accompanied by one or more singles. Why didn't they hold off on this release until those singles could also be included? Aside from the record-company request noted above, this suggests to me that Chris and Neil have no plans on "retiring" anytime soon and believe they have a number of further albums and singles under their belt: "PSB Phase 4," as it were. Therefore any subsequent singles could yet be gathered onto a future "final" singles anthology sometime down the road.

Note: The following links will take you to the sections for the albums on which each song originally appeared. Please keep this in mind for "navigational" purposes.

*For the first time, I believe, in PSB history, this "dual title" is rendered wherever it appears in the Smash packaging and notes with a slash mark (aka a "solidus") between the titles of its two component songs rather than with the second title placed in parentheses. (It also appears with the slash in Annually 2023, but that's also in conjunction with Smash.) Is this a mistake (its repetition notwithstanding) or have the Boys and/or certain attorneys for the interested parties consciously settled on the change? So far I'm not aware of any "official" explanation. There are, however, a number of precedents in the PSB catalogue for inconsistencies in "titling punctuation," so it may be over-analytical to try to assign any significance to this variation.

Curiously, several bona fide singles (some cases being more curious and/or bona fide than others) are absent from the audio lineup, although they're available on the Blu-ray discs as music videos:

Finally, a number other singles are missing in both audio and video format for quite understandable reasons, such as "Absolutely Fabulous" (which was released under the monker "Absolutely Fabulous" rather than "Pet Shop Boys"), "Beautiful People" (released, like "London," as a single only in Germany but, unlike "London," not getting the video treatment), and "Undertow" (highly dubious "single" status, and no video was created for it). There are others as well. The matter is complicated by the fact that, in the advent of limited-edition dance remixes and especially digital releases and streaming it has become increasingly difficult to define precisely what constitutes a "single." As the Boys themselves have pointed out, "In recent years the idea of a 'single' has become slightly vague…. The singles compiled on Smash (from "Suburbia" onwards) were all officially released on CD in the U.K. Where there is a double-A side single or an EP, only the lead track which got radio plays has been included." Further, "All versions are the seven-inch mixes that were served to radio stations, apart from 'New York City Boy' which is the American radio edit perferred by Chris and Neil." I delve in more detail into the exclusion of certain singles—or perhaps "singles" in quotation marks would be more apt—in a list dedicated to that very subject.