The Pop Kids

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2016
Original album - Super
Producer - Stuart Price
Subsequent albums - Inner Sanctum, Smash
Other releases - single (UK #128, UK Dance #32, US Dance #1)

This song originated with the confluence of two separate creative acts by the Pet Shop Boys. During their 2011 tour with Take That, Chris composed the music in a Munich hotel room; hence he titled it "Munich." Later, in 2014, when he and Neil began working on songs for the album that would eventually become Super, he dug it up and played it for Neil. The music made Neil think of a potential song title he had previously written down, "The Pop Kids," which had been inspired by a friend of his who, back in the 1990s, loved pop music and would often go out clubbing with his equally pop-enamored girlfriend. Hence their friends nicknamed the two of them "the pop kids."

While the album version of the song is indeed set in the 'nineties, the Boys stated on their official website that one of their remixes (subtitled "The Full Story") "brings the story of the Pop Kids up to the present" by means of an additional verse. Indeed it does. It sounds as though our two protagonists are no longer a couple but are now living far apart—which explains why the song's recurring refrain "I loved you" is in the past tense. The narrator's former girlfriend is now a highly successful clinical biologist in California ("someone to be reckoned with"), while he himself is some sort of journalist "writing stuff about the global situation." Yet they apparently remain on friendly terms and keep in touch with each other, mutually treasuring their youthful "pop education." (Incidentally, Neil has stated with a touch of light-hearted pride, "You don't often get the phrase 'clinical biologist' in pop songs.")

Although "Inner Sanctum" streamed online before the release of any other tracks from Super, it was meant simply as a non-single foretaste of the album. "The Pop Kids" is the album's first true single, scheduled for physical release March 18, 2016. It was available in digital format as early as February 16, however, on iTunes.

The track's general musical style—although it doesn't really kick in until the first chorus—might be described as "house lite." Think of the synth-heavy take on house music heard in "Vocal" from the preceding album, but with a much airier, more effervescent touch. Yet it nevertheless has a strangely downbeat air to it. Despite the bouncy, seemingly carefree music, there's a strong undercurrent of melancholy conveyed through a preponderance of minor chords and Neil's slightly stiff, wooden vocal. It sounds almost as if he knows something that we don't. Or is he simply trying to express a sense of the vague sadness that so often accompanies nostalgia—a bittersweet awareness of lost youth and "good old days" now long past? Then again, there's that little matter of lost love ("I loved you"), which in and of itself is more than enough to justify that melancholy.


Although, as noted above, Neil based this song on the experiences of some friends and adopted the voice of one of them as his lyrical persona, many fans surmised from the start that he may have drawn upon his own personal experiences as well, especially with regard to those specific lines. It appears that they were correct. Journalist A.D. Amorosi, writing for the U.S. alternative music publication Magnet, has quoted Neil as saying of those lines, "That's my snapshot recollection of coming up, really," apparently referring to the days before he and Chris hit the big time.


Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references