All Over the World

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2009
Original album - Yes
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - single/Christmas EP (UK #40)

There's no shortage of "anthems" in the PSB canon. "Go West" and "A Red Letter Day" come immediately to mind. But even less obvious tracks like "Always on My Mind," "Shameless," "Se A Vida É," and "Delusions of Grandeur" have strongly anthemic qualities. To this group we can add a prominent new member: "All Over the World."

No, this is not a cover of the identically titled Electric Light Orchestra song from 1980. Rather, it's a PSB original and a strong candidate for a single, as suggested by the fact that our musical heroes chose to include it in the hits medley they performed at the 2009 Brits Awards the night they were recognized for their Outstanding Contribution to Music. In fact, there are other strong indications (including a March 2009 interview with Neil by Nick Levine of Digital Spy) that the Boys would have preferred it to be the album's second single. But apparently their record label lobbied hard for "Did You See Me Coming?" and won out.

Instead, a new version of "All Over the World," co-produced by the Boys with Marius de Vries, appears on their special 2009 holiday release Christmas—a not inappropriate turn of events considering the song's musical DNA. A promo of this more heavily orchestrated new version, somewhat reminiscent of middle-period Beatles—think "All You Need Is Love"—was released in advance to radio, which indicates that it's being treated in at least some ways like an honest-to-goodness single.

In the words of the official website, the Boys wrote the song "with a little help from Tchaikovsky," specifically the fanfare-like main theme of the March from the holiday classic The Nutcracker (Op. 71: II). Chris gets the credit for its inclusion. At one point while writing the song he and Neil found themselves stuck for ideas. Chris suddenly expressed his frustration by banging out the Tchaikovsky chords on his keyboard. They liked and kept it. I also wouldn't be surprised if Neil and Chris—who have been working on a ballet recently and have surely been doing research into classic ballet music (just as they watched a great many classic musicals as part of their preparation to write their own stage musical)—had The Nutcracker on their minds. It is, after all, the single most popular ballet of all time. In response to an interviewer who expressed some surprise that a song about pop music would draw upon a classical piece in this way, Neil retorted that "Tchaikovsky wrote a lot of pop music" and that "The Nutcracker is chock full of hits!" (Tchaikovsky's name, by the way, doesn't appear in the composing credits for this song because his work has long been in the public domain. It's also worth noting that the "new version" on the Christmas EP contains even more of the composer's music than the Yes original.)

Lyrically the song celebrates music in general, and pop music in particular. Infectiously laden with handclaps (real, sampled, or synthesized), inviting us to clap along, it extols the way we use music to express ourselves, our attitudes, and our feelings. It even suggests that, in a sense, we are all "musicians" and we all "play music"—not only those of us who (like Chris and Neil) actually write and perform music, but also those of us who simply play their recordings. Whether we are virtuosos on the guitar, synthesizer, stereo, or iPod, the music we play is a big part of who we are.

The lyric also uses the logically enigmatic device of referring to itself as an example of what it's about:

This is a song about boys and girls
You hear it playing all over the world

In other words, this song serves as a "stand-in" for all the other pop songs that you do indeed hear playing all over the world. And, in effect, it boldly predicts that you'll hear this particular song playing all over the world as well. Given such lofty aspirations, it's hardly surprising that the Boys gave it a melody and arrangement that positively soar. It sounds nothing less than—yes, anthemic.

Incidentally, the middle-eight section includes what appears to be Neil's encapsulated description of what makes pop music so special:

It's sincere and subjective
Superficial and true
Easy and predictable
Exciting and new

I think that—especially the "superficial and true" part—summarizes the wonder of pop music very nicely indeed.

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