The Garuda, Faravahar, the angels of the Bible, Icarus, Huitzilopochtli and now finally X Factor winners Little Mix. Yes, since the dawn of history people have dreamed of having wings. But how have the last thirty years of pop music treated the idea?
MR. MISTER – BROKEN WINGS (1985)
What’s the mood? Earnest. This classic power ballad was inspired by Khalil Gibran’s 1912 novel of the same name (as was The Beatles’ Blackbird, apparently) and is essentially a four and a half minute self-help manual about ‘learning to fly again’. I was expecting to write something sarcastic and dismissive about it, but on listening again I was quite taken with its straightforward lumbering. To be honest my prejudice was purely down to Mr. Mister featuring in a question on an 80s schools quiz show that I got humiliated on. Maybe it’s me who should learn to fly again.
What sort of wings are they? It’s a dashing bird of prey who visits the band in the video, so in the spirit of forgiveness let’s give them that.
BETTE MIDLER – WIND BENEATH MY WINGS (1989)
What’s the mood? Mawkish. Bette hijacked a song that had already been around the block a few times (there’s a version by Sheena Easton of all people) to fit in with the tragic ending of her film Beaches. So we have the electric piano of regret, the synth strings of sadness, the choral vox of heaven’s door and the gentle splash drums of hindsight. Not to mention those grandstanding vocal ascents into the sky at the end. Sainthood! What can I tell you? I’m a sucker for this shit. Hilariously, on the soundtrack album this funereal behemoth is followed by a perky song called ‘I’ve Still Got My Health’.
What sort of wings are they? Bette says that (subject to an appropriate aerodynamic lift coefficient) she can fly higher than an eagle. Which would make her more like a bar-headed goose.
XTM & DJ Chucky presents Annia – Fly On The Wings Of Love (2003)
What’s the mood? Jaunty. As jaunty as you’d expect from a jaunty Eurohouse cover of a jaunty Eurovision-winning song – jaunty panpipes, cheesy drum fills, flanged crowd noises and all. I like the way that the exposed bassline snakes around under the verses and I like a song that doesn’t outstay its welcome, so neither will this paragraph.
What sort of wings are they? These are wings that can take us from the softest sand (hand in hand!) to touch the sky (fly baby fly!) and the stars above – the wings of love themselves, in fact. Well if love needs to have interstellar capability AND saltwater resistance it sounds like these are probably the wings of that underwater spaceship they found in the Baltic recently. And as this discovery was by Swedish scientists it brings us nicely back to Eurovision’s spiritual home.
MAXWELL – PRETTY WINGS (2009)
What’s the mood? Stoic. Oh it’s proper heartbreak now as Maxwell lets his love go so she can find someone better. And the music’s as delicate and lovely as the title implies; subtle and powerful at the same time.
What sort of wings are they? Of course the only downside of orbiting your lovely song around a fixed metaphor is that bloggers like me will come along and dissect it at best whimsically and at worst slightly more whimsically. Is she a beautiful brightly-coloured hummingbird? No, you see loads of those, she’s something too good be true. A flying toaster such as what were all the range in 90s screensavers then? Yes, yes why not. It’s about as likely as Maxwell ever finishing the supposed trilogy of albums that this song allegedly kicked off.
LITTLE MIX – WINGS (2012)
What’s the mood? Celebratory. It’s so rare for X Factor to throw up a winning act that actually feels at home in the charts. And yet here they are at Number One, finally uniting pop’s clap-clap-clap genre with its wob-wob-wob one, with even a quick foray into rat-tat-tat at the end. Let’s not be disheartened that this decent-sounding music comes from a band with an irredeemably bad name – we did start off with Mr. Mister after all.
What sort of wings are they? Well here’s a thing. It’s made very clear in the lyrics that the inspirational appendages keeping the girls sailing above all their haterz are butterfly’s wings. Hooray! you might say. But you’d be wrong. Because later we hear that hurtful words are like ‘water off my wings’. Did they think they were ducks for a minute? Because they’re stuck with being butterflies. And the prospects for a butterfly who gets her wings wet are grim. A wet butterfly is too heavy to fly. If she falls from her perch then she’s stuck on the ground, and assuming she avoids being trodden on then she’ll quite likely get a horrific fungal infection and die. Still. Clap-clap-clap.