Song 202: Cheap Trick, “Voices” (1979)

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For years, my knowledge of Cheap Trick consisted of “I Want You To Want Me,” that radio stalwart whose introduction (“I want you … to want … ME!”) sounded less and less fresh every time (making the rapturous applause from the audience increasingly strange). After hearing “Surrender” much later, I realized that this was a band I could love. Sure enough, “Voices” came along soon after.

I first heard “Voices” because of Jon Brion’s version of the song. When I heard Cheap Trick’s version, I could see why Brion liked it: those sunny and complex harmonies, the heartbreak of a melody, the way that “I remember every word you said” bridge comes out of nowhere but immediately makes complete sense.

It amazes me that a song could be so ornate, so shiny, and so massive, yet also sound so personal and intimate. “Voices” sounds like plastic, yet it also sounds like a man pleading his case, genuinely and emotionally. The contrast works in its favor, as if the narrator knows how artificial his pleading sounds but can’t stop himself.

In many ways, too, “Voices” is about pop music, and the way we need bands like Cheap Trick without even knowing it: We didn’t know what we were looking for until we heard their voices–shiny plastic voices–in our ears.

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