Thursday, December 20, 2007

Appreciation: Van McCoy's "The Hustle"

It's big revelation time. I listen to all kinds of music, most of them good (at least in my world), some are bad. I don't particularly care about genres; if it's good, then it's good, whether it's by Beethoven or The Clash or a one-hit wonder from the 80s. However, my favorite piece of music of all-time will probably not make it to anyone's Top 10 desert island records, or to many hipsters' MP3 player.

I'm talking about Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony's immortal "The Hustle." Yep. There, I said it. I could probably listen to this song a million times and not hate it. When people hear The Hustle, they immediately think of the dance steps, or Dance Fever, or polyester pants and shirts. Well, I think of all those things too, but there's something very melancholic about the song that I truly love and which has put a lump in my throat many times. I also love the symmetry of the composition, much like how I feel when I listen to the 9-minute version of Underworld's "Born Slippy." If you listen carefully to it, The Hustle is a very uplifting single. It has a discernible climax that, unlike that of VST & Company's "Rock Baby Rock," is actually repeated several times throughout the song.

The song also connects me to my childhood, the earliest years of which I spent living in Pasay in an apartment along EDSA near the old BLTB bus station. I used to hear this song on the radio back then. It's melody brings back the smell of fumes long before talks of the ozone and global warming, and dusty sheets and floors and sofas covered in orange upholstery.

When I listen to it, I could also imagine a tragi-comic Pinoy movie set in the late 70s peopled with corrupt cops, desperate lovers and sexy dancers in a cabaret, like characters from a Bernal movie. If ever I make my own movie, I'll use The Hustle in its entirety as the music for the big finale, the big shebang.

And the late Van McCoy is one of the unheralded geniuses of pop music.

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