the sweet 16:
(3) jane child, "don't wanna fall in love" defeats (7) deep blue something, "breakfast at tiffany's" 151-107
Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchfadness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on 3/23.
analysis by zaza karaim
"Breakfast at Tiffany’s": How did this song make it this far? This song seems vaguely familiar, like some repressed, horrible memory. While I am a supporter of all artistic endeavors, I believe this song should never have been created. The lyrics are beyond uninspired. The verse is bland. The chorus is annoying. Zaza’s rating: 1
"Don’t Want to Fall in Love": This feel like a generic pop song, but I’m enjoying listening to it. It definitely seems a little dated Also, the album cover screams early 90s. I don’t think I’d heard this one before, and it was worth the listen. The chorus isn’t really catchy, but makes you want to dance. Zaza’s rating: 6.5
KATIE JEAN SHINKLE ON "BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S"
My brother’s homeboy has his skinny, crusty, white dick in his hand underneath the urine stained My Little Pony comforter made for a child’s bed, not large enough for two teenagers, too short for even one. We are at my friend’s house and I was trying to sleep in this room by myself until he stumbled in and asked to share this bed with me. I only agreed if he stayed on his own side, which lasted all of five minutes. I’m not sure why he is here to begin with, or why he stayed. The air is dank, mildewy, and dirty. Through the doorframe, the stark florescent lighting of the hallway highlights swirling air from the ceiling fan and reflects a kind of dirt that only old houses with more than two stories can contain, a dirt that no one has touched because no one has been in this room for so long. There are old calendars tacked onto the bloated, wet walls of years gone by: half-naked women in thong bikinis bending over, ass to the camera; a singular red corvette; striped kittens in a basket of spools of multicolored crochet thread; of Stonehenge where my friend’s grandparents went last year. The Stonehenge calendar is the newest addition to the forgotten calendars, but, like the rest, not turned to the correct month.
“Come on,” my brother’s homeboy says, “Suck it.”
I remind him that if my older brother knew what was going on in this room, he would beat his ass. My brother’s homeboy looks at the ceiling in defeat.
“But he ain’t here, ain’t he,” he mumbles to himself, as if I am invisible.
The sun is beginning to rise but only in the way the sun rises in winter in the Midwest: darker grey until it is a brighter grey. We have been up all night long smashing mini-thins and snorting them up our noses. Mini-thins are a dietary supplement made of ephedrine, which is now illegal to sell in such a form because meth can be made from it. In the 1990’s, however, you could buy it freely if you were 18 years old or older at any gas station or party store. We were not 18 years old but could buy them anyway because our friends worked the counters at these gas stations and party stores and sold us the pills and anything else we wanted. We are swimming in legal speed.
It is January of 1996 and Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a popular song, landing at #5 on the Billboard Top 100, the highest ranking the song will ever achieve. It is in competition with “Missing” by Everything But The Girl and “Hey Lover” by LL Cool J. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is played on Adult Contemporary Radio, Top-40, and Alternative Radio, too, so the song is everywhere and we mini-thin loving kids are inundated by it.
My brother’s homeboy starts humming “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” dick still in his hand. “And I said/What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?…” He is rubbing his dick against the top of the blanket, inching the flaccidness closer to me.
“Are you singing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” I laugh.
“Naw, I wouldn’t sing that fag shit,” he says. It is the first time I hear the word “fag” in such a way. I know of this derogatory term but never equated it with a song. It doesn't make any sense to me. I feel offended, even though I have no context yet as to why, except this word coming out of this kid’s mouth in this way makes me want to murder him. All I feel is rage. I ball my hands into fists. I go to punch him, but my balled hands are too jittery from the mini-thins.
“Do you have any cigarettes?” I ask.
“Only if you suck it,” my brother’s homeboy says.
It is completely bright, grey light outside, streaming through the caked, icy windows. I can hear my friend getting up in the other room, I am sure she is wondering where I was this entire time, why I didn’t join her in her room, why I am in this abandoned room alone. Or maybe she knows my brother’s homeboy is in here. Or maybe my brother’s homeboy went to her room first. All of these scenarios fill me with fear. I have no interest in his gross dick. I want to go home. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is reeling in my brain. It is Sunday morning and my mom will be here soon to pick me up and take me to church. My brother will not be pleased to know what has happened here. I tell his homeboy again, “You know my older brother is going to whip your stupid ass for this, right?”
He takes my hand and puts it on him, moves my hand up and down with his hand on top and my hand on bottom. I jerk my hand away but he forces my hand back to him. This is clumsy and awkward. I feel like I am going to throw up. I rip my hand away from him for good and get up from the mattress that is in the middle of the room, on the floor, and broken so it is sinking in the middle.
“Man,” he says “I thought you were different. Shit.” He turns over, his back to me. “You can go on,” he says. “Fuck you,” I say. I steal three cigarettes and a $20 dollar bill from his jeans pocket draped on a half-broken chair and slam the door on the way out.
I go across the hall to my friend’s bedroom, climb into her bed with her. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is stuck in my head: “You say/we got nothing in common/no common ground to start from/and we’re falling apart./You say/the world has come between us/our lives have come between us/still I know you just don’t care.” I light a bent cigarette, smoke it lying on my back, blowing smoke rings up to the peeling floral wallpaper. I can’t wait to tell my brother what just happened. I can’t wait for him to beat his homeboy’s ass to oblivion.
Katie Jean Shinkle is the author of The Arson People (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2015) and Our Prayers After the Fire (Blue Square Press, 2014). Other work has appeared in Ninth Letter, Washington Square, Booth, Barrow Street, Flaunt Magazine, and elsewhere. She serves as co-fiction editor of DIAGRAM and creative nonfiction editor of Banango Street.
MANUEL MUÑOZ ON "DON'T WANNA FALL IN LOVE"
Am I the only one who needs to be forgiven for confusing Jane Child for Taylor Dayne? “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love,” at least to my young ears at the time, was cut from the same dance/pop-with-heavy-synth formula as “Tell It to My Heart.” When I first heard the song on the radio, I thought Taylor had made a welcome return from the adult-contemporary side of the dial, where she was learning a thing or two from Anita Baker about the money to be raked in from the kind of music played over white wine and maybe a bear-skin rug if you played your cards right.
Back then, I also listened to music through constant flipping among the MTV-VH1-BET axis and it caught me by genuine surprise when I finally ran across the Jane Child video. To paraphrase Blanche Devereaux, I knew it couldn’t be a Taylor Dayne video because there were no boy dancers. If Taylor Dayne knew the value of a well-staged and well-packaged (as it were) dance number, Jane Child went the other way with a largely gritty, sometimes black-and-white, sometimes color depiction of her walk to a New York studio to lay down this track. Whether strolling along in some cool-ass boots or hailing a cab or taking the N train to (or from?) Queens, she’s always alone, and as exuberantly fine with that as the song suggests she would be. “Ain’t no personal thing, boy,” she warns in the opening line, “but you have got to stay away.” The chaos of the video’s editing makes the most it can out of a formidable persona being brutally honest about what love with her might mean. Like any opening of Saturday Night Live, just about every variation on the possibilities of city nightlife gets trotted out, only to overshadow the performer it is meant to highlight.
I’m really torn about this song for all sorts of reasons. I’ll be honest here and admit that I cringed when I saw that this song was up against Monie Love, a performer who I think is going to benefit most from (re)discovery in these brackets, and who brings back fond memories of one of my high-school friends endlessly playing her cassette single (her cassette single!) on our drives around town. I’m secretly (or not so secretly) rooting for Monie, even as I acknowledge that the great bluster in Jane Child’s lyrics were part of the draw. I appreciate how the song posits that her kind of love won’t be for wimps and the relish she takes in that. But that can get lost amid its dance appeal and, to be fair, Jane Child’s delivery. The acidic possibilities of those lyrics get a bit muddled and the 90’s-synth comes on thicker (and more dated) in this song than in others within the bracket.
Ultimately, I wonder what “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” means in defining the one-hit wonder for this era, and am left pondering Jane Child’s presence: her ankle-length braids and the nose chain and the long black coat remind me of just how inimitable she was. By that, I mean that emulating the look and the posture (as was our wont when I was growing up) took a hell of a lot more effort than copying Taylor Dayne’s bangs from her “Tell It to My Heart” video. There’s a lot to be said for creating a formula that allows for just enough emulation but not complete derivation, uniqueness but not idiosyncrasy. Taylor Dayne herself knew exactly how to package her power ballads—as neat, elegant, well-lensed studio performances, going black-and-white where Anita Baker had gone sepia. Jane Child struck all the right notes in blending a flashy dance track with a satisfyingly dark undercurrent in her lyrics, but it might be the kind of strike a performer can make just once. You’ll have to forgive me if I remember “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” as two hot guys dancing against a white backdrop, jean jackets and no shirts, and a final, infuriatingly sexy turnaway from the camera. The one in the yellow socks, especially, with the deliberate hitch in his step: every time, it calls my name.
Manuel Muñoz is the author of a novel, What You See in the Dark, and two short-story collections. He’s midway through a third, with recent work in American Short Fiction and forthcoming from Southwest Review.