“In the summer girls come and summer girls go”
In 1999 when “Summer Girls” by LFO was released, I had just turned 14. That summer I had finished the eighth grade and was going to enter the ninth grade. My music tastes were defined based on alternative rock, industrial rock and loving videogame music. I also had a secret enjoyment with the dance music played on MuchMusic’s Electric Circus, with a secret hope to one day get on the show wearing a black mesh shirt and leather pants (There’s no more Electric Circus but the fact I don’t own leather pants right now is depressing). That said, I didn’t love boy bands and didn’t understand that pop music was more than just boy bands and innocent looking teen girls singing about sexual innuendos.
I also had illegal satellite with DirecTV where my dad had to purchase a new card every two weeks so we always had sweet, sweet American television. That included MTV and MTV2, so despite being from Canada, I got to enjoy TV the way Americans did. I also had MuchMusic in Canada and the YTV show Hitlist, which used to show Canadian bands as well as American and British. It focused mostly on pop music like TRL so at one point it was just a deluge of Moffats, Take That and Backstreet Boys. At some point in July of 1999, this music video came on and changed everything.
Did it make me love pop music? Did it make me respect boy bands? Did I learn to appreciate references to the south and pop culture references?
No. But it did clue me into music lyrics and how bad they can truly get.
As someone who listened to a lot of Nine Inch Nails, it wasn’t hard to pick up on references and themes. Trent Reznor loved to write about the same stuff over and over (and merely picked up new themes when he got sober) because it meant he always knew how to rhyme it, but that also made the songs easy to remember and listen to. But LFO “Summer Girls” helped me recognize the power of the English language, especially when it is completely failed.
Summer Girls contains rhymes that are pretty much words that sound similar. It feels like the lines are created just so they work together. The song contains product references to “Abercrombie and Fitch” and “Cherry Coke” and I don’t think they were paid to add them in. It’s actually incredible for one individual single to reference Larry Bird, Paul Revere, Alex P. Keaton and “Billy Shakespeare” and seem to keep a straight face about it.
The lyrics are absolute garbage and it wasn’t only me who knew it. Everybody knew it. Even Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block, whose boy band is referenced, knew it from this VH1 I love the 90s special on 1999:
It was also supposed to be stupid, at least according to him. It was just a fun, silly song by three guys in a boy band. Except… it wasn’t really a boy band. I only hear Rich talking. Rich even references himself. Usually boy bands let the other members do something. I think even Kevin Richardson got a couple lines in Backstreet Boys songs. I know they all have “leaders” like your Nick Lachey’s, Justin Timberlake’s and Nick Carter’s but the other members get a bit of a bone instead of just harmonies. Devin Lima and Brad Fischetti got nothing. They got fuck all. They looked like they sang the chorus but it really just sounds like Rich Cronin’s voice sampled over itself. This was the Rich Cronin Boy Band featuring Lima, Ohio and The Fisch.
But the one thing about the song’s lyrics I’ll never stop talking about is easily the most bizarre, out of place lyric in a mess of out of place lyrics. It’s hardly discussed because “Billy Shakespeare” and all of the other low hanging fruit. The song is supposed to be upbeat and fun. Rich is supposed to be charismatic and flirty. After talking about New Edition’s “Candy Girl” and this girl being from Georgia, he drops this bewildering couplet:
“You love hip hop and rock n roll
Dad took off when you were 4 years old”
What the hell? Why go down the depressing route of her father leaving her? Did she tell you that last summer and you remembered? Did you think bringing it up would make her happy? Was Rich struggling to think of another rhyme and couldn’t put, say, “But I prefer R&B and Soul” instead of proclaiming her with daddy issues? Was he angry they are no longer speaking and she made him sit through Footloose? What the fuck Rich?
The video was also interesting in that LFO doesn’t seem concerned with dancing like other bands. Rich flails his arms a bit but mostly they sit around what looks to be Jersey Shore while depressing, malnourished models (or maybe just fans?) dance around them and look like they are trying to get their attention half-heartedly. It’s missing the budget of other 1999 music videos during the time but the song still was popular on The Hitlist and TRL. I know this because I hated it.
I hated it more than any song I had ever heard in my life at that point and that feeling continued until I heard “What it is to burn” by Finch, my first kiss if you will into a general disdain for anything referred to as emo.
But the difference between that garbage Finch song (and the song that usurped it years later, “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder) and “Summer Girls” is I eventually learned to like “Summer Girls”. It’s still one of the worst songs lyrically ever made and there doesn’t seem to be much musical skill in production or singing involved but… I don’t know. It grew on me. Making fun of it for over a decade (and getting close to two) led me to kind of be endeared by its awful attempt at a summertime jam. It doesn’t try hard while trying hard and I guess I can appreciate that. I can’t stop talking about Summer Girls by LFO, nor can I help myself to sing every lyric I can remember when I get a chance. I listen to it multiple times every summer. It’s a part of my annual routine. In the summer one hit wonders come and one hit wonders go. Some are worthwhile and some are so so. “Summer Girls” by LFO I guess I kind of like.
I’ll steal your honey like I stole your bike.
EDIT: Some details were incorrect. I don’t know how I mixed up these details so poorly. This is the folly of a personal blog. No editor. Sorry Dow Brain, you were never a member and only a producer.