Rearviewmirror: Remembering the 90s – Barenaked Ladies – Stunt

90’s Score: 9/10
2020 Score: 7.5/10

When I was a hyperactive 8-year-old living in the ’90s, there was no lyric more sacred than “Chickity China, the Chinese chicken.” Every time it got to that part of “One Week,” I would burst into hysterics and rewind it over and over. It was the first time that I realized that music could be just as absurd and silly as I am. Today, the line might be considered problematic, but damn it if it doesn’t put a smile on my face. There are some out there who HATE “One Week”. Fair enough. The radio played it so much that you couldn’t go one hour without hearing it, let alone a week. It’s too bad that it’s defined Barenaked Ladies and, more specifically, Stunt because both are far better than most people give them credit for. 

“One Week” isn’t even close to the best song on here! Singer/songwriters Steven Page and Ed Robertson (with some help from Stephen Duffy) penned at least SIX tunes better than that one. “It’s All Been Done,” “I’ll Be That Girl,” “Alcohol,” “Light Up My Room,” “Call and Answer,” and “Some Fantastic”  are classics and prime examples of what peak BNL did best. Page and Robertson were naturally talented at taking pathos and dark topics and disguising them behind a nerdy aesthetic, clever lyrics, and a ridiculously catchy melody. So much so that it may take you a few listens to catch on. Take “I’ll Be That Girl,” for example. The song makes numerous allusions to autoerotic asphyxiation (“All the things I’d do to make myself turn blue”) and yet sounds just as straightforward and romantic as other 90’s hits like “There She Goes” or “Slide.” 

Despite all the juxtaposition and pop culture references, Stunt is also one of BNL’s most sincere efforts. There are songs here that are just plain emotional. “Call and Answer” is their best ballad because it doesn’t mince words: “But I’m warning you, don’t ever do/ Those crazy, messed-up things that you do.” It’s devastatingly honest in its portrayal of a broken relationship that may or may not be on its last legs. The band’s clever side overshadowed their sensitive side, but on “Call and Answer,” the boys are unmistakably heartfelt.

Stunt isn’t without its problems. They were apparent then, and in some cases, more apparent today. For one, the album is WAY too long! Why did every band in the ’90s feel the need to cram so much on to one CD? We get it, you’re not limited by vinyl but it’s called less is more; look into it! The second half is noticeably weaker and features two outright boring songs in “Told You So” and closing track “When I Dream.” I can take BNL being overly quirky or annoying, but BORING?! Never! As a kid, I always ended stopping the CD short and I did the same thing when revisiting it for this review.

As much as I adore Stunt, I can’t imagine it being a hit today. I’m not saying the radio was better then, but I get very nostalgic when I listen to this. You don’t hear pop music so outwardly comedic, earnest and unhip. In this way, Stunt is very much of its time and, ultimately, a little bit jarring to modern ears. A teenager of this generation might hear it and think its lame and all been done before. That said, I believe the lyrics are universal and the hooks inescapable, so much so that in the right hands it could still prove physically impossible not to blurt out “woo-hoo-hoo”. 

Written by Shawn Thicke
*Edited by Dominic Abate

About Shawn Thicke 121 Articles
Since the age of 12, Shawn Thicke has had an unhealthy addiction to music consumption and the need to offer his opinion to anyone willing to listen. Thankfully, since writing at Bucketlist Music Reviews, his needs have been met much to the relief of those close to him. Not only is he an avid listener, but music has pretty much taken over the rest of his life as well. His love of the stage has ensured that he is constantly busy as the lead singer and lyricist of local rock bands Rustic State and Thicke Sugar. The former you can find playing on any given weekend all over the city of Montreal. During the day though, he becomes a member of society and works as a music teacher at the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf. Shawn hopes to one day find success with his own music, but until that day comes you'll be sure to see him at your show, bopping his head with a goofy grin on his face.

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