Single Review: HURTS – ‘Wonderful Life’

Revival of a music genre is one thing, but when you set yourself the task of reviving an genre, an image, and an era in musical history and then interpolate influences of modern music… that’s when it takes more than just a few musical brain cells if you’re aiming for A) success, and B) mainstream success.

You see, there’s two routes you can take in the music business. Route A is the fastrack to a hit: you get given a sub-par, forgettable pop song that does what it says on the tin and instantly shoots up the chart, but ultimately will be forgotten. Route B is what HURTS have taken: you write an amazing song that’s not so commercial and you get nowhere because no-one respects decent music from up-coming British artists anymore.

HURTS are very clever, even right down to their name (a homophonic spin of the word ‘HERTZ’) they exude an embodiment of class and subtlety that’s very rarely seen these days. But it’s not just any type of class that’s missing from today’s stale offering of young pop wannabes – it’s the whole character/visage that you need to stay relevant. For example: GaGa has her avant garde fashion and flamboyant live performances; she’s the only pop star of today who has the whole package, whether you like her or not. Looking back, you see David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust; Elton John as Pinball Wizard; the Pet Shop Boys and their whole look where Niel Tennant being the stylish one who sang, and Chris Lowe who wore more casual clothes and rarely ever spoke. All of them had their striking image/visage that caused controversy and embodied them as an artist, rather than most modern ‘artists’ who churn out an average song and attempt to do some mediocre acting in the video. I ask you, where do Ne-Yo, Pixie Lott, JLS, Jason Derulo, Dizzee Rascal and the like prove to us they have the longevity and iconic songs/visage/performances to become superstars like David Bowie, Elton John and the Pet Shop Boys?

Moving back to the Manchester duo, HURTS’ image recalls that of the Pet Shop Boys, with Theo taking on the role of Niel and Adam taking on a similar role to Chris. HURTS are reviving British synth-pop, a genre that’s been long-gone since the end of the 80’s; sure they don’t don the mad haircuts or the painted fingernails that acclaimed acts of the 80’s like Erasure, Depechemode, and The Human League donned, but rather a slick, Italian Mafia-type look that’s going to become their trademark soon enough.

With the songs they’ve shown their fans (unreleased tracks ‘Illuminated’, ‘Blood, Tears & Gold’, and début single ‘Better Than Love’) they’ve proved they’re the kind of act who have the image, the songs, and the rounded characters to become the next long-lasting popstars: they’ve found their niche. For comparison purposes only, what is Pixie Lott’s niche? ‘Little British lady with a soulful voice’? We already have Amy Winehouse and Adele, there’s no room for her – whereas HURTS have crafted themselves and their whole package to fill a gap in the market that’s been vacant since 1989. I’m surprised no-one saw to fill it until now; it seems people would rather copy other artists and do what they do to ensure success, rather than try to craft something new for risk of not making it big.

I realise now, that I’ve haven’t said a great deal about the song itself, so here goes:

Opening with a subdued synth progression and minimal drums, Theo starts to narrate a story of a suicidal man “on a bridge across the Severn on a Saturday night” who is met by a woman who persuades him not to jump. The storyline alone lends itself greatly to the fact HURTS aren’t your average pop wannabes with above average songs about your typical love story: it’s a far darker concept than that.

The song progressively travels through to the bridge before losing the bass, and we get the sense a huge chorus is upon us, and HURTS gives it to us. Icy synths and a huge drum procession erupt into a beautifully melancholy pop chorus with some very dark lyrics – “Don’t let go/Never give up/It’s such a wonderful life”. And in true Pet Shop Boys style, HURTS have taken time to add a long gospel-ish instrumental section with some incessant chanting for your aural pleasure.

The video is very minimalist too, with an utterly bewildering plot but there’s something near-hypnotic about the dancers and how they submerge themselves in the pool to continue their dance routine as a metaphor of the song’s protagonist.

Very Pet Shop Boys.

After the poor performance of the brilliant début single ‘Better Than Love’, HURTS have managed to get onto Radio 1’s B-List with ‘Wonderful Life’, so we can expect a Top 40 placing for sure, Top 10 with any justice.

It seems, that in a current climate where pretty much any song in the charts could’ve been sung by about six other artists, it’s refreshing to see something enjoyably unique, that doesn’t jump mercilessly into your face (á la Lady GaGa). ‘Wonderful Life’ should, with any luck, be the start of Theo and Adam’s very long career in music.

Rating: 5.0 STARS

Download: August 23, 2010

Featured Album: ‘Happiness’

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  1. banana_munchkin

    I am heavily biased when it comes to Hurts. They are my absolute favourite band ever. Currently. I am a fickle being.

    Wonderful Life is such a gorgeous song, and it deserves to do as well as possible, as do Hurts. I hate that Better Than Love did so badly, as it was a good song.

    1. Dara Hickey

      ‘Better Than Love’ was again, a faultless production, and should’ve launched their career. Unfortunately it stalled at #50.

      I had to stop myself being biased as well because they’re also my favourite, ever since I heard ‘Wonderful Life’ back when it was a promotional single I knew they were going to be huge. Unfortunately, considering the current nose-dive in musical quality, I doubt people will appreciate this track for what it actually is.

      1. banana_munchkin

        It most definitely was. I think one of the main problems was lack of promotion, which I don’t think will be the case with Wonderful Life- it’s on MTV’s Push thing, so will be getting at least some airplay on the music channels, which is more than I can say for Better Than Love. 


        Oh yes, same. And they will be huge in one way or another, I think, even if it is just for a select few. I hope this isn’t the case, however. To be quite honest, I hate most music in the charts. Hurts really stands head and shoulders above all the other silly songs, and should Wonderful Life do well, they should be able to convince everyone else that this is the way to go.

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