The Final Judgment on “The Final Countdown”
Thanks to that TV commercial for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, in which various chunky Wii gamers train under the watchful eye of their pixellated masters while cheese rock booms in the background, Athena’s been exposed to that most hideous of 80s hair metal anthems: “The Final Countdown” by Europe. More to the point, because she saw me wince when the snippet of the song’s synth fanfare barfed out of my TV speakers, she’s made it a point to torture me with it, coming up to me at inopportune times and singing “It’s the final countdown!” and then running away giggling.
Well, I can’t have that, so this morning before school I finally did what I should have done a long time ago, and made her listen to the whole damn thing, the idea being once she listened to its entire flaccidly vomitrocious length, she would be forever cured of the need to sing any part of it, to me or anyone else. Of course it meant I had to listen to it again, too, but these are the sacrifices parents have to make for their children.
Naturally, it was no surprise to me how craptacular this particular song is, but I had largely forgotten the reason why, which was, aside from being insipid and banal popcraft in that peculiarly Swedish way, instrumentally, every part of the sounds like substandard apings of other 80s rock bands. The synth riff is a clunky transposition of the synth riff from “Only Time Will Tell” by Asia, lead singer Joey Tempest sounds like he spent his teenage years in front of the mirror, attempting to imitoot exarctly Scorpions lead singer Klaus Meine, and the tunelessly finger-mashing guitar solo sounds like a smudged photocopy of every other tunelessly finger-mashing 80s faux-metal guitar solo, which in themselves are smudged photocopies of the fretwork of Randy “I’m the only person who can actually pull this shit off” Rhodes.
Individually it’s all crap, but put it all together, and it apparently becomes the sort of super-synergistic hypercrap that goes to #1 in twenty-six countries; apparently only the US maintained relative sanity in the face of such musical manure, allowing it to reach only #8. But that was bad enough, people. Even so, the next time some smug European starts lecturing you about how America has lost its moral compass, and tortures people, and is turning its Constitution into hamster bedding, you can look them straight in the eye and say “at least we didn’t let ‘The Final Countdown’ go to number one, you tone-deaf bastard.” And do you know what they will say to that? Nothing. Because there is nothing to say. You held the line, America. Stand tall.
Once Athena was done listening to the song in its entirety, I asked her what she thought of it. She said, “It’s okay. But the thirty second version of it is better.” Which is possibly the very best anyone could ever say of “The Final Countdown,” and, really, all you need to know about it.