It’s been around a long time, of course, but I still find “Under Pressure” to be a song that stops me in my tracks. They played it on the radio this morning as I was making Lisa’s oatmeal (she’s still got morning exercises to do, and it’s still a good idea to keep her off her feet as much as is practical right now, so I’m still on breakfast duty).
It’s a great song, layered in its making as well as its content.
The bass hook announces itself, and then Bowie and Mercury take over and the song soars to so many different places. You hear this weird mix of tension and respect and one-upsmanship between them. Two stars. Two diva’s as it were, on equal footing, slugging it out for control of the piece. There is pressure there, even if its unspoken, a constant challenge and response. But there is also joy in the scat of their lyrics and in the jaunty backbone to the bass line–the hand-clap, the finger-snap rhythm. The musicians clamor underneath the vocal, toiling like men in the boiler room to give the song cohesion. The pace builds as if it is life itself. And this is life, after all, isn’t it? Someone takes care of the details while everything else is rushing by, and in the mix of sounds that make the whole of the song you soon realize the constant raising beat of the drums that increase the tension that has been carried in the vocal mix until it cannot be sustained without some kind of intervention.
Then the piece gets to its last third, that last minute and a half that is a pure call to put all problems and disagreements aside and just give love one more chance, why can’t we give love one more chance, why can’t we give love, give love give love give love …