Despite the fact that the song I’m about to analyse was one of seven singles from the 1993 album ‘Get a Grip’, charted at #24 in the UK singles chart, was a staple of their set for a time during the 90’s and also appeared in the soundtrack for the righteous Wayne’s World 2, Aerosmith’s ‘Shut Up and Dance’ doesn’t feel like its ever got the same recognition as some of their other hits around this period of the band’s history. It holds a place dear in my heart and deserves analysis to that end. I beckoned for it to be played during their headlining set at Download Festival 2010 – it wasn’t – and was disappointed to find it not included on ‘Guitar Hero: Aerosmith’. I’d have loved to have five-starred that.
It had obvious single appeal; a classic Joe Perry riff right from the office, Joey Kramer’s 1-2-3 on the toms, and all in with Steven Tyler singing ‘Talk is cheap, shut up and dance’. If that riff doesn’t get you rockin’ out or shaking your ass or whatever it is you do, and if you don’t find yourself singing along that chorus at all, you best check you have a pulse.
Tyler’s vocals during the first two verses, at first, lie in the low end; unusual for Aerosmith, as either he’s usually belting it out or at least maintaining a higher pitch, rather than bubbling under the surface. After those first two lines of each verse, it’s back to the status quo. The verses are short, pretty concise and really help the song keep its flow.
Aerosmith – Shut Up and Dance (Live at Woodstock ’94)
The song has a nice chunky midsection, the sort they used to make when you were a kid. Following the conclusion of the third chorus, it heads into a rickrolling riff driven by a ride cymbal tinker in the backdrop. Lyrically, its get a little more interesting and closer to what the song title implies. It implies that talking isn’t going to get you any – just do it. Tyler makes this clear during the bridge:
“When you work your fingers/to the bone
Now what does that get you? Nothing”
Perry’s solo is amazing on this song. Not the greatest by any stretch, but certainly worthy of the plastic guitar treatment. It’s a classic rock ‘n’ roll solo, joyous in its abandon and with plenty air of showmanship. And speaking of showmanship, Tyler doesn’t mess around with the double entendrés when his vocals return – for example:
“Sex is like a gun
You aim, you shoot, ha ha, you run”.
Fair enough, it’s not the most engaging of songs – its yet another Aerosmith song about sex. It’s hardly going to get you changing your political mindset or get you opening up to any sort of personal themes. But ‘Shut Up and Dance’ doesn’t need to be one of the songs – that much is abundant in its title alone. Just loosen up and lose yourself in one of the 90’s greatest and most-often overlooked of rock hits. As the song itself says, “don’t get deep, shut up and dance!” I can’t sum it up much better than that.
Previously in this series:
The Wildhearts – Rooting For The Bad Guy
AC/DC – Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round To Be A Millionaire)