366 Songs 056: UGLY

Thinking about Shampoo brings to mind Daphne and Celeste, a truly strange band that might best be described as an attempt to do a Monkees for the Shampoo dynamic; a completely manufactured bubblegum pop act centered around two “uncontrollable” teen girls whose entire schtick was that they were rude in their songs. Seriously; “Ooh Stick You” and “UGLY,” their two biggest (only?) hits were pretty much just a litany of insults turned into something that mixed rap, chants and singalong choruses into something that felt like weapons-grade earworm.

“UGLY” is probably the worst offender; I found out many years later – this song came out in 1999 – that the chorus actually comes from some cheerleader chant (This is likely where the idea for the video comes from), and the non-chorus lyrics are literally just insult after insult, about the subject of the song being hairy, fat and looking like a pig. Unsurprisingly, the song was accused of promoting bullying when it was released in the UK, an accusation that was met with the spectacular defense of it actually being about inner ugliness. Inner ugliness that was hairy, fat and looked like a pig, of course.

But Daphne and Celeste had a longer career than Shampoo; three hit singles (the third was a cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”) to Shampoo’s one, a sign, possibly, that even by 1999, good PR and heavy radioplay could keep a band alive far past their natural lifespan.

366 Songs 055: Trouble (1)

I remember, when “Trouble” was first released in 1994, that Shampoo was a band that was supposed to be taken seriously, and treated as an authentic example of youth culture or some such, because the two members had previously put out a Manic Street Preachers fanzine; this, somehow, conferred some legitimacy to their brand of clunky pop. Looking back, almost two decades later, that seems ridiculous, especially when you listen to the song again and it sounds terrible – vocals that alternate between bored and whining, tinny and cheap production and lyrics that singularly fail to convince on any level. They were, of course, a novelty act set to appeal to proto-hipster adults and kids that should’ve known better, but didn’t. It worked, of course; “Trouble” was massive, getting to #11 in the charts during the height of Britpop and ending up, hilariously, in the soundtrack of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie as well as countless TV shows that wanted shorthand to denote that – uh oh – their characters were in trouble.

If there’s a saving grace to this song, it might be that it’s so brazen in its own disinterest in itself, a false aloofness that made both the song and the band seem far more interesting than either one actually was.