NFB Listens To Number Ones: “Somethin’ Stupid” – Frank And Nancy Sinatra

It’s hard not to be swept away by the picture that gets painted by the Sinatra’s in this, the iconic cover of the song originally written by C. Carson Sparks in 1966, and which made it to number one in Ireland for a single week in 1967. You get a great image of two hapless lovers on a night out, with each believing that they like the other more than the other likes them, convinced their date has a line of suitors, and might actually ditch them in the course of the evening. But, drunk on the attraction, they can’t keep their feelings bottled up, hence the stupid admission of the title. It’s charming, romantic in an amusingly pitiful sort of way, and it’s hard to not want to sway along to anything that Frank Sinatra is singing. Others interpret the song as a bitter ode from the “friend-zone” but I’ve always thought of it more as a rom-com misunderstanding in musical form, with a fuzzy rose-tinted aura where you know the two will end up together in the end.

But, you know, it is the “Incest Song” as Nancy herself referred to it in a 2008 interview. It’s very hard to let yourself get completely seduced by the the thing when it is a father and daughter singing about this kind of subject matter (this is House Targaryen’s favourite song you’d imagine). My thoughts drift inevitably to Arrested Development, and the episode where Michael and Maebe innocently sing “Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band as a karaoke duet, ignorant until it is too late of the sexually charged lyrics. “Somethin’ Stupid” doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of innuendo of course, but that unsettling feeling never quite goes away. It leads me to perhaps think a little more of the Robbie Williams/Nicole Kidman cover of the same song from 2001. You just don’t need that nagging thought in the back of your head.

Nancy herself doesn’t really add much if I am being honest, with her father’s voice pretty much drowning her out: this could easily have been a solo effort (ironically if they were more in tune the creepy vibes would only have been greater). Leaving that aside, is there anyone who can really think little of this song? The music has that great holiday evening air to it, the violin chorus is so well-timed, and the bounce of some of the lyrics is of a kind that really means the original writer should be as well-known for the tune as Sinatra: “I can see it in your eyes, you still despise, the same old lies, you head the night before” still stands out to me, not just for the clever rhyming, but for the manner in which each section rises and rises to the next. This version has its unfortunate complications, but the song itself is pretty timeless.

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