NFB Listens To Number Ones: “Saturday Night” – Whigfield

I bet if you’re in my demographic, when you hear this song you suddenly have a memory of being very young in the mid-nineties and watching your sister and her friends doing the dance that is almost as famous as the tune in their bedroom. False or not, it’s like a collective experience for the nation. Whigfield may have pretty much vanished after this came out, but the loose arrangement of artists basically made themselves iconic in the process of making and releasing “Saturday Night”, a song that well-deserves the eye-catching moniker that NME bestowed upon it at the time: “violently catchy”.

I mean, this is a stunningly simple tune. Just listen to that music, I mean actually listen: a repeated chord any keyboard could come up – that sounds like a duck – with a slight layer on top of that, and then a bit of piano lines on repeat to keep it from being too boring. That’s all “Saturday Night” is in musical terms, but for the time and place it was perfect: earworming its way into the brain and becoming part-and-parcel with that moment. And then we get to the stunning simplicity of the lyrics, which are even more basic, but all the more memorable for that. It’s only 50 or so words repeated, but the certain lilt of the voice of Sannie Charlotte Carlson carries it and it’s graspable enough that anybody can picture it as the theme song to a weekend out. I mean it even has the dreaded “La la la la” style lyrics right at the start – that the creators of the song have admitted started as a joke – but even that is a little iconic. The song is a primal thing.

Along with Cindi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” it’s fair to say that this can be considered an anthem of sorts. The music video plays into the feeling that the song is definitely aiming for, just showing Carlson getting ready for a night out, looking at herself in the mirror and singing to that reflection: even here “Saturday Night” is luxuriating in sheer simplicity, and soaring in the process. Whigfield would never reach anywhere close to this level of success again of course, but I guess they didn’t have to: once you reach that point, your name is chiseled into the marble. It’s one of the best examples I can think of in terms of “Less is more” for music. Sometimes soaring ambition and complexity can creature auditory perfection, like with the recently discussed “Bohemian Rhapsody”. But it’s just as possible to reach that same level – and in terms of recognition, you have to say that “Saturday Night” is on that same level – with something stripped down to the absolute basics. This is basically just an attractive blonde woman saying “Saturday, Saturday, Saturday Night” over and over again, and that’s all it needed.

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