In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in keeping with the site’s 1995-centric theme, we’re talking about songs from that year.
Des’ree, “You Gotta Be” (1995)
Recently a co-worker asked if I was raised by a trucker, spending long days on the road, listening to the radio in the rig. The reasoning behind his query relates to my taste in music, which he has often described as “oddly blue-collar” and sort of scattered. He’s not too far off—I grew up in a rural area, spending long stints in the car on my way to and from school, or to the movies (we’re talking upward of 45 minutes one way), etc.
That is to say, if something charted within the top 10 at some point between roughly 1950 and 2007, I most likely heard it, especially if it carried the popularity of 1995’s “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree. Originally released in 1994 on the British singer’s second album, I Ain’t Movin’, the single came back around in 1995, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and appearing in a Good Morning America promo aimed at attracting younger viewers. It also earned an MTV Video Music Awards nomination in 1995 for “Best Female Video.” Its straightforward black-and-white video lost to the more involved period-style piece “Take A Bow” by Madonna, in which the pop singer is depicted as the mistress of a Spanish bullfighter.
Regardless, Des’ree’s video fit perfectly with the empowering lyrics I Ain’t Movin’ producer Ashley Ingram wrote. Succinct advice such as “Try and keep your head up to the sky / Lovers, they may cause you tears / Go ahead release your fears, stand up and be counted / Don’t be ashamed to cry” doesn’t require a complex visual narrative, and when Des’ree sings “All I know / All I know / Love will save the day” the message is uninterrupted inspiration.
Inspiring enough, in fact, that I recently found myself dancing to it after Jen Kirkman invited me onstage at The Onion and The A.V. Club’s second annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival. Normally I would be mortified by such uninhibited public shenanigans, but something about the strong message of the affirmative powers of self-confidence worked its way into my psyche and I walked away feeling a little bit bad, a little bit bold, a little bit wiser, a little bit hard, a little bit tough, a little bit stronger, a little bit cool, a little bit calm, and little bit together.