In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: the first “cool” songs we ever liked.
Donna Lewis, “I Love You Always Forever” (1996)
“Cool” is such a subjective word. But when I look at this week’s other Hear This entries—about the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Yaz, Bikini Kill, and A Tribe Called Quest—I can’t help but be reminded of how working at The A.V. Club often makes me feel a bit uncool in the best way. I say this not only because I’m about to place one-hit-wonder Donna Lewis among the ranks of a band nearing 30 years of existence, a duo that created one of my all-time favorite albums, another band that is responsible for pioneering the riot grrrl movement, and a group that took hip-hop to entirely new levels. I say this because I also admitted in my job interview that I regularly listen to Everclear and Matchbox 20. Prior to that, when I felt that Kyle Ryan was taking too long to offer me that interview, I sent him a quick email that included this line: “At the risk of annoying you (depending on your movie taste) I wanted to say…” These memories don’t entirely embarrass me; instead they remind me how fortunate I am to work where I do, because as Philip Seymour Hoffman says in Almost Famous, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
“I Love You Always Forever” fits that bill, right along with links to overly optimistic ’80s movies and admissions of enjoying the reheated leftovers of ’90s schlock-pop. The simple pop song isn’t conventionally cool, but it is my first song, and that makes it inherently cool. Sure, I had heard music before the age of 7, but from the rock ’n’ roll of my baby-boomer parents to the hip-hop of my older sisters, none of it was mine. Looking back, the lead single from Welsh singer Donna Lewis’ 1996 debut album Now In A Minute made it to No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for nine weeks, so I suppose it belonged to a lot of people. But as the first song I could lay claim to—before sharing it with my best friend so we could uninhibitedly scream-sing it as we swung back and forth on the school swing set—I still consider myself an invested party. It’s the first song I anxiously waited for on the radio so I could record it to cassette (a handy skill I would later employ when making mix tapes for friends). And so I’m forever endeared to “I Love You Always Forever” for allowing me these coming-of-age moments, as I followed it from its initial spark, to its roaring fire (at one point it was so ubiquitous that Yuka Sato skated to it at the 1996 Ladies Professional Skating Championships, much to my delight), to its eventual fadeout.