In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: We’re celebrating Thanksgiving with songs about all kinds of pie.
Even in a genre not exactly known for its understated nature, “Cherry Pie,” by hair-metal band Warrant, is about as screamingly obvious as it gets. It’s painfully blunt, to the point where it almost achieves the impressive goal of turning a double entendre into a single. It should be taught in introductory English classes as a means of explaining metaphor, because it renders the concept in language a particularly dim rutabaga could understand. A dolphin would hear the song and go, “Oh, that’s what humans mean by fucking? Seems a bit juvenile. Also, women are dramatically undervalued in mammalian society!” Only, you know, with clicking and echolocation.
Released in 1990, the track became a Billboard top 10 hit, and the band’s biggest success. Supposedly written in 15 minutes on the back of a pizza box—which, yeah, that sounds about right—”Cherry Pie” tells the heartwarming story of a guy repeatedly having sex with a nameless woman he refers to as foodstuff. It seems clear she was a virgin before lead singer Jani Lane got to her, too, which makes her first time (first 10 times?) fairly noteworthy among losing-your-virginity stories (“I did it with the lead singer of Warrant!”), and also fairly unfortunate. It would be best if you went ahead and watched the video, because there’s a lot to talk about.
In 2015, this trashy stuff is practically quaint, the equivalent of finding a Playboy magazine from 1985. Sexism was a hallmark of the hair-metal genre, and this video turns it up to 11. In case you’re not getting it, after the first minute the entire band holds a fire hose, and then sprays it all over model Bobbi Brown’s face and chest. But the whole thing is nearly a one-to-one correlation between lyric and image. Jani Lane tells you to “Think about baseball, swing all night”? There’s our girl, dressed in form-fitting baseball uniform. “Swingin’ in there, cuz she wanted me to feed her. / So I mixed up the batter / And she licked the beater!” Cut to a finger running over his lips, because even Warrant felt the explained image would be too on the nose, and also, gross. But don’t worry, because they made sure to use the cover of the record to point out what they’re talking about.
The waitress is clearly startled. “Oh no, I dropped my vagina!”
For all that, the song is undeniably catchy, although it doesn’t hurt that it basically repurposes a riff from an equally catchy hit by Living Colour only a year or so earlier. Like a child’s nursery rhyme, it bores steadily into your head—boring, boring—until it imprints itself forevermore on your psyche. That earworm quality might be part of what Lane regrets about the track: In an interview with VH1, he said, “I could shoot myself in the fucking head for writing that song.” (He later walked that sentiment back, because Jani Lane knows who pays the bills.) Hearing it now, a song whose video Canadian music network MuchMusic refused to air for being “offensively sexist” seems like a parody of demeaning bubblegum metal, some grad student’s camp impression of ’80s-style cheesecake. But ultimately, as the song reminds you roughly 4 million times, it’s not cheesecake. It’s cherry pie.