Boy Band Archives: soulDecision's Blurred Lines

I love boy bands.  Every girl (and plenty of boys) has fallen under the spell of at least one team of shirtless, posing, harmonizing hunks.  But for every NSYNC or NKOTB, there’s a thousand 5ives and soulDecisions.  Why did 98 Degrees succeed where Another Level failed?  We may have ignored them a decade ago, but its time somebody gave them a chance in the spotlight.  So dust off your Tiger Beat, turn on TRL, and come with me through the Boy Band Archives.

Perhaps I should change the name of this feature to Canadian Boy Band Archives?

When I chose the second band to feature, I had no idea this group, like b4-4, hailed from Canada.  All I knew was that I had to talk about their big hit.  There’s something about those Canadian boys.  They act all nice, you can’t help but be charmed by their pop songs.  And then you listen to what they’re saying.

Well, no matter where this group formed, I made a decision.  And when I make up my mind, I’m not likely to unmake it…

Meet soulDecision

group_medium

soulDecision would probably object to being called a boy band.  After all, they didn’t dance, they played their own instruments, and they wrote their own songs.  But, doesn’t that make them the most literal definition of a boy band?  I say yes.  Besides, it doesn’t matter what they want, only what I want.  So let’s get all up in this, shall we?

Trevor Guthrie: The Leader

trevor

Boy Band Equivalent:  Taylor Hanson keeps trying to buy you drinks

Birthday:  February 11th

Sign:  Aquarius

Favorite Color:  Baby Blue

Typical Date Conversation:  I don’t think your drink tastes funny.

David Bowman: The Other Guy

david

Boy Band Equivalent:  Joey Fatone leering at you from across the club

Birthday:  June 16th

Sign:  Gemini

Favorite Color:  Blue

Typical Date Conversation:  I know you want it.

Ken Lewko: Wait, there’s three of them?

ken

Boy Band Equivalent:  Justin Jeffre liking all your Facebook photos at 2 am

Birthday:  August 4th

Sign:  Leo

Favorite Color:  Robin’s Egg Blue

Typical Date Conversation:  You’re all mine now.

soulDecision formed in 1993 in Vancouver, Canada under the name Indecision (…oh boy…).  Between 1997 and 1998, Indecision independently released three singles, including an early version of their second (though minor) hit, Ooh It’s Kinda Crazy.

On the strength of these songs, Indecision signed a major label deal with MCA. The label, however, required a name change, and they were dubbed soulDecision.  I’m sure a hip record exec thought the random capital letter in the middle was edgy and cool with the kids.

soulDecision’s debut single, Faded was released in Canada in 1999, and climbed all the way to number 1.  The song was released a year later in the US and proved to be a hit, peaking at number 22 on the Hot 100 and number 4 on TRL (which used to be a big deal, I swear).  More on Faded in a minute.

soulDecision didn’t release another album until 2004, Shady Satin Drug (…hmm…).  The songs were more guitar tinged, as the guys were trying to shake off the boy band label.  But the album received little attention from the Canadian music industry, and only 2000 copies were printedsoulDecision officially split up in 2005.

In 2004, David Bowman left soulDecision to front a rock band called Seven Lies.  Their most recent album was released in 2010. That was also the last time they posted anything on social media, so I’m uncertain of their current status.

Ken Lewko has apparently stayed out of the public eye since his soulDecision days (and frankly, during his soulDecision days).  All I could find was a private Facebook profile.  Not sure what else he’s up to, but superficially, the last fourteen years have been kind to him!

Trevor Guthrie is the most visible former member.  In 2013, he was featured on DJ Armin Van Buuren’s hit song This Is What It Feels Like.  The song was nominated for a 2014 Grammy for Best Dance Recording, and won the 2014 Juno for Dance Recording of the Year.  He’s pretty active on Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Focusing on Faded

Before I dive in, I have to confess that I still groove to Faded. It’s a little R&B, a little funk, nice harmonies, very ear wormy.  Disregard the content, and you’ve got an enjoyable pop song.  Unlike the rest of the soulDecision catalog…which is, ugh.

Side note: Wanna know why soulDecision didn’t make it big?  Listen to the title track of their debut album, No One Does It Better.  I’m not sure which key they were aiming for, but they missed.

Faded was written by Trevor, and is about getting drunk so you have the courage to approach the object of your affection.  Pretty standard pop stuff, really.

But, taking a closer look, the intoxicated hero of the song isn’t exactly gentlemanly.  Observe:

When I get you all alone

I’m gonna take off all your clothes

Ain’t nobody gonna interrupt my game, oh no no

Stop.  These are the first lines of the song, we have no idea what the singer’s relationship is to this woman.  They could be strangers, they could be married.  But either way, she’s caught up in his game.

To be fair, these are the opening lines of the “dirty version” of the song.  The radio version is a little less cringeworthy:

When I get you all alone

I’m gonna move in nice and close

Ain’t nobody gonna interrupt my game, oh no no 

In the following lines, our hero lays out the status of their relationship:

Ever since you’ve been hanging around

Ive been trying to figure out

What I can say to you to get some play, yeah

Not strangers, but not lovers either.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say they’re friends.

Can we do, what we did last night again

Baby, you and I’d be better friends

Don’t you think its time we went a bit further?

So, friends with some benefits.  That doesn’t mean she owes him anything.

Every night when we say goodbye

I can’t help looking in your eyes

Wondering why you and I haven’t hit it

Can we get it on?

She’s holding back.  Because she’s not interested, because she’s shy?  At least he asks instead of, you know, insisting.  So far…

To the chorus!

I’m kinda faded but I feel alright

Thinking about making my move tonight

I can’t pretend that you’re only my friend

When you’re holdin’ my body tight

Okay, she’s flirting.  Not a promise, but benefit of the doubt, they’re still having fun.  Until:

Cause I like the way you’re making your move

I like the way you’re making me wait

At the end of the night when I make up your mind

You’ll be coming on home with me

Umm…

At the end of the night when I make up your mind

You’ll be coming on home with me

UMMMM!!!!

At the end of the night when I make up your mind

I was listening to this song in the car the other day, and I thought for sure I misheard this line.  I asked my husband, and he thought he heard something a lot less rapey.  We turned the volume up, and still weren’t positive.  I looked on many different lyrics websites so that I was positive.  And everyone agrees:

At the end of the night when I make up your mind

Oh boy.  This is not okay.  This should not have been okay 14 years ago.

It’s kind of hard to interpret that line as anything other than force and GHB and violence.  But that can’t be what they intended.  They just meant gentle persuasion, right?

Well, that’s still not okay!  Persuasion and coercion are never gentle.  No always means no.  No matter how much flirting and touching.  Regardless of what you did last night.  No one – man or woman – deserves sex.  And a woman doesn’t need a pushy man to make up her mind for her.

This song was on the radio!  A lot!  It was on TRL and MuchMusic and Now! Volume 5!  Did we ever have a conversation about what the song was saying?  I was very tuned in to pop culture in 2000, and I don’t remember hearing any objections.

Those Blurred Lines

I don’t believe Trevor, David and Ken were mixing up rohypnol cocktails for unsuspecting women (or men, in Ken’s case).  They were just trying to hit it big in the music business, a very different animal at the turn of the millennium.  I get it.

While it sometimes blows my mind that 2000 was fourteen years ago, songs like Faded remind me how far we’ve really come.

Look at the hoopla surrounding Blurred Lines.  Whether or not Robin Thicke meant to write a date rape anthem (I sincerely doubt he did), it was hard not to pause at the lyrics.  Unlike in 2000, a pop song opened up a dialogue about women’s issues, responsibility, and the messages our male pop stars are sending (don’t get me started on the pearl clutching over Britney, Christina, Miley, Selina, Kesha, Katy, Beyonce, Gaga).  And it wasn’t just women complaining, men were just as concerned.  Women’s rights are human rights!

Why wasn’t soulDecision picked apart like Robin Thicke?  Because their song never achieved the over-saturation of Blurred Lines?  Because we weren’t so concerned with what our boy bands were saying?  Because there was no gratuitous nudity in the video?  Or possibly because we’ve grown a lot in the last fourteen years.

Either way, we were content to let Faded, well, fade.