aqua: lollipop (candyman)
There’s a device in film soundtrack music which may well go back to 19th-century opera — or actually operetta, something just round the corner of memory is whispering (bizet, it whispers, bizet) — where banal-sounding tunes are deliberately chosen or composed to amplify sinister effect, because they signify a split between the awful events on-stage and the silly happy cheesy music playing on all unawares.A euro-bubblegum hit which repeats the phrase “Candyman” is clearly already well aware of dissonant layers of meaning, Candyman being the psychotic hooked-handed monster in a series of horror movies where you call his name five times and he comes and etc etc — but what’s so strong here less this basically minor bit of referential cleverness than the stripped compactness of the song, which is the soundtrack to its own implied narrative in an unusually cinematic way for pop. Two voice: a perky pre-teen-sounding minipops cutie acting out the ‘lollipop” half (lollipop as hymned by shirley temple, or jamaican one-hit-wonder millie smalls); and — absolutely as per classic pop duet humour — a deep comedy-p4ed0 vopice as “candyman”. The two parts of the song lock into one another like pitiless sex-pumping rinkidink clockwork — a machine ticktocking away to ghastly purpose. The Lollipop seductrix’s declaration is framed in the classic, sickly-twee trope of the lover being MADE OF SWEETS (“if you show me to the sugar tree/will you give me a sodapop for free”), the metaphor extended to an embrace of sugar addiction as delighted sex slavery (“oh my love, your word is my command”) . The Candyman-predator’s response is faux-weak innuendo (‘bite me, i’m yours, if you’re hungry please understand, THIS IS THE END of the sweet sugar candyman”), and a plea of companionship as they run away together to “bountyland”. What I’d really like to do is follow through musicologically, and explain-explore why the tune — which is harmonically very simple, and melodically rigorously repetitive — is at once so funny and so scary. But for now, let’s just say that the exact mapping of gleefully banal sex-candy imagery onto the soundtrack device outlined above — where cheesiness concentrates and crystallises a sense of impersonal evil — and such is Aqua’s artful precision at every level you can’t tell (no one will ever tell) where mischievous pop game ends and GRISLY SEX-HORROR STORY begins.