Looking back: Did Village People deserve to be more than one hit wonders?

I listened to Village People’s full discography after being infected by the pure joy of Macho Man, and this is what I found…

It was 2am, I had been listening to Macho Man on repeat for exactly 6 hours. A sexy building verse, a catchy chorus rife with gang vocals, a pre-chorus building up with “Hey”s that blast me into a new dimension of excitement? The song is a rollercoaster, and a rollercoaster that I will ride until I die.

Yes, I am a 21-year-old woman in the year 2020, not a gay man from the 1980s. Somehow, Village People still managed to grab me around the neck and I could only think… What if they had more fresh bangers that we were all ignoring all this time? What if Village People were more than a one (okay, maybe four) hit wonder band?

So I listened to their entire discography… And this is what I found…

Sex Over The Phone (1985)

‘Sex Over The Phone’ (the song) has the most bizarre rap verse which is just spoken word, followed by whispering hard-panned phone sex. Duran Duran could have sung the song and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. In songs such as ‘Just Give Me What I Want’ and ‘New York City’ Village People are free of their gimmicks and are just a band from the 80s that enjoy a twangy synth and some gang vocals. ‘I Won’t Take No For An Answer’, though somewhat worryingly named (the 80’s were a different time…), sounds almost like Prince kissed it and Stevie Wonder tickled the keys. Village People produced an EP of good songs, but did they only choose EPs because their gimmick was more important? 4/5

It’s at this point that I really notice how much sexual lyricism is within their songs. In the context of the 80’s where being gay was taboo could their lyrics have given the release and, pardon my pun, Sexual Education, to the disenfranchised gay youth?

Renaissance (1981)

By the look of the EP cover, this is the phase when they decided to take off the costumes and try a regular EP. I’m not sure it worked as they went straight back to their costumes on Sex Over The Phone, but it was a nice try. Regardless, their legs on the cover look GREAT. Anyway. I somehow really felt Bowie energy from ‘5 O’Clock In The Morning’, like they wrote the song for him, he edited it, and gifted it back. Songs like ‘Fireman’ and ‘Action Man’ proved they really have brilliant songs in their discography, even if they all end with the suffix “man”. In Fact, hearing the chorus of Action Man made me openly say “holy shit”. My mouth also dropped open hearing the punk undertones of Food Fight. This album is full of Village People singing about whatever the fuck they want, and honestly? I support that. 3.5/5

Can’t Stop The Music (1980)

This is the soundtrack to their film which I am yet to see. However, as an album, it’s not great. I start to notice a recipe that Village People use a chorus that either modulates or is higher than the verse that is a call and response with gang vocals. Their melody lines take the same sort of form, but if this formula has worked for several albums already and I haven’t got bored of it then they’re doing something right. One thing I have noticed is that later Village People albums don’t stick to one genre, which I love to no end. Having said that, this album SUCKS. 1/5

Village People Live And Sleazy (1980)

All of their songs start at double tempo. 5/5

Go West In The Navy (1979)

Village People did the better version of ‘Go West’- it has soul. As for this EP… It’s straight disco, therefore it’s hard to truly love it as hard as I should. It’s clear that as time passed Village People improved their releases, and, honestly, became brilliant songwriters. ‘Manhattan Woman’ is a clear standout, with some incredible bass work. The songs are okay, but they have released better tracks. 2/5

YMCA (1978)

‘YMCA’ as a song will always be a musical masterpiece, gimmick or not, as for the rest of the album? It’s okay. Village People have such bizarre lyrics most of the time, so even the songs that sonically sound the same are still varied and different (and almost always confusing). 2/5

Side note: I have been listening to exclusively Village People for well over 8 hours by this point.

San Francisco Macho Man (1978)

“IT’S COLD IN HERE MAMA! WHERE’S THE HEAT?” Good on you, Village People, naming the album after the best two songs on the album. I can’t quite express how much I am currently in love with Macho Man. For all that I care at this point, this is the best song ever written. San Francisco too is a brilliant bold funky fun song that shoots adrenaline straight into my veins. Ending with a weird Torah related song was… Disorientating… But I had a good time. This EP is a brilliant first EP that is full of pride and will always be held close to my heart. 3.5/5

Village People were trailblazers, honestly.

Why I think they were only a four-hit wonder?: Maybe Village People only had four massive hits because those four hits were their cheesy songs that straight white people could digest – not the funky soulful synth-pop jams that Village People also offered? Maybe Village People were boxed into their gimmick because the straight media in the 1980s were too scared of letting queer POCs seriously release music and be respected.

Conclusion: Village People deserved better.

Author avatar
Chloe Spinks

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.