Pop Song Review: The Script – “Superheroes”

Well, I’ve pretty much run out of new singles to cover on the Billboard Hot 100, so for this next review I’ve come back to the charts in dear old Blighty, which are no more or less interesting than those in America but at least have some newbies for me to pick at. Case in point, today I’m reviewing “Superheroes” by The Script.

First impressions: The Script do realise that the Olympics were two years ago, right? They don’t need to keep writing these cod-inspirational songs anymore – we already had to put up with “Hall of Fame.”

The music: A piano riff provides the bedrock for an effusive ballad set to shiny synths and passionate vocals. The song crests in the verses and peaks in the chorus to magnify the sense of grandeur it’s going for, and also to connect with the lyrical themes of power and strength the song wants to convey. This is a song about feeling invincible, about overcoming hatred and pain, about stepping out of your private Hell and becoming a better, stronger person, but it also wants to instill in you, the listener, the inspiration necessary to achieve such a goal yourself.

And garsh, it tries so hard as well. Unfortunately the production is the element of the song pulling the legwork here because the writing on “Superheroes” is so generic, lacklustre and tepid all it inspires in me is the desire to go listen to some Death Angel instead. Now, is it me or does the verse melody sound eerily similar to the one in “Paradise” by Coldplay? Remember how boring that song was despite all the tricks pulled to make you think it was actually powerful and emotional? Well, what if it was even less powerful and trying even less hard? The chorus melody has potential to be explosive but O’Donoghue’s vocals aren’t strong enough to pull off what the song is trying to accomplish.

From what I can hear The Script are taking more and more influence from hip-hop and dance music, incorporating spoken word passages, processed beats (I think, anyway – those do not sound like natural drums to me) and synths galore to give their music a modern appeal. The guitars are notably flattened and buried in the mix, too, to iron out any sense of urgency or aggression that might have accidentally seeped through and put off the casual listener. But I think some urgency might have helped here, honestly, because the pace is so slow and the rhythm so lumbering that it doesn’t feel like music to pump you up for the race. If anything it feels like something you’d put on in the bubble bath you take after the race to cool off. It’s just so dull and listless with those watery synths and those bored vocals and that sickeningly slick production and–

This is a Coldplay song, isn’t it? This is a flaming Coldplay song – and I try so hard to avoid them, too. I try so hard…

The lyrics: “Superheroes” is, as you might expect, an inspirational song about taking all the pain and anguish that comes from a harsh, lonely and abusive childhood and using it to make yourself better and stronger as a person: “Every day, every hour / turn the pain into power.” That, apparently, is “how a superhero learns to fly.” Naturally, being a pop band, they only know how to do this with hackneyed, unoriginal metaphors like “fire in her soul” and “lions in her heart”, which – wait, lions? As in, plural? Huh. Okay.

But what these clichés tell me is that as much as The Script want to inspire you, they aren’t inspired enough themselves to come up with any original imagery. These lyrics sound like they were cobbled together from Children in Need press releases about young carers; and given O’Donoghue’s connections with the BBC I’d actually be surprised to learn they weren’t commissioned to write this for the fundraiser in November.

What is weird about the lyrics, though, is that despite all the defensive platitudes about “fighting for it all your life,” they’re also bizarrely aggressive and in-your-face: “‘Cos he’s stronger than you know / a heart of steel starts to grow.” Stronger than I know? I don’t know the guy – I never said anything about him.

“All the hurt, all the lies / all the tears that they cry / when the moment is just right / you see fire in their eyes.” Do I? Are they going to attack me or something? What did I do to these people?

“All her life, she has seen / all the meaner side of me.” The meaner side of you? So it’s your fault she’s so miserable? Hold on, who exactly is the narrator in all this? Is he supposed to be the one praising these people for overcoming their personal torment, or the one who tormented them in the first place?

There’s an interesting line in the first verse that goes, “they took away the prophet’s dream for a profit on the street.” This is a strange line because it doesn’t seem to have any connection to the rest of the lyrics. So let’s analyse this: by “the prophet” I assume they mean Jesus Christ or another, similar religious/spiritual leader; I guess by His “dream” they mean His teachings; and by the “profit on the street”… okay, this is a stretch, but it seems to me to hint at how the message of Christ – love, acceptance, brotherhood, tolerance of others, standing up for what’s right – has been “taken away”, i.e stolen or exploited, by greedy capitalists taking these teachings and using them to make a quick buck. You know, like those people who take such strong, universal themes and water them down to pander to the lowest common denominator, like marketing executives or pop songwriters. You know, a bit like… oh.

Verdict: The Script can sometimes overcome their beige music with a decent hook, but this is boring and uninspired even for them. The dull melody, the plodding rhythm, the clichéd lyrics, the sheer lack of originality or innovation and the overall blandness of “Superheroes” all hamper its intentions which, admittedly, are good and well-meaning – but all the good intentions on Earth couldn’t save this song from the 2 out of 5 it gets from me. It’s inspirational music for people who like the idea of being inspired to do something rather than actually getting up and doing it. Expect to hear it in The One Show montages for years to come.

Today’s double-up is, you guessed it, The Stranglers’ “No More Heroes”. This isn’t the original video, by the way, but by gum it should have been.

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