WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? / PET SHOP BOYS
UK Chart Position: 2
Of all great Pet Shop Boys singles (and there are a few) this is probably their most understated. It doesn’t have the urbane sophistication of “West End Girls” or the fire and brimstone of “It’s A Sin”, but it is perhaps their most perfectly melodic single, exhibiting a light pop on the outside, disguising a harder, bitter taste at its core. It should be said that it uses some classic PSB tropes (bored sounding spoken word sections, weird drum machine noises, a really long title) but it twists them into a tale of miserable co-existence where romance had died but love hasn’t quite left the scene.
It’s also – of course – elevated to pop gold by the “presence of genius” . As a young impressionable boy, I had no idea what Dusty said in her opening line, but I was aware it was amazing. The last minute of the song is essentially “The Dusty Show” where she improvises a series of bizarre sounds (complete with hand gestures, probably). And it’s pretty great. I don’t really believe she’s singing actual words, just involuntarily making noises from beneath a fug of hairspray, eyeliner and prescription drugs.
Lyrically, it’s a song that appears to shift its power from one character to another. It’s tempting to bracket it alongside their follow up single “Rent”, which more explicitly reflects on a client/ employee love affair. But “WHIDTDT” appears to shape shift the balance as the song progresses. There’s deliberate ambiguity in the opening lines that she “always works for a living” whilst he “only wanted a job”. But what kind of job exactly? There’s a Pygmalion quality to his assertion that “I bought you flowers…I read you books and talked for hours.” But this lofty assertiveness turns to despondence in the second verse when he ruefully recollects that “he poured the drinks and crushed the flowers.” There’s a faint hint of a “Don’t You Want Me” style role reversal in the Svengali being discarded as his female counterpart finds her voice. But whilst there’s vindictive bitterness in that song (“I can put you back down too”), here there just seems to be mutual despair of neither party being able to fully disentangle themselves from the mess they’ve got themselves into.
Check out the video for a bit of very funny Chris Lowe dancing as well.
The Moment: At 3:27 when Dusty pretends to be a plane falling out of the sky.
In a word: Resigned