March 16, 2017
You can’t move for songs in the charts about fifty dollar bills, owning a mansion and swimming in pools of champagne. Whatever happened to songs about renting - a side of life most of us are familiar with?
We’ve trawled the musical archives to find five songs which perfectly sum up renting. The lack of control, the freedom, the fun, the expense, the boredom, the sense that sometimes it’s all you can do to stay afloat.
These songs go out to everyone who’s happy to negotiate the murky yet less expensive waters of renting somewhere. Enjoy.
Perversely, Smashmouth’s Steve Harwell doesn’t paint himself as the ideal tenant during this 3:47 ode to difficult neighbours and difficult landlords. ‘We were having a BBQ/We were listening to Louis Prima/And drinking meisterbrau’ he laments. ‘So she [landlady] got bent and raised the rent/Said it would only take one more/Phone call from my whiny neighbor’ he continues. So far, so bad.
Is it just us, or do Steve and his housemates sound like a liability? He mentions ‘dogs and cats stinking everywhere’, ‘hiding the bong’ and that ‘the yard is littered with bottles and cans’. The noise levels don’t even bear thinking about. In the end, Steve et al are forced to move house, the landlady gets rid of them, and the whiny neighbour probably just stops whining. For now.
Pet Shop Boys: Rent
The Pet Shop Boys’ 1987 offering about being in a dramatically one-sided relationship can be seen in two ways. It’s either sweet and touching how Neil’s lover caters to his every whim - or he’s trapped in a toxic, claustrophobic affair but keeps going back because the caviar’s so good. ‘You dress me up, I'm your puppet,’ Neil sings, without a trace of awkwardness. ‘You buy me things, I love it’. Good for him.
Later on in the song, Neil croons ‘I love you/You pay my rent’. Assuming Neil would have been living somewhere nice in 1987 (let’s say Kensington), a month’s rent would be around £400. If Neil sees his benefactor twice a week - eight times each month - it costs his lover £50 each time, not counting the dinners off Broadway and the food he brings round. Crumbs.
Gwen Guthrie - Ain't Nothing Going On But The Rent
Gwen ‘No romance without finance’ Guthrie hasn’t got time for much - she even asks the bill collectors at her door what they can do for her. Sassy! So it’s hardly surprising the man in her life has got to be a big earner. Or at least able to contribute. ‘I've got responsibilities.’ she sings, ‘So I'm lookin' for a man who’s got money in his hands. Cause ain't nothin' goin' on but the rent.’
Hang on one hot minute! Splitting the rent is understandable - but is this man supposed to cater for Gwen’s other responsibilities, such as her RSPCA donation, her ailing mother, and her nights out? It appears so. ‘I'm lookin' for a man to put some money in my hands,’ Gwen asserts boldly at the end of her song. Let’s hope she’s able to attract a partner as wealthy as Neil Tennant’s.
It all starts so well. ‘Been running now, running so smoothly/We'll never slow down,’ sings Joe Jonas. ‘Been thinkin' now, thinking down on one knee/Time to say it out loud.’
What’s this? Marriage? Congratulations, Mr Jonas! But then things take a dark turn. ‘Would you pay my rent?’ Jonas suddenly gurns, apropos of nothing. ‘Would you, would you, would you get your love well spent?’
This is not how we imagined things turning out. The whole song follows this curious format - Jonas sings about how loopy he is about this girl, then challenges her to cover his housing costs. ‘How can you love me right, love me right/If you don't get your money right?’ he frequently asks. The answer is never made clear, as the woman he’s singing to never responds. She’s probably run to the cashpoint.
Pitbull and Ne-Yo: Time of Our Lives
This 2014 club classic was a massive hit because the overall message was ‘Don’t worry about anything - just go out, get hammered, and forget about the rent.’ Unbelievably, people identified strongly with this message, and it reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the US Rhythmic chart.
‘I knew my rent was gon' be later 'bout a week ago/I work my ass off/But I still can't pay it though,’ sing the terrible landlord-baiting twosome. ‘But I got just enough/To get off in this club/Have me a good time, before my time is up.’
Two things are certain. You’d never choose to rent your property to people who just want to go out and ‘roll it up then throw it up’, but you’d have a really good time when you went round to get your money. They’d invite you in, make you feel at ease, pass you a drink...actually, it would be quite fun. The jury is still out.