“Down Under” by Men at Work has been a song that, while probably extremely played out upon its release, has had a lasting appeal throughout the decades and is still a favorite of many. The artists are likened to an Australian version of The Police, who were enjoying much success around the time “Down Under” was released, and both have a stylistic blend of pop and rock with some reggae influence. Men at Work, however, are classified more as new age.
Two things contributed to the massive success of “Down Under” that set it apart from other recordings of the time. The most unique mark the song left was the lyric-writing; without fail, fans of the song point quite admirably to the humorous and witty lyrics the group penned for the song, using Australian slang terms and possibly stereotypical attributes. The song is acclaimed also for its creative and refreshingly original words to rhyme with, such as “under” in the chorus, which could have gone straight to the mediocre “thunder”, but instead incorporates the less common and predictable “plunder” and “chunder” in between (Steyn 2016).
The second factor that distinguished the song from other new wave artists in that time period was the instrumentation and production, using phased guitars and the interesting—as well as infamously controversial—flute part, among many other unique components and sounds.
“Down Under” has been slightly influential to me in the craft of writing lyrics. Though my songs mostly address serious subjects as opposed to the fun and lighthearted concept of “Down Under”, I sometimes pen them with some degree of attempted humor and wit when it calls for it. Never a fan of the idea that a popular song must have very little words, I like to weave a lot of different images and ideas into my lyrics, sort of cramming lyrics into the bars in what is hopefully an artistic, sensible, and sonically enjoyable way. I admire the writing of “Down Under” because it sort of breaks away from the lyrical simplicity of most pop songs and gets crafty in leading the listener through an array of imagery and subjects, and it does so masterfully.
The Police, as mentioned earlier, are often discussed hand in hand with Men at Work, as both rose to fame in the same span of years and have somewhat similar styles. In an article of the Rolling Stone, the author mentions a colleague of his goes so far as to even say that the main reason Men at Work experienced so much success was because the widespread fan base of The Police was restless in the gap between their albums, yearning for more of their sound, which Men at Work were somewhat a knockoff of (2012). True or not, there are similarities in the bands’ instrumentation and style. The Police have also incorporated reggae-influenced grooves and a sonically satisfying blend of sounds such as saxophones and synths.
All in all, both groups left their own distinctive impact in music history and influence, and are timelessly enjoyable to the ears of older generations and younger.
Where Are They Now? 1982’s Biggest Pop Acts. (2012, August 08). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/where-are-they-now-1982s-biggest-pop-acts-20120808/men-at-work-0431599
Steyn, M. (2016, January 25). Down Under: Steyn’s Song of the Week. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.steynonline.com/7436/down-under