10 Best Pet Shop Boys Songs
Formed by music journalist Neil Tennant and architect Chris Lowe in 1981, Pet Shop Boys are one of the most influential English pop acts of the last few decades. The duo's career has found them not only constantly building their stellar discography, but also bringing their elegant take on synth-pop to the stage and screen, in original works. With a new studio album, 'Electric,' hitting stores in July, and a world tour currently in progress, Diffuser.fm thought it high time to make this list of the 10 Best Pet Shop Boys Songs.
Before including it on their ‘Actually’ album, Lowe and Tennant wanted to offer ‘Heart,' No. 10 on our list of the Best Pet Shop Boys Songs, to Madonna, but the duo lost their nerve. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the single remix of ‘Heart’ became a hit in 1988. In another tasty bit of trivia, ‘Heart’ was originally going to be used in the Dennis Quaid sci-fi flick ‘Innerspace,’ but the director, Joe Dante, felt that the track’s tempo didn’t fit with the scene it was intended for.
After a string of spotty albums in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, 2009’s ‘Yes’ was a return toform for Tennant and Lowe. Co-prdouced by the studio team known as Xenomania (Cher, Sugababes), ‘Did You See Me Coming?’ is a perfect slice of modern pop, a euphoric romp featuring a sweetened vocal from Tennant.
Originally written for their 2001 musical ‘Closer to Heaven,’ ‘Friendly Fire’ is sung by British stage actress Frances Barber in the show and its cast album. The version that appears on PSB’s ‘Concrete’ live album finds Barber delivering a show-stopping performance, flanked by the BBC Concert Orchestra.
A call-and-response between Tennant and Dusty Springfield -- the British vocal powerhouse best known in the U.S. for her 1968 single ‘Son of a Preacher -- No. 7 on our list of the Best Pet Shop Boys Songs stands as one of the group's biggest mainstream hits, having climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1987. It also revived Springfield’s career, leading the singer to bring in Tennant and Lowe to help produce her comeback album, 1990’s ‘Reputation.’
‘West End Girls,’ Tennant and Lowe’s first and most recognizable single, was recorded and released twice. The first version was recorded and produced by New York City-based dance artist Bobby Orlando and became an underground club hit in 1984. The second version was done with influential synth-pop producer Stephen Hague (Erasure, New Order) and became a worldwide smash in 1986. Over a pulsating bass line and a bed of starkly atmospheric keyboards, Tennant, with a monotone, rap-like delivery, walks the listener through his take on inner-city pressure and desperation.
‘Domino Dancing’ was inspired by the rhythms and production style of the Latin freestyle movement that took hold of New York City and Miami club scenes in the mid-to-late ‘80s. Tennant and Lowe weren’t screwing around, and they hired producer Lewis A. Martineé (Exposé, Company B) to help them bring their vision to life. Folks who grew up in NYC may remember ‘Domino Dancing’ getting a ton of airplay on influential Latin freestyle station Hot 103 in the fall of 1988. Despite their success together, PSB and Martineé haven’t collaborated again.
The follow-up single to ‘West End Girls,’ ‘Loves Comes Quickly,’ the next entry on our Best Pet Shop Boys Songs inventory, features a sultry performance from Tennant, who shows off the falsetto range of his voice throughout the song. Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay contributes saxophone to the track that can be heard toward its end.
Tennant has always been vocal about which PSB songs he’s not been that keen on, but he has gone on record saying that ‘Being Boring’ is one of the duo’s finest songs. Partly inspired by a close friend of the vocalist who died of AIDS, ‘Being Boring’ has a somber lyrical and musical feel, and it's gone on to become one of the most beloved songs in the PSB discography. For further proof of the song’s lasting legacy, check out PSB fanatic Marcin Wichary’s 10YearsofBeingBoring.com, a site solely dedicated to its majesty.
Inspired by Penelope Spheeris’ 1984 cult film of the same name, ‘Suburbia’ shines the spotlight on the isolation and boredom of suburban life and the effects it has on the young. As they often are, Tennant’s lyrics are cinematic in their scope, with the lines “Break the window by the town hall / listen, the siren screams / there in the distance, like a roll call / of all the suburban dreams,” particularly cutting through the gorgeous track.
Topping our 10 Best Pet Shop Boys Songs list is the lead single from their sophomore album, 1987’s excellent ‘Actually.’ ‘It’s a Sin’ is a disco opera, complete with dramatic orchestral backing, an over-the-top breakdown and perhaps the most heartbreaking lyrics Tennant ever put on tape. The singer used his Catholic upbringing as the basis of the song, and effectively utilizes religious imagery to drive the point home. A No. 1 single in the U.K., ‘It’s a Sin’ is still a staple at any Pet Shop Boys live performance.