Reading About Girls and Pop

Every boy band frenzy requires the same essential ingredients. Harmonies, a mop-topped frontman and co-ordinated outfits go a long way. For weeks, radio stations have been playing the syrup-y sweet, "What Makes You Beautiful" by British imports One Direction. With their debut performance on Saturday Night Live and an upcoming North American tour (not to mention rival British group The Wanted on their heels), it's safe to say boy bands are back. But did they ever really leave? In Rob Sheffield's second book, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, he embraces the '80s group for their catchy singles and the love lessons he learned from them. Their wardrobes may be different, but the focus remains on music that makes the girls scream.

In this heartfelt tome, Sheffield - a contributing editor at Rolling Stone - looks back on the songs that became the soundtrack to his adolescence. Growing up with three sisters in what he calls the "pre-Snooki era," he dedicates each chapter to a different '80s song and shares the story behind it. Laced with pop culture references spanning the past century (including Celebrity Fit Club, Pretty Woman, The Great Gatsby and of course, John Hughes movies), Sheffield pieces together significant moments from his teenage years with exuberance and humour. You don't have to know every song to smile when he recalls the summer he spent driving an ice cream truck (Prince's "Purple Rain") or when he asks the hot girl, 'Am I always going to be this way?' after an incredibly awkward car ride (Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"). 

With his years of reporting experience, Sheffield includes anecdotes he's collected throughout his career writing about pop icons. But what makes the book resonate is his descriptions of how the songs made him feel. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran defends pop music as a reflection of society and a source of inspiration. Each chapter reiterates that songs that were new thirty years ago still, "add up to a playlist that gives [the author] a taste of that moment." Whether he learned from literally listening to lyrics or from the moments those songs set the mood for, Sheffield's memories are a reminder that every coming-of-age story has a soundtrack.

"Sometimes the only way they come back is in a song. Sometimes the song is the green light at the end of the dock, a sign that the dream we've been chasing is already behind us, in the past. Sometimes when a girl goes away, the conversation doesn't end. You keep talking to her, just in case she can hear. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into Bryan Ferry." - Rob Sheffield, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran

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