Howard Jones

New Song

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When Howard Jones' "New Song" hit the airwaves in 1983, it was tempting to see it as a sort of new wave synth-pop manifesto. At the time, Jones was an unknown talent without an album to his name, leaping onto the scene from nowhere in the boldest non-conformist new wave fashions of the day -- tousled spiky hair, meticulously sprayed and colored, a sharply clashing blue and red sweater, and matching scarlet socks -- while employing energetic and irresistible synthcraft to support the radical human potentialist message of his lyrics: "Don't crack up, bend your brain, see both sides, throw off your mental chains." Encapsulated perfectly by a title that didn't appear anywhere in the lyrics, "New Song" set a defiantly optimistic tone that, for all its bubblegum pop accessibility, developed the illusion that Jones and his synth-pop compatriots were leading a movement of larger social import. "I don't wanna be hip and cool," he sang, "I don't wanna play by the rules, not under the thumb of the cynical few or laden down by the doom crew." Of course, time would demonstrate that the ideological underpinnings of Jones' Humans Lib message were as shallow as his compositional innovations. That should have been apparent from the vacuousness of "Change the Man," the second track on the single. Unlike "New Song," the latter song had a flaccid hook that failed to save it from drowning in namby pamby "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" preachiness.