Men Without Hats broke big with their 1982 debut, Rhythm of Youth. Though they never maintained that level of success, their third album Pop Goes the World was a smart, well-crafted, woefully underrated offering. The album chronicles the quest for and backlash of fame on songs like the title track, on which Ivan sings "Johnny and Jenny had a crazy dream/See their pictures in a magazine." Perhaps it was a way of dealing with the band's sudden success/failure, particularly on "Lose My Way" and "The Real World.." Thankfully, a wild sense of humor and a heartbreaking poignancy keeps the album from becoming too serious. Additionally, each song is vastly different: there are some lullabies ("Moonbeam"), some anthems ("Jenny Wore Black"), and some dirges ("Bright Side of the Sun" -- which is criminally short, adding to its power). Cartoonish but dark, this album marries wide-eyed innocence with cynicism in its recurring themes (celebrity, loss, rejuvenation, the vastness of our world) and characters (Jenny and Johnny, who are credited with bass and guitar, respectively). It takes a few listens to fully absorb the stories and lessons interwoven in Pop Goes the World's synthesizer-driven, somewhat goofy, sometimes somber cuts. Though there are some quirky aspects to the album (from the intro with a beckoning voice like that of Newcleus' helium-driven "Jam on It" to an intro to "Walk on Water" that sounds like a faraway voice on a hissing vinyl album), nothing seems gimmicky. Overall, the album is solid, smart, haunting, and complete.
AllMusic Review by Bryan Buss