Pop and Dance: Men Without Hats’ biggest hits going to Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

Break out your best ‘80s moves and turn up the volume on your old boombox, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame is inducting synth-pop band Men Without Hats. 

Specifically, the hall is adding two of the band’s biggest hits, “Safety Dance” and “Pop Goes the World,” songs that sent the Montreal-based band to international fame. 

The songs will be added to the permanent collection at the National Music Centre in Calgary and will be featured in an interactive exhibit alongside other fantastic songs and music memorabilia. The virtual induction ceremony will take place later. 

“No ‘80s playlist would be complete without ‘Safety Dance’ and ‘Pop Goes the World,’” says Vanessa Thomas, the hall’s executive director. “You can’t help but dance to the synthesizer beats or have a smile on your face from the playful nature of their videos. And although the aesthetic and sounds are emblematic of the ‘80s, the lyrics and messages are timeless and continue to take on new meaning to new audiences.” 

Let’s be honest: who among us doesn’t need a reason to dance these days? Or maybe feel a little rebellious after months of being home in COVID-19 lockdown? That’s the kind of spirit that inspired lead vocalist Ivan Doroschuk to write “Safety Dance” after he was kicked out of a nightclub for pogo dancing, deemed unruly and unsafe at the time. 

The song hit number 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1983 and helped the album Rhythm of Youth to sell more than 2 million copies internationally. It also helped earn the band an armload of awards, including three Felix Awards for Best-Selling Single, Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year, followed by nominations for Best New Artist at the Grammys and Juno nominations.  

“Pop Goes the World” was written originally as an instrumental electronic song, more akin to the band’s 1972 hit “Hot Butter” from the Popcorn album. The song was built from a single riff at the suggestion of Polygram’s A&R rep Derek Shulman. But the song is deeper than it might sound: “Released against the backdrop of the Cold War and U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s goal to destroy nuclear missiles before they reached North America, the line ‘pop goes the world’ has been interpreted as a reference to nuclear warfare and the end of the human race. Another possible interpretation is the fleeting nature of fame which the song’s characters Johnny and Jenny so busily seek.” 

Men Without Hats released a total of seven studio albums before breaking up in 1992, but they reformed in 2012 with the song “Love in the Age of War.” 

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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