Single Review: Kim Wilde “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”

Music Review: Kim Wilde “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”edit
You Keep Me Hangin’ On
Album: Another Step
Year: 1986

In 1966, The Supremes were consisently hitting number one on the Billboard chart. The singles included “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone,” “The Happening,” and “You Keep Hangin’ On'”

But the group began to fall apart. Carolyn Gill of the Velvelettes commented “Over a period of time, favoritism surfaced, which I believe had something to do with the romantic link between Berry Gordy and Diana Ross,” as reported by the History of Rock.com. Original member Florence Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong. Berry Gordy had also changed the group’s name to Diana Ross and the Supremes.

The Supremes’ version opens with a suspenseful guitar which lead to the full band in the background to swell. Ross, with her naive and lean vocals, pleads for her boyfriend to let her go and leave her alone. She realizes he doesn’t care for her. (“Set me free, why don’tcha babe/Get out my life, why don’tcha babe/’cause you don’t really love me/You just keep me hangin’ on/You don’t really need me/But you keep me hangin’ on.”)

Ross is curious as to what her ex-boyfriend’s agenda is. She cannot move on if he continues to keep calling her. It gives her the slight bit of hope that the relationship could work out again. She would rather begin again but won’t until he leaves her alone. (“Why do you keep a-coming around/Playing with my heart?/Why don’tcha you get out of my life/And let me make a new start?/Let me get over you/The way you’ve gotten over me.”)

He’s told her that they are no longer together but are still friends. She can’t be “just friends” with him. She has feelings for him still and they aren’t going away easily. (“You say although we broke up/You still wanna be just friends/But how can we still be friends/When seeing you only breaks my heart again/And there ain’t nothing I can do about it.”)

In the chorus, Ross adlibs some “whoa-oh-oh” as Ballard and Mary Wilson add strength and force to the lyrics. (“Woo, set me free, why don’tcha babe/Woo, get out my life, why don’t cha babe/Set me free, why don’tcha babe/Get out my life, why don’tcha babe.”)

Her boyfriend is talking in doublespeak. He says he still has feelings for her but he has to date other women, too. Ross isn’t allowing him to cheat on her and wants to see other people. (“You claim you still care for me/But your heart and soul needs to be free/Now that you’ve got your freedom/You wanna still hold on to me/You don’t want me for yourself/So let me find somebody else hey!”)

For the first time, Ross is angry and tells him to stop. He’s only wants her as a backup. Her friends (Ballard and Wilson) stand up for her by kicking him out. (“Why don’t you be a man about it/And set me free/Now you don’t care a thing about me/You’re just using me/Go on, get out, get out of my life/And let me sleep at night/’cause you don’t really love me/You keep me hangin’ on.”)

In the original, Ross is meek and unassertive. Her feelings for him hold her back. It’s as though he was her first love. Only in the last verse does Ross finally speak up for herself. She’s been disillusioned by him and figures out what’s he trying to do.

Kim Wilde’s 1986 cover opens with bright synthesizers mimicking the guitars in the original. However, the full band are replaced by keyboards and drum machines. The synthesizers continue with a patient keyboard, pausing on the notes. The drum machines accompany Wilde as she sings “you keep me hangin’ on.”

Wilde makes some changes to the first verse by emphasizing the “set me free” part. It’s in between “you don’t really love me….you don’t really need me” section. The tone becomes vehement as she demands that he leave her alone. She knows her ex-boyfriend didn’t love her like he said. (“Set me free why don’t cha babe/Get out of my life why don’t cha babe/’cause you don’t really love me/You just keep me hangin’ on/Set me free why don’t cha babe/Get out of my life why don’t cha babe/You don’t really need me/But you keep me hangin’on.”). The tempo is slowed down a notch. There are pauses between the lyrics which weren’t in the original.

Wilde confronts him about his intentions (“why do you keep a-comin’ around…the way you’ve gotten over me, yeah.”)

She calls him on his vague talk of their getting together. She knows he sees her as reliable and someone who would take him back no matter what. She rejects him for seeking permission to cheat. (“You say although we broke up/You still just wanna be friends/But how can we still be friends/When seeing you only breaks my heart again.”) Wilde belts during the “again” as she shamefully says “and there’s nothing I can do about it.”)

Wilde “whoa-oh-oh’s” briefly over the energetic synthesizer solo.

Wilde kicks him out her life as the second section of the verse becomes a chorus. (“Get out, get out of my life/And let me sleep at night/’Cos you don’t really love me/You just keep me hangin’on.”)

She lays out his scheme in the next verse and derides for being a jerk. (”
You say you still care for me….so let me find somebody else/Why don’t cha be a man about it and set me free…you just keep me – hangin’on.” She adds that he’s trying to take of advantage her with “hey, abusing me” lyric.

Kim Wilde is an experienced dater. She gone on dates with guys like him before. She’s not about to let her ex-boyfriend string her along and play games. Wilde’s gutsy vocals turns the single into a powerful dismissal it was supposed to be.

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