Single Review: Olivia Newton-John “Xanadu”

Album: Xanadu Soundtrack
Year: 1980

In the movie “Xanadu,” Olivia Newton-John plays Kira, the muse of dancing who walks out of the wall after artist Sonny paints her on it. She inspires him and orchestra leader Danny (legendary actor Gene Kelly) into open a nightclub named Xanadu. “Xanadu” is sung at the end of the movie as Newton-John rollerskates and claps, in celebration of the club’s opening.

Fanatical guitars start the song. She says that the 40s/70s music combination was a buisness risk not many people wanted to take. But she found two suckers who did. She helped Danny and Sonny design the club overnight with her charms. It has lights, light everywhere. She’s elated she was able to convince her father, Greek god, Zeus to let her date Sonny. She’s going to be with forever and ever. And it all took was a Top 40 song. (“A place where nobody dared to go/The love that we came to know/They call it Xanadu/And now, open your eyes and see/
What we have made is real/We are in Xanadu/A million lights are dancing/And there you are, a shooting star/An everlasting world and you’re here with me/Eternally.”)

Foreboding drums signal it’s chorus time. And in case, listeners forgot the title, it’s repeated nine more times. It’s just enough drill it into a person’s head and for them to wish to have never heard the song. She declares nothing new. They are in Xanadu. (“Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)/In Xanadu/Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)/In Xanadu.”)

A dramatic Newton-John prophesizes that the club is destined to be a hit. An eager keyboard swells behind her as she says “for you, Xanadu” in the only true good moment in the single. Then, the eager keyboards become frenzied and segue into the second verse. (“Xanadu your neon lights will shine/For you Xanadu.”)

She says that people can find their dreams in the club, like Sonny and Danny did. Dreams don’t die, they live on through the sorrow and self-defeat. (“The love, the echoes of long ago/
You needed the world to know, they are in Xanadu/The dream that came through a million years/That lived on through all the tears/It came to Xanadu..”)

The pre-chorus is sung once. (“a million lights are dancing and there you are…here with me eternally.”)

The chorus is sung twice.
The noisy, unappealing strings accompany Newton-John as she sings that everyone is happy in Xanadu. The word is first stretched to five long syllables. Then, sung with a garish operatic flair. (“Now that I’m here, now that you’re near in Xanadu.”)

The tacky “Xanadu” is like eating a whole bag of shredded cheese, triple cheese pizza, and cheescake all in one sitting. It’s manufactured fun without an ounce of actual amusement.