Own It or Disown It: #254: Savage Garden, Savage Garden


This twenty-year-old smash debut album haunts John's dreams. Pray for him.

Being past the age of thirty (I turn thirty-one in May), I get that I’m going to be reminded of my age and impending passing via cracking in half as my body deteriorates due to my age because that’s what happens to old people, but man, sometimes these reminders come right out of nowhere. This past week, for instance, I joked with the Earbuddy crew about the worst line from Savage Garden, and dear God, I hope you’re old enough that you know exactly what line I’m talking about because one of our editors reacted to “chica Cherry cola” by asking if it was a Lana Del Rey line, which made me realize that there’s a large portion of our population that have never heard of Savage Garden, which is nuts to me because there was once a time when you couldn’t not know about Savage Garden. I get that fame can be a fleeting thing in the music world, but their first album, which turns twenty years old tomorrow, sold more than twelve million units worldwide, it had eight singles (okay, only two of them were smash singles, but still), it set the record for most ARIA awards won in a single year (ten) that still stands today, and most importantly, it has that fucking “chica Cherry cola” lyric. How could this have been forgotten?

Having given Savage Garden several listens, the primary emotion I feel towards these guys is a degree of sympathy. The English language is a weird language that demands strict structure when it comes to sentences and also has batshit hypocritical rules about plurality* and the composition of clauses, which means it isn’t easy to write about how lovely a hot babe is without it coming across as derivative, which is bad news for Savage Garden because Savage Garden is all about love. Credit where it is due that they don’t settle on being lazy—if anything, they have the opposite problem. English is a stupid fucking language, but the most effective proclamations of love in this stupid fucking language are brief enough to fit on a napkin—think “you complete me” or “I can’t carry the ring but I can carry you” or “Every breath you take and every move you make, I’ll be watching you” or “I want to have your abortion” (hey, I said effective, not romantic). On “I Want You”, though, they allow space for “Sweet like a chica Cherry cola” to breath. What’s a way to convey why a girl is lovely? Well, she could be sweet, right? Okay, now what’s something that’s sweet? Flowers? No, everyone writes about flowers. Well, cherry Coke is sweet. Has anyone put that in a song yet? Hey, I think we’ve got it!

You might think I’m ragging pretty hard on one line from a one-hit wonder from twenty years ago, and you’d be wrong because Savage Garden are two-hit wonders and the follow-up, “Truly Madly Deeply”, which steers even harder into schmaltz. Its chorus: “I want to stand with you on a mountain / I want to bathe with you in the sea / I want to lay like this forever / Until the sky falls down on me”. Yeah, go try-hards, apocalypse wow. This is prime Savage Garden, their way of staying memorable and the best lines of this whole album because the rest of the lyrics here are just kind of forgettable. I repeat: I sympathize.

Oh, and there’s music on this album that has shitty lyrics, too. There are a couple of neat tracks on here—the backing music to “I Want You” is actually pretty rad—but the album settles on being the most just-below mediocre thing I’ve heard this, um, month, certainly not worth paying the toll of a thousand facepalms that come with listening to this lead singer say words. Hatred of the lyrics aside, Savage Garden’s brand of pop rock on display here is the sort of pseudo-R&B foot-tappers and ass-shakers with overly thick snare that dominated the 90s, and if that sort of thing is right up your alley, you might get a kick out of Savage Garden. For me, this is a sterling reminder of why it took me so long to get into R&B as well as how low the standard used to be for what a good lyric was—yes, there are plenty of shitty love songs dominated the airwaves, but none reach the depth of “chica Cherry cola”. Have I made it clear that I hate that fucking lyric?


*There's too much to go into here, but I'll just say that knowing the plural of the word "tooth" provides no clue for determining the plural of the word "booth".

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