Add It Up
Writer(s): Gordon Gano (see lyrics here)
Released: April 13, 1983 (on Violent Femmes album)
Peak: 2 CO, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 7.7 video, 25.88 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The punk band Violent Femmes formed in Madison, Wisconsin in 1979. The trio was comprised of singer and guitarist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie, and drummer Victor DeLorenzo. In 1983, they released their self-titled debut album, “an early landmark of American alternative rock.” AMG While the song “Blister in the Sun” became the best known from the album by cementing itself as a staple of alternative rock radio in the ‘80s, the album also produced the popular “Add It Up.”
The song benefits from Gano’s “uncanny knack for clever, incessantly catchy lyrics.” AMG The song plays on his “yearning, hard-luck misfit role that dominated the album, but it’s even darker than usual, with its frank, edgy sexuality and intimations of gun violence.” AMG He sings “with such snarling abandon that, in spite of the obvious geekiness of his persona, there’s also an unsettling sense of menace.” AMG
“Opening with a free-form a cappella passage, the song quickly becomes a driving rocker, and Gano steadily escalates his sexual longings (‘why can’t I get just one...’) from ‘kiss’ to ‘screw’ to ‘fuck.’ Even the first scenario is far from romantic – I look at your pants and I need a kiss,’ Gano sings, giving the lie to the assumption that innocence and inexperience go hand in hand.” AMG
Gano discussed writing the song in his bedroom about feeling frustrated. As he said, “I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. It just happened to feel good lyrically…and it still does.” WK Despite the song’s irrestible drive to get up and move, the subject matter is dark. It isn’t just about sexual frustration, but a young man who buys a gun, offering “evidence that misfit rage had long been something of a powder keg in American high schools” more than 15 years before Columbine. AMG The lines “The day is in my sights / When I’ll take a bow / And say good night” suggests the narrator may have turned that rage inward to suicidal thoughts. AMG
First posted 6/10/2022; last updated 10/1/2022.
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