If you haven't been there in a long time, it's worth looking around a Marshalls just to hear the most reliably upbeat '80s in-store music. They're guaranteed to show you something you haven't heard in years. Yesterday it was "Pure" by the Lightning Seeds.
This dude defines the shy, sensitive type of guy from the pre-cocooning era, when he would have transformed into a mumbling mousy type, a la John Mayer, or an affectedly cutesy-kiddie type, a la Jason Mraz. Those are two different ways to loudly broadcast your non-threatening nature to girls, both relying on the suppression of signs of a healthy libido.
Not like the guy from "Pure" is a balls-to-the-walls hair metal singer, but still notice the basics of normal human nature being intact:
- A willingness to open up, shown by at least a minimal range of intonation, rather than a straight monotone delivery (contra the mousy type).
- Doing so without resort to kabuki caricature (contra the cutesy type).
- And delighting the listener with something catchy -- the bouncy synth riffs throughout, and the New Order-esque guitar strumming at about 2:30 that's meant to tug just a bit at the heart-strings (contra today's music that avoids making such gestures for fear of appearing overly forward and eager to connect).
He clearly comes off as an introvert, but girls -- at least back then -- would be willing to give him a pass because he's making an honest effort to be social, engaging, and interactive. Not some off-puttingly mousy mumbler, or some spastic Peter Pan dork. Interestingly, he doesn't come off as gay either -- not spastic and childish, not whining and wailing a la the big gay singers of the time like Boy George or Morrissey. He's more of an awkward teenager than a bratty child.
He would hardly be at the top of their list of desirable dudes, but he passes the basic test, and there would have even been a small niche of girls who would've been really into this type of guy.
So what killed off the sensitive guy? The man-hating witch hunts of the early-mid-1990s, quite clearly. In an environment full of suspicion about the slightest signs of male advances toward females -- which were only two steps away from date rape -- you'd have to be out of your mind to open up to them. It's unwanted exposure, like some creepy flasher dropping his raincoat. And "shooting stars around your heart"? -- it doesn't get much more imposing and threatening than that, does it?
That's one of the greatest ironies of Millennial-era relations between the sexes: it was the guys who were the least threatening to begin with who were the main targets, while alpha males like President Bill Clinton got a pass from liberals and feminists, despite far sicker behavior like cigar-banging some fat Jewish broad at the office. O.J. Simpson did even better, getting off with double murder.
A typical feature of witch hunts is that the stronger groups team up against the weaker ones. If you think only in terms of male and female, then the '90s panic looks abnormal -- women teaming up against men. But if you look at all the variation in male status, then it becomes clear -- it was low-status and less desirable males who were the targets, not "males" in general.
Sure, there was also a hysteria surrounding date rapist jocks, but on an everyday level, it felt like it was the clingy-needy sensitive guy, or the desperate schlubby guy in his frat house, who girls saw as the most menacing. In the back of their minds, they thought the jock could get girls without resorting to date rape, while these eager virginal shy guys were more willing to go for broke.
So if you've been wondering why today's male singers practice such extreme musical hover-handing, that's why. Female audiences are just too easily creeped out by normal displays of human emotion, especially coming from males. In 1989, that was only beginning, and there was still room left in pop culture for endearingly awkward expression.