Pacquiao extends record with vocal chords
Every so often an athlete achieves a feat so Herculean that it can make you want to cry.
Such a moment came just this bygone week when it became official that the amazing Manny Pacquiao has taken a piece of long-lamented schmaltzy music and dragged it all the way upwards into a top 10 ranking.
The accomplished boxer and devoted karaoke singer's version of Sometimes When We Touch, the Dan Hill hit from 1978, has vaulted from No 11 to No 7 on the Adult Contemporary chart of the 43-year-old American radio trade magazine Friday Morning Quarterback Album Report.
Like the Sydney Opera House or the Grand Canyon or Usain Bolt running the 100 metres in 9.58 seconds, it is a stark-raving jaw-dropper, Pacquiao lurking right up there six spots shy of Adele's globally admired No 1 Rolling In The Deep, and smack in the vicinity of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Steven Tyler, Lifehouse, Coldplay and Pink.
We know Pacquiao grew up in the poverty of dirt floors and holey ceilings. We know he stowed away on a boat at 15 to reach Manila.
We know he sold food as an underfed wisp on the streets, that he yet dominated Filipino boxing, that he walked into trainer Freddie Roach's gym in Los Angeles one day in 2000, that he became the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet and that - provided you can rate this as achievement - he got elected to Congress.
Well, this leviathan leap rivals even all of that.
We're not talking about resuscitating some cheesy standard pop here. We're talking about a song that, for decades, has caused ears to wilt off the sides of heads and stomachs to convulse in arrant revolt. In the music review category of derision born of frustration, it has wrought the overwrought.
Verifying the suspicion that people enjoy a turn of sap when alone in their cars, it reached No 3 in the US, poking its humble nose into the Bee Gees-heavy surge of disco at the time. When you realise that Tina Turner once included it on an album in the 1970s, it makes her comeback at 44 in 1984 all the more a marvel.
The lyrics came from the Canadian singer-songwriter Hill, and some have interpreted it as among the world's exceedingly rare cases of Canadian meanness.
On the blog Blood, Dirt & Angels, the song ranked No 2 among the worst songs ever, and birthed a confession: "Treacly and cloying, this is the song that awakened in me the knowledge that music could be a force for evil."
The AOL Radio worst list placed the song at No 40, with the comment: "There isn't enough room to run down the oversharing, self-mythologising and total sissy-ness displayed here."
The Pop Culture Madness website ranked it No 8 in badness, while the music network VH1 omitted it from its top-50 excruciation list.
CNN polled the public seeking candidates for the worst-song-ever honour, and a Liz C wrote: "Surely the phrase 'hesitant prizefighter'," - an aching part of the lyrics - "has to place this one over the top, even with the fierce competition offered by the entire catalogue of Bread and Dan Fogelberg."
Wrote Sara Foss in a blog for the Schenectady Daily Gazette in New York: "Listening to these lyrics, I almost vomited all over the car. It seemed quite obvious that Sometimes When We Touch is the worst song in the history of the world."
Tellingly about that thing with people in cars, she added: "What's embarrassing is that I used to like Sometimes When We Touch."
So here Pacquiao's mightiness has found another stunning realm, one that began when he sang the song on American late-night television, continued when he befriended and recorded a version with Hill, and persisted when he nimbly crooned the four title words at the press conference in May before his bout with Shane Mosley.
Hours after dominating Mosley, Pacquiao brazenly sang it in a ballroom at a nearby casino, where a rope and security guards kept out non-ticketholders when some would envision a rope and security to keep people in.
To Hill's credit, he notes amazement. "Manny leaping from No 11 to No 7 on the Adult Contemporary secondary charts reminds us once more that there's nothing this man, boxer, congressman, singer is not capable of," Hill wrote on his website.
And the thing about that is, everyone from Mr Blood, Dirt & Angels to Ms Foss in New York would have to agree, word-for-word.
Published: August 14, 2011 04:00 AM