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16) Paul Anka – “Lonely Boy”

“Lonely Boy” is a song tailor-made to appeal to female teenage fans, as blatant as Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” at constructing a narrative into which the girl can insert herself.  Anka’s “got everything you can think of” (fame, money, talent, looks, the infatuation of thosands or millions of young girls), but all that he wants is “someone to love” (she could be you!).  The idea of a successful performer willing to trade it all for love can be alluring, but could anyone really believe in Anka’s loneliness? His performance of the song on The Dick Clark Show is a put-on, full of wide grins and puppy dog eyes.  These facial expressions mock the lyrics, accentuating the ridiculousness of Anka singing about his romance trouble to an audience that adores him.

The song opens with pulsing drums and surging strings that underline the melodrama of the lyrics.  But although Anka’s sincerity may be doubtful, the theatrics of “Lonely Boy” are vastly preferable to the saccharine phoniness of “Venus.”  Pop music is seldom judged on authenticity, anyway.  What counts is the catchiness of the melody, the appeal of the production and the charisma of the performer.  “Lonely Boy” checks all these boxes.  And after all, maybe there’s nothing lonelier than being surrounded by a crowd. 6

Liner Notes

  • This is the last post for a few days as I’ll be out of town.  I should be back either December 27 or 28. Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and good luck dealing with society coming to a dead halt (if you don’t).

Hit #1 on July 13, 1959; total of 4 weeks at #1
16 out of 963 #1’s reviewed; 1.66% through the Hot 100


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