Pet Shop Boys – “Hotspot” Album Review
Back with their 14th studio album “Hotspot,” Pet Shop Boys return with a spark of modern infusion as they prove to move brilliantly forward in their career that has spanned several decades. Reinvigorating their dance-pop electric sound, the duo continues to lace its palpable political commentary into infectious lighthearted beats.
Best known for their initial hit “West End Girls,” Pet Shop Boys started in the ‘80s and have ruled the airwaves ever since. They have had hit after hit in Britain and have collaborated with stellar artists such as Dusty Springfield and Elton John. Well-regarded as cherished queer icons, Pet Shop Boys have lent their talents to several actions of LGBTQ+ activism throughout their career. Deciding to courageously infuse far more themes of queerness into their latest projects, Pet Shop Boys enter the new decade even more open and boldly themselves.
Opening with the provocative “Will-o-the-Wisp,” Pet Shop Boys kick off the record with a song overflowing with queer overtones, sass and charm. Confrontationally chastising a previous lover who is seemingly chasing a fleeting life of the straight and narrow, Pet Shop Boys accuse the man of being a ghost of his former self. Setting their interrogation to a bright pop beat, they confront the man and encourage him to finally come to terms with his true identity.
In an exciting cross-generational collaboration, the duo brings in the steadily rising queer group Years & Years on the exuberant “Dreamland.” One half of a heartwarming combination, Years & Years have been open about its inspiration, pulled from the template created by groups like Pet Shop Boys. The two groups craft a gesture of respect to one another by meshing their sounds into an impeccably polished track.
They then move to the breezy “I Don’t Wanna.” Admittedly simple but very enjoyable, the duo playfully airs the bratty side of their personality, backed by a bouncing series of synths. However, the album then suffers from the duo’s straying from political commentary, spiraling off into the seemingly under-inspired “Monkey Business.” Falling a tad short of the Pet Shop Boys’ brand, the track feels unnecessary and underutilized.
The duo then regains the traction of the record with the blissful “Only in the Dark.” A pleasantly content love song, the song drifts in on a current of light synths and affectionate lyrics.
The album closes with the unapologetically prideful marriage-ceremony-infused techno track “Wedding in Berlin.” Weaving in the classic “Here Comes the Bride” tune into an abstract club mix aesthetic, the duo cements its message of free love and queer rights with an interesting twist on the iconic melody.
Overall, “Hotspot” is very playful and lighthearted. Pet Shop Boys explore several aspects of queerness in their music that they previously were discouraged and practicality unable to implement in their earlier work. It is evident that the duo has really evolved its sound throughout its career. The complexity of Pet Shop Boys’ soundscapes and beats has only improved with age. However, they seem to still be searching for that fine balance between their political commentary and their relaxed dance tracks. In the end, it’s a very exciting addition to the Pet Shop Boys’ discography, and it is nice to see that this duo is still going strong.
Reviewer’s Favorite Song: “Dreamland” and “Will–o–the–Wisp”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “Monkey Business”
Scott Perdue is a junior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.