Because of the buzz created by the stellar Can You Fly, Freedy Johnston got signed to WEA and went into the studio with Butch Vig to record the follow-up, 1994’s only slightly less stellar This Perfect World.
The muscle that Vig added to his sound was instantly recognizable from the lead track, the minor minor hit “Bad Reputation,” which is probably the only Freedy Johnston song that non-fans might have heard.
It’s the one that starts with just Freedy over an acoustic guitar:
I know I got a bad reputation
And it isn’t just talk, talk, talk
If I could only give you everything
You know I haven’t got
It’s almost instantly obvious that Vig has sandpapered away some of the charming raggedness that marked Can You Fly: when the electric guitars and drums kick in, “Bad Reputation” sounds bigger and fuller that Freedy previously had.
But that’s OK: because no amount of sandpapering was ever going to detract from Freedy’s melodic gifts, lyrical sharpness, and — especially — his utterly unique singing voice. So songs like “Bad Reputation,” “Gone Like The Water” and This Perfect World‘s haunting title track were every bit the equal of the best songs on Can You Fly.
And while the opening of “Bad Reputation” seems like a boast, as the song ends — with Freedy worried about breaking down after getting no response to asking “do you want me now?” over and over again — the despair in his voice, and in his words makes you realize that it’s really a curse.
Official video for “Bad Reputation”
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