40. Pet Shop Boys – ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ (1993)

“She’s made you some kind of laughing stock
Because you dance to disco and you don’t like rock
She made fun of you, and even in bed
Said she was gonna go and get herself a real man instead

So ask yourself now
Can you forgive her?”

Written by Neil Tennant/Chris Lowe

Produced by Neil Tennant/Chris Lowe

Taken from the album Very

Also released on Disco 2, Pop Art: The Hits and Pandemonium

UK #7, AUS #17

You can file ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ with White Town’s ‘Your Woman’ under “gay/straight confusion becomes catalyst for classic pop song”. In this song we have our central figure, who shares his heart between his current girlfriend and a boy he was in love with back in school. The past and the present become too much, and while she knows he’s gay, nobody is ready to admit it. The girl makes lighthearted fun of him in public, but as Neil sings, “you know there’s too much truth in everything she claims”.

Throughout the song we switch between scenes from the current relationship, then back to “youthful follies, and changing teams”, and then back into the present with his sleepless nights and nervousness over the whole deal. Neil Tennant plays the wise man, as usual, as sort of a ghostly figure hovering over the entire situation, doing a running commentary for us, and then addressing the players directly.

The song is delivered with one of the absolute best PSB instrumentals, with huge overblown beats and just the right balance between radio-friendly chart pop and outgaying itself. It’s as if the song itself is commenting on the struggle of the main character by trying to straddle the line between acceptably straight and camp as a row of tents. Accompanied by the amazing video, which despite being dated now has never become less interesting, and includes POINTY HATS, ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ is almost – almost – the very best Pet Shop Boys song.

Music video:

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