In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, to mark the arrival of Sex Tape in theaters, we’re talking about songs that are meant to be sexy but just aren’t.
AC/DC was, at one point, a very good rock band. Actually, that may be understating it a bit. For a brief stretch, AC/DC was one of the best rock bands of its day. On its 1980 album Back In Black, the band had a lot to prove, attempting to follow a string of powerful records and replacing its vocalist—the late Bon Scott—with the relatively unknown Brian Johnson, but the band overcame those challenges effortlessly. That is, except for Back In Black’s most notable dud, “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
It’s hard to think of a song as ineffective as “You Shook Me All Night Long.” It’s an ode to a particularly talented sexual conquest of Johnson’s, but not a single word in the song expresses that. Not only does Johnson open the song by comparing a woman to a car (a metaphor so weak it deserves to be put on cinder blocks), but then goes right ahead and says, “She’s the best damn woman that I ever seen.” He plays coy in the shittiest way possible, only to drop the facade less than a line later. It’s lazy in all the worst ways, never fully committing to its premise, and never rising above mediocrity when it at least tries.
Lyrics aside, Angus and Malcolm Young come up short as well, seeing the band move from one of the most devilish rock bands of the ’70s, and instead offering the kind of schlocky tropes that would personify glam metal in the decade following the release of Back In Black. The true failure of “You Shook Me All Night Long” is that it elicits the opposite emotions it’s attempting to champion. The song wants to be sexy and dangerous but, instead, it’s lifelessly limp. It may be a minor misstep on an otherwise classic album, but it’s one ruinous enough to bring any passionate proceedings to a grinding halt.