RCA had just picked up the “YMCA” and “In the Navy” hitmakers from Casablanca, seeking to give the group a last-ditch makeover for the new wave era.
According to the Village People’s “construction worker,” David Hodo, in a Popmatters interview:
They had a couple of people there passing around ideas. The first one was these leather outfits that were monochrome — someone in solid red, someone in solid yellow. They had fringe on them. They were awful. We nixed that one. Then they had these guys trying to convince us of this New Romantic look, which was Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet. That was the better of the two choices.
Village person David Hodo in 1978
Village person David Hodo in 1981
And so with the marketing angle determined, the Village People released the LP mega-turd, Renaissance, which noted music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine described as “simply an embarrassment that never should have seen the light of day.”
Hodo had turned in his signature hardhat for a doublet, lip gloss, blush, and (at least five) beauty marks.
Despite the deceptive packaging, Renaissance has nothing musically to do with the New Romantic movement. The music barely even qualifies as new wave. Most of the tracks are simply bad 80’s MOR rock and bargain basement Kool and the Gang-ish r&b. That is, with one notable exception, which Hodo himself provides vocals for: the improbable final track on the album, “Food Fight,” a fake-punk masterpiece easily as good as anything Plastic Bertrand or Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias ever laid down.
“Food Fight” is an anomaly in the Village People’s oeuvre: a first and last attempt to cash in on the punk audience from a band clearly grasping at straws, willing to try absolutely anything to stay relevant.
“Food fight” plays out like the music you’d hear in an early 80’s teenage T & A movie where there’d be some marginally “punk” band playing on the beach in wrap-around sunglasses and clam-diggers, while a bunch of girls in string bikinis did robot dances in the sand. Yes, it’s that good. The subject matter would seem to indicate the Village People’s new target demographic was middle school children.
Hodo himself hates the song, calling it “some of the worst” music the group ever recorded. It’s a shame, because had the Village People followed Renaissance with an album full of songs in the “Food Fight” vein, they easily could have been the greatest fake punk band of all time.
The Village People’s fake punk student rebellion anthem, “Food Fight”:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Hilarious musicless music video for the Village People’s ‘YMCA’