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'Friday, I'm In Love' turns 30: The everlasting impact of a "dumb pop song" by The Cure

It has now been 30 years since The Cure released their most popular single, ‘Friday I’m In Love’. The song also comes as one of the Crawley group’s happiest compositions and so, for a goth group, ran a little against the familiar grain. Frontman Robert Smith described the song in an interview with SPIN magazine: “‘Friday I’m In Love’ is a dumb pop song, but it’s quite excellent actually because it’s so absurd. It’s so out of character—very optimistic and really out there in happy land. It’s nice to get that counterbalance. People think we’re supposed to be leaders of some sort of ‘gloom movement.’ I could sit and write gloomy songs all day long, but I just don’t see the point.”

The pop orientation of the track was far removed from The Cure’s darker early work from the late 1970s and early 1980s, but throughout the ’80s, the band had been somewhat building towards the sound of ‘Friday I’m In Love’. Despite this, the track still oozes a confidence and brightness that was so out of character for the group that some die-hard Cure fans wondered if Smith had undergone some sort of personality change. 

As it transpired, Smith originally wrote the song intending it to be played at a much slower tempo. The song was also originally recorded in Richard Branson’s Tudor mansion in the key of D major, but the version that was eventually released was left a quarter-tone higher in pitch because Smith allegedly forgot to disengage the vari-speed function on the multi-track recorder after toying around with the settings. This difference can be heard when the band play the track live in D major. 

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Smith came across the catchy chord progression when writing the new material for 1992’s Wish. He became increasingly convinced that the sequence sounded familiar and so, plagued with paranoia, he asked around everyone he knew in the music business to see if anyone had come across it before.

“‘Friday, I’m In Love’ is not a work of genius, it was almost a calculated song,” Smith recalled. “It’s a really good chord progression, I couldn’t believe no one else had used it and I asked so many people at the time—I was getting drug paranoia anyway—I must have stolen this from somewhere, I can’t possibly have come up with this.”

In an interview with Mojo published in 2004, Smith addressed the enduring popularity of the track when placed against some of the band’s older, more artful and severe material. “It’s always been paradoxical that it’s pushed down people’s throats that we’re a goth band,” Smith opined. “Because, to the general public, we’re not. To taxi drivers, I’m the bloke that sings ‘Friday I’m in Love’. I’m not the bloke who sings ‘Shake Dog Shake’ or ‘One Hundred Years’.”

‘Friday I’m In Love’ peaked at number six in its third week on the UK Singles Chart. The single was also a hit in the US and reached number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the band their last US top 40 to date. 

The track helped launch The Cure to an unchartered level of fame as more of a pop group than alternative post-punkers. This form and level of fame didn’t sit particularly well with Smith and his group at the time. “We had spent such an awful long time to get well known. [When] it happened, though, I found it very uncomfortable. For a long time, I didn’t like certain songs because I thought, ‘You’re to blame, you bastard. You made me popular.’ ‘Friday I’m In Love’ is a perfect example.”

While the band grew somewhat detached from the song for several years following its release, it seems to have had a profound impact on their peers. Over the past three decades, ‘Friday I’m In Love’ has become one of The Cure’s most covered songs, with notable renditions from the likes of David Gray, Yo La Tengo, Phoebe Bridgers and Natalie Imbruglia. 

In recent years, The Cure appear to have embraced the song for what it is – a harmless pop classic – and enjoy pleasing the crowds with it at their live performances. Watch the band’s emphatic performance of ‘Friday I’m In Love’ at Glastonbury 2019 below.

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