“Girls & Boys” is a 1994 song by British rock band Blur. It was released as the lead single from the group’s third album Parklife. Charting at number 5 on the UK Singles Chart, “Girls & how do you tenderise meat; Boys” was Blur’s first top 5 hit and their most successful single until “Country House” reached number 1 the following year. The single surpassed their previous commercial peak “There’s No Other Way” by three spots on the UK Singles Chart, and saw the group achieve greater worldwide success. In the US, the track reached number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, becoming the band’s second single to hit the chart after “There’s No Other Way”. It also reached number 4 on the Modern Rock songs chart.
“‘Girls & Boys’? Four notes. And the chorus is ‘Boys, Girls, Love’. That’s quite an universal message, isn’t it?”
Damon Albarn was inspired to write the song once he vacationed in Magaluf, Spain with then-girlfriend Justine Frischmann. According to Albarn, the city had “really tacky Essex nightclubs” and a rampant sexual scene among visitors, with “All these blokes and all these girls meeting at the watering hole and then just copulating. There’s no morality involved, I’m not saying it should or shouldn’t happen.” The music has a convergence of various pop and dance styles, summed up by bassist Alex James as “Disco drums, nasty guitars and Duran Duran bass.” Drummer Dave Rowntree admitted he is not on the track, being replaced by a drum machine he programmed. Thus he said it was his favourite song on Blur: The Best Of because he “isn’t really in it. It’s cool not being in your own song.” The vocals were recorded with a demo featuring only the keyboards.
The video, directed by Kevin Godley, featured Blur performing the song against a bluescreen backdrop of documentary footage of people on Club 18-30 package holidays. Godley branded the video as “Page 3 rubbish” while Blur found it “perfect”. The front cover of the single was taken from a pack of Durex condoms.
Producer Stephen Street felt that while “Girls & Boys” was not like Blur’s previous songs, “I thought it would be Top 5 – it was so downright basic. I felt the way I had when I produced the Smiths: that as long as Morrissey was singing on it, it would be the Smiths. It was the same with Blur: they could put their hands to anything
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, and it would still sound like Blur.” The song indeed reached number 5 on the UK Singles Chart, Blur’s first foray into the top 5. Despite the band having big expectations for the single, guitarist Graham Coxon said “going top five was a bit of a shocker”, and Albarn confessed on having his first panic attack shortly after the single entered the charts.
In 1994, “Girls & Boys” was named single of the year by NME and Melody Maker. It was also nominated for best song at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine has described the song as “undeniably catchy” and “one of the best (songs) Blur ever recorded”, praising the band for making the song “feel exactly like Eurotrash”, and specifying that the chorus’s reference to “girls who are boys/who like boys to be girls/who do boys like they’re girls/who do girls like they’re boys” is “an absolutely devastating put-down of ’90s gender-bending, where even ambi-sexuals didn’t know whose fantasy they were fulfilling.”
The song is included on two compilations albums: Blur: The Best Of and Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur.
Pet Shop Boys, who provided a remix of the track for the single release, later covered the song during their Discovery tour in 1994. Their remix was also included on the Japanese version of the Parklife album.
In 2003, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke confessed on BBC Radio 1 that he wished he had written the song, jokingly calling Blur “bastards” for writing it first.
In 2007, electronic band Blaqk Audio released a cover of the song as a Hot Topic exclusive bonus track for their debut album CexCells. The song was covered by the French singer Mélanie Pain in her 2009 album My Name football shirts vintage. American alternative rock band The Get Up Kids performed a version of the song in July 2011 for The A.V. Club‘s A.V. Undercover series. It was also featured in the Wii game Just Dance and on the Xbox 360 Kinect title Dance Central as a downloadable song off Xbox Live.
In 2010, Pitchfork Media included the song at number 26 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s.
“Blurred” by Pianoman features the chorus (sampled from the Pet Shop Boys 12″ remix) as its key lyric. The single peaked at number 6 on the UK Singles Chart in 1996.
All music composed by Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree. All lyrics composed by Albarn, with the exception of “Maggie May” written by Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton dry bag.
“Boys & Girls” was covered by Australian dance band Vandalism in 2004.