Naked, released in 1988, is the eighth and final album by American Post-Punk/New Wave Music band Talking Heads. It was the band's first and only album to be released through Fly Records, a Sire Records-owned vanity label briefly used between 1988 and 1990 for two studio albums* , three singles* , and a compilation of Brazilian folk songs.
Following the middling critical and fan reception of True Stories two years prior, the band decided to shake up their ever-malleable sound again, recorded around 40 improvisational jam sessions, and flew off to Paris to collaborate with a bevy of guest musicians. Lyrics and melodies were then written and recorded by frontman David Byrne back in New York.
Produced by Steve Lillywhite (an in-demand producer at the time for his work with U2 and Peter Gabriel), the resultant album is a return to the formula fostered by Talking Heads' landmark 1980 album Remain in Light, combining Post-Punk & New Wave Music with Latin funk. The album was positively received by critics, who considered it a much-needed return to form after True Stories. Fans, however, seem to be more split, with some considering it just as much a return to form as critics did, others considering it a sign of continued artistic stagnation. However, where exactly Talking Heads would go from here would be a question that would ultimately remain unanswered: the band dissolved shortly after the album's release, first claiming to be on hiatus before eventually confirming their split in 1991.
Naked produced two singles: "Blind" and "(Nothing But) Flowers". A promo single of "Mr. Jones" was also released, but was never made commercially available. In addition, three outtakes from the sessions would see completion in the years after Naked's release. The first was "Sax and Violins", which would be included on the soundtrack to the 1991 Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World. The song would also be released as a single that same year, serving as the final product released by Talking Heads before their dissolution; "Sax and Violins" is also included as a bonus track on the 2005 remastered release of Naked. The second outtake, "Lifetime Piling Up", was completed for the 1992 greatest hits albums Popular Favorites: Sand in the Vaseline and the Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads compilation released only in international markets; it was also released as a CD single to promote the compilations. The third outtake, "In Asking Land", was reworked into the song "Carnival Eyes" on Byrne's 1989 solo album Rei Momo; the song in its original form wouldn't be released until 2005, when it was included exclusively on the Once in a Lifetime Boxed Set.
- "Blind" (4:58)
- "Mr. Jones" (4:18)
- "Totally Nude" (4:10)*
- "Ruby Dear" (3:48)
- "(Nothing But) Flowers" (5:31)*
- "The Democratic Circus" (5:01)
- "The Facts of Life" (6:25)
- "Mommy Daddy You and I" (3:58)note
- "Big Daddy" (5:37)*
- "Bill" (3:21)note
- "Cool Water" (5:10)
Claimed he was a terrorist, claimed to avert a catastrophe; someone should'a told him that the trope stops here:
- Adam and Eve Plot: Alluded to in the opening lines of "(Nothing But) Flowers".
- After the End: "(Nothing But) Flowers", which describes the aftermath of an unspecified apocalyptic event that caused Earth to revert to a New Eden.
- Album Title Drop: Done in "Totally Nude".I hang aroundWhere the grass is greenerTotally naked, babyTotally nude
- Bizarre Taste in Food: Forced upon the narrator of "(Nothing But) Flowers", who has to resort to eating rattlesnakes for dinner.
- Bo Diddley Beat: "Ruby Dear".
- Book-Ends: An odd example with Talking Heads: 77, the band's first album; both it and Naked were released in a year where the last and second-to-last digits were identical (1977 for Talking Heads: 77, 1988 for Naked).
- Bubblegloop Swamp: A photograph of one is featured on the back cover.
- Call-Back: The line "we used to microwave, now we just eat nuts and berries" in "(Nothing But) Flowers" is one to "Animals" from Fear of Music, which features the line "they're living on nuts and berries" at multiple points.
- Concept Video: The music video for "Blind" is one of the only two instances of this trope in Talking Heads' videography (the other being "This Must Be the Place").
- Darker and Edgier: The album brings back the anxious, paranoid lyrical undercurrents that were present in Fear of Music and Remain in Light, with some tracks being quite dour musically as well; "Cool Water" is a standout example in both cases.
- Downer Ending: "Cool Water", a dour, droning, minor-key piece about the surprisingly mundane guise that societal decay bears.
- End of an Era: Naked served as the last major breath of the worldbeat boom, a movement Talking Heads themselves helped kick off; the album was released just two years after Graceland by Paul Simon, which had attracted major public controversy over Simon's production of the album in South Africa during a United Nations-led cultural embargo against the nation, souring public perception of worldbeat. After Naked, no other worldbeat albums would reach a high level of public prominence, and Naked itself would become Talking Heads' most obscure studio album despite being positively received by critics.
- Epic Rocking:
- "The Facts of Life"; at 6:25, it's just barely beaten out by "The Great Curve" from Remain in Light (by one second) for the position of the longest song in Talking Heads' oeuvre.
- The CD and cassette versions of the album are also longer than anything the band had put out before it, clocking in at 52:17.
- Everything's Better With Apes: The cover art, consisting of a kitschy framed chimpanzee portrait. The portrait seems to tie in with the Chinese proverb included in the liner notes, transcribed at the top of the page (though chimpanzees and other apes are not synonymous with monkeys). The cover art also appears to tie in with the frequent mentions of monkeys and chimpanzees in "The Facts of Life".
- Freeze-Frame Ending: The music video for "Blind" ends this way, freezing on a shot of a baby clutching the shrunken-down, defeated monkey wrench in its fist.
- Ghibli Hills: The setting of "(Nothing But) Flowers", described in lush detail.
- Good Old Ways: Implied in "Big Daddy", in which old-fashioned fishing proves to be a more viable means of living than monetary systems.
- Hypocritical Humor: "Totally Nude" features the narrator embracing and advocating the New Eden lifestyle, only for this very concept to get flippantly torn to shreds two songs later.
- MadonnaWhore Complex: "Ruby Dear"Angels and prostitutesThey might look the same
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Done In-Universe with "Mr. Jones", where the titular everyman is placidly ordinary back home but is treated as an A-list celebrity in the town where the song is set.
- Incredibly Long Note: Done courtesy of David Byrne on "The Facts of Life".
- Lyric Video: Played with in the video for "(Nothing But) Flowers", which intersperses excerpts from the song lyrics atop footage of the band performing. In one instance, a "HEY!" is written on David Byrne's palm in black marker. Alongside Prince's music video for "Alphabet St." (also released in 1988), the one for "(Nothing But) Flowers" was considered highly innovative for its use of typographic overlays in this manner.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Appears on a number of songs throughout the album; "Blind", "(Nothing But) Flowers", and the last verse of "Bill" particularly come to mind.
- New Eden: Deconstructed in "(Nothing But) Flowers". While the narrator is at first happy at the garden paradise the Earth has become following an unspecified apocalyptic event, he quickly grows bored out of his damn mind, deprived of modern luxuries and longing for the days of "honky-tonks, Dairy Queens and 7-Elevens." By the end of the song, he outright begs to be freed from the Ghibli Hills he's become trapped in. Amusingly, "(Nothing But) Flowers" is placed just two songs after "Totally Nude", which at face-value embraces this trope.
- New Sound Album: Well, more "New Old Sound Album", if that makes sense. Naked returns to Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues' signature blend of Post-Punk & New Wave Music with international variations of funk, but opts for Latin funk rather than Afrobeat.
- Performance Video: "(Nothing But) Flowers" meshes this together with a Lyric Video.
- Record Producer: Steve Lillywhite, thus making Naked Talking Heads' first album to not be self-produced since Remain in Light eight years prior.
- Re-Cut: LP versions of Naked knock some time off of "Totally Nude", "(Nothing But) Flowers", and "Big Daddy", and omit "Bill" altogether, due to the technical restrictions of the format compared to CDs and cassettes.
- Special Guest: The album makes use of a wide number of guest musicians, most notably Johnny Marr (formerly of The Smiths), who performs guitar on "(Nothing But) Flowers" and has a guest role in the song's music video.
- Take That!:
- The music video for "Blind" scathingly lampoons the 1988 American presidential election, depicting a sentient, malevolent monkey wrench being elected into public office and tormenting his audience. At the end of the video, the wrench is overthrown and tossed far into the distance. Tina Weymouth stated that the video is meant to be a parody of partisan politics in general, but the timing of its release indicates that it's directed particularly at the election.
- "The Democratic Circus" is quite clear about its distaste in the Reaganist political scene of the time from the title alone (note that the album was released in March 1988, when Reagan was still president; George H. W. Bush wouldn't be elected until November, and wouldn't actually be inaugurated until January 1989).
- Title-Only Chorus: "Blind", whose chorus uses the single-word title fourteen times each verse.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: "(Nothing But) Flowers" claims that part of the reason why the world ended was because people simply didn't pay attention to it.
- Updated Re-release: The 2005 remastered edition includes "Sax and Violins" as a bonus track.
- Visual Pun: The music video for "Blind" runs on one, anthropomorphizing the monkey wrench that tends to be figuratively thrown into one's works.
- White Void Room: Inverted in the music video for "Blind", which occasionally cuts to footage of David Byrne singing and gesticulating at the camera in a solid black void. While shirtless.
- World Music: Talking Heads' second foray into the genre, incorporating distinctly Latin rhythms and instrumentation; frontman David Byrne would explore this further with his solo albums Rei Momo and Uh-Oh in 1989 and 1992, respectively.