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Among the more offensive charges that can be levied against any artist with a sense of pride is the notion that they’ve created a work of “pop art”. This isn’t something that is necessarily unique to metal music, as many psychedelic bands from the 60s and hard rockers from the 70s would also shutter at being lumped in with what is now considered pop music today. But upon closer review, pop music is something of a misnomer as a genre that seems to only be consistent in its application to songs that are popular. There’s really no other way to categorically explain how Miley Cirus gets off giving the horns to her audience when comparing her teeny bopper bubble gum music with the man who originally popularized the hand gesticulation. Such is the predicament that Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark” suffers from as it copes with comparisons to various pop/rock hits that were continually churned out by the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll wing of the NWOBHM and the emergent L.A. glam scene.
In spite of the rather grim implications of even entertaining a comparison between any of Dio’s fine creations and pop music, it is a situation that is virtually unavoidable. Amidst the incredibly repetitive, spacey synthesizer melody that probably inspired Europe’s “The Final Countdown”, a really infectious main riff with a heavy usage of scream harmonics that probably inspired Zakk Wylde’s style of playing, things just can’t help but scream “play me!!!” to the radio stations. It’s heavy, Ronnie’s vocal delivery is hard edged and doesn’t skip up on a really gravely bite, but it’s the sort of song that anyone can sing along with and smile at, regardless of the poetic lyrical themes that probably continue to fly over the heads of most of the morons populating Blender Magazine and Rolling Stone. Like its name suggests, it is a song that sleeps snuggly within a highly noble contradiction, a heavy metal anthem that both suit wearers and leather toting rebels can appreciate.
While the a-side definitely stands as one of the best known songs in Dio’s repertoire, the accompanying song “Gypsy” does well to display the versatility of this band going back to its infancy. Some parallels could be drawn between it and the more rock based songs on “Mob Rules”, particularly that of “Slipping Away” and “Voodoo”, relying on a singular riff to drive most of the song and provide the foundation upon which Dio builds castles with his towering voice. Barring perhaps “Stand Up And Shout”, this is among the rawest and most aggressive of Dio’s vocal offerings. While perhaps not quite up to the task of dominating the airwaves as the title song of this single, this song could just as easily enjoy regular radio play amidst the slew of older metal songs from “The Trooper” to “Wild Child” that rock radio occasionally dabbles with of late.
Although the enmity that exists between pop music and metal will likely never be reconciled, one could stop just slightly short of attributing that reconciliation to this song. Dio himself was toying with disowning the song after its recent birth due to its bare simplicity and somewhat pop-like nature (due in good part to the quirky keyboard part), but thankfully it became a staple of his universal appeal. Some may call such a notion the anatomy of a sellout, but by the same token, the makings of a conversion away from the dull, artificially sweetened mainstream to something with more depth can be taken from this song, and I can testify that this song played a role in my abandonment of the pop/rock craze of the early 90s that Nirvana and Pearl Jam ushered in. Thank God, and indeed, thank Dio for “Rainbow In The Dark”.