Kon Kan
“I Beg Your Pardon”

by Jim Di Gioia

July 6, 2019

There once was a time — antiquated by today’s standards yet far from simpler — when the average consumer didn’t have a pre-packaged means to make sample-based dance music on their home computer (if they had one). Making sample-based dance music on a computer that eventually becomes a multi-national, Juno-award winning hit single? Preposterous. Yet, that’s exactly what happened. When Toronto-based musician/DJ Barry Harris, inspired by the success of Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Always On My Mind” and early house music, went to work with voice-for-hire session singer Kevin Wynne recording “I Beg Your Pardon”, he likely never expected the one-off project he cheekily named Kon Kan to take him beyond the local club scene. 

Built upon a shit-poor quality sample of Lynn Anderson’s 1970 hit “Rose Garden”, “I Beg Your Pardon” synthesized everything happening in 1988 as synth-pop and underground house and club music were about to decimate college rock’s stranglehold on the alternative charts. It was (and still is) an earworm song of the highest standards. If Harris was only intending to release one Kon Kan single, he made sure it was packed with every idea imaginable. The “Rose Garden” sample was genius; its low-fidelity, rough cut-and-paste nature lends texture and nuance to the backing track’s cold, industrial base. Less easily identifiable samples from the disco and club music canon add rhythm and muscle to get bodies moving, but Wynne’s vocal performance, blasé and monotoned, seals the deal. What’s there left to do when the bloom falls off the rose, and a relationship withers and dies? Get out onto the dancefloor and cry your eyes out.

The song’s success led Harris and Wynne to formalize Kon Kan into a dance music duo and assemble Move to Move, a debut album that featured similarly assembled songs that never quite reached the dizzying high of “I Beg Your Pardon”. Not that anyone involved likely even thought that was possible; It was as rare then as it is now for an artist to draw from the song-of-the-year well more than once in a row. But earworms, no matter how old or unsophisticated-sounding they get, will always be earworms with the potential to be someone’s song of the summer or year the first time they hear it.

For those who don’t know “I Beg Your Pardon”, that time is now.

Jim Di Gioia

Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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