Written as a satire of Thatcherism and its embodiment in conspicuous consumption and yuppies in the United Kingdom during the 1980s, the song's indirect attack on its subject matter has come to exemplify the Pet Shop Boys as ironists in their songwriting.
The first version of the song, recorded with the duo's first producer, Bobby Orlando, was not released; upon signing with record label Parlophone, they re-recorded the song with J. J. Jeczalik (of Art of Noise) and Nicholas Froome.
The original single release charted lowly at number 116 in the UK, to be exceedingly outdone by the number one spectacle of the second release of "West End Girls" in multiple countries. With producer Stephen Hague still on board from that release, a new single version and a version for the duo's debut album, Please, were mixed. The second release of "Opportunities", following the album's release, resulted in better chart performance. It is currently the only single from the band to chart higher in the US than the UK, becoming the duo's second Top 10 single in the US, peaking at #10, and just missing out (#11) in the UK. In Australia, the first version was the one to chart (although outside the Top 40).
Please also included a brief, cacophonic track entitled "Opportunities (Reprise)", which was the original middle section to the song proper before it was edited out.
The lyrics depict, in Tennant's words, "two losers". The song is written from the perspective of a man who describes himself as being intellectual and educated. The lyrics are addressed towards another character, identified as having "looks" and "brawn", and who is invited to join the song's protagonist in a scheme to "make lots of money".
Tennant has made it clear, however, that the schemes are doomed to failure. The protagonist's claimed accreditations, a PhD in mathematics from the Sorbonne and knowledge of computer programming, are conceited fabrications. The punchline of the "joke" of the song, he says, is that "the people in it are not going to make any money". The band have attributed the cynicism of the song, in part, to the punk rock attitudes of the period.
The meaning of the lyrics is taken at face value by some listeners, and this subsequent interpretation of the song as a materialistic anthem receives mixed reactions. The satirical interpretation, on the other hand, has cemented the Pet Shop Boys' reputation as ironists to many, to the chagrin of the band as the result is often their more sincere songs being ignored.
A notable change between the original and re-recorded versions of "Opportunities" is the omission of the spoken outro "All the love that we had / And the love that we hide / Who will bury us / When we die?" According to Tennant, the lyrics were removed from the second version of the song as the duo feared the passage would be construed as "too pretentious". The first two lines of the outro, however, are sung within the lyrics of "Why Don't We Live Together?" from the Please album. The original single version of "Opportunities" was unavailable on compact disc until the U.S.-only Essentials compilation album in 1998.
12-inch remixes for the 1985 release were produced by Ron Dean Miller of Nuance, while those for the 1986 release were produced by noted 1980s producer Shep Pettibone. Some of Miller's overdubs went on to be incorporated into the 1986 single version.
The B-side of the 1985 release, "In the Night", is about the subculture known as the Zazous that appeared in France during the German occupation of France in World War II; concerned with fashion and music, and allied with neither the Nazis and Vichy France nor the French Resistance, they were distrusted by both sides. Tennant, having read about the movement in a book by David Pryce-Jones, asks, in the song, the question of whether this apathy essentially amounted to collaborationism.
An instrumental version of "In the Night" became the opening theme music of the BBC fashion program The Clothes Show when it first aired in 1986. This continued for a decade until 1995 saw a fully instrumental re-recording of the song, "In the Night '95", for the purpose of replacing the old theme.
A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (3:45)
B. "In the Night" (4:50)
A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (Dance Mix) (6:44)
B. "In the Night" (4:50)
A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (Version Latina) (5:29)
B1. "Opportunities (Dub for Money) (4:54)
B2. "Opportunities (Reprise) (4:27)
A. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (3:36)
B. "Was That What It Was?" (5:18)
A1. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (Shep Pettibone Mastermix) (7:18)
A2. "Opportunities" (Reprise) (4:27)
B1. "Opportunities" (Original Dance Mix) (6:45)
B2. "Was That What It Was?" (5:18)
|Chart (1985 release)||Peak|
|Chart (1986 release)||Peak|
|US Billboard Hot 100||10|
The music video for the first single release was directed by soon-to-be perennial Pet Shop Boys photographer Eric Watson and 1980s staple music video director Andy Morahan. It depicts Lowe in an underground parking garage; a Cadillac pulls up to him and stops, whereupon Tennant materializes in front of it, dressed in a hat, glasses, and a suit by British fashion designer Stephen Linard, and standing inside a rectangular hole in the ground while singing the song. The video ends with Tennant disintegrating into dust and the car driving away.
For the re-release, the prestigious Polish director Zbigniew Rybczyński was recruited. In the video, Tennant is again dressed in a suit and hat, while Lowe wears the hard hat, jeans, soiled shirt, and work gloves of a construction worker, depicting the two roles spoken of in the lyrics. The camera pans over a background of city skylines and clouds rendered in neon lines as Tennant and Lowe appear duplicated repeatedly, passing to each other symbols of the different statuses they represent — including a top hat, a trophy, a brick, and a sledgehammer.
"Opportunities" is the opening theme to the WB Television Network reality show Beauty and the Geek, which first aired in 2005; the show literally pairs up people with "brains" (intellectual men) alongside those with "looks" (attractive women) in a competition to "make lots of money".
The song was also used in commercials for ABC's 2004 short-lived reality series The Benefactor, which was cancelled before completing its six-episode run. Contestants competed for a chance to win US$1 million from entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
On the "Psych" episode "Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion", while Shawn, Gus, and other models walk through an alley way in a slow motion model walk.