Monday, February 25, 2013

"The morning sun when it's in your face really shows your age. But that don't worry me none. In my eyes you're everything."*

   It took me a while to notice, but a crap-ton of songs I've always considered “love” songs are just cleverly disguised insult songs.

   I’ve put a lot of thought into this.

   Take, for instance, the Billy Joel classic, “Just the Way You Are.”

   Here is a song that sounds really beautiful and seems to have the right sentiment: this guy likes his woman just the way she is. (Of course, this was written for his first wife, so obviously he didn’t really like her just the way she was or he wouldn't have divorced her ass. But the signs were right there from the start.)

   Look at the lyrics:

“Don’t go trying some new fashion

Don’t change the color of your hair.

You always have my unspoken passion

Although I might not seem to care.”

   What? Why doesn’t he “seem to care”? That’s not nice. And he's basically spelled out the fact that no matter what she wears or how she styles her hair, it isn't going to make a damn bit of difference, so she may as well quite trying.

And then later:

“I don’t want clever conversation

I never want to work that hard

I just want someone that I can talk to

I want you just the way you are.”

   So now she’s not clever enough? And not only is she not clever enough, she really should quit trying. Clever is for when he’s at work or talking to intelligent people. When he comes home, he’d just as soon she doesn’t say anything so he can focus on The Late Show.

   Another example of a fake love song is Prince’s "Raspberry Beret". I love this song. I love Prince. Prince, Prince, Prince. But check out the lyrics:

“Built like she was

She had the nerve to ask me

if I planned to do her any harm.

So I put her on the back of my bike

and we went riding

down by Old Man Johnson’s farm.

Overcast days never turned me on

But something about the clouds and her mixed

She wasn’t too bright

But I could tell when she kissed me

She knew how to get her kicks.”

   Wow. Um, first of all, Prince is a genius for rhyming "mixed" with "kicks." But that's beside the point. Next consider: “built like she was, she had the nerve to ask me if I planned to do her any harm.” Does this mean she was such a fatty-fatty-two-by-four that there was no possible way he could do her any harm? After all, Prince is a slight man. (I’ve also considered that this means that since her body was so banging, of course he planned to do her “harm,” i.e. bone her. But I like my version better. And it goes along with my theme.) 
Okay, you have no idea how hard it was for me to draw this. I know it's not good, but jeez, it took a ton of effort. I'm also aware that when Prince sang about putting her "on the back of my bike" he was probably talking about a motorcycle, but this is how I have always pictured it, so this is how it will be.

   Thirdly, it’s great that she was a good kisser, but did you have to point out what a dumbass she was?

   Also take into consideration the refrain:

“She wore a raspberry beret.
The kind you find at a second-hand store.
A raspberry beret

If it was warm, she wouldn’t wear much more.”

   So she shops at second-hand stores, so what? She's thrifty and likes vintage. And maybe she doesn't wear much clothing in warm weather. I guess now she’s a slut?

   There are many other examples of this kind of "just kidding" love song. Songs it took me years to realize were full of hurt feelings and malice and back-stabbery (not a word! dibs!).

   You know that great Mary Wells’ song “You Beat Me to the Punch”? I always thought that was such a sweet love song. Here’s this shy girl who wants to ask this guy out but she’s afraid to say anything and then he goes ahead and asks her out (thereby beating her to the punch, if you will). But wait! Then there’s that last verse:

“But I found out beyond a doubt
One day boy, you were a playboy
Who would go away
And leave me, blue

So, I ain't gonna wait around
For you to put me down
This time I'm gonna play my hunch
Then walk away this very day

And beat you to the punch.”
I always pictured the delicious kind of punch. But the song was really about the hurty kind of punch.

   Shit. She dumps him at the end of that “romantic” song because he’s a cheating dog. Who knew? I didn’t.

   I want to break down more of these songs, but this post is really long already, so I’ll just mention a couple other songs worth considering:

1. “Your Love” (The Outfield): girlfriend is on vacation, so you wanna keep me company tonight? I don’t mind that you’re an old hag, by the way. "You know I like my girls a little bit older."

2. “Maggie May”** (Rod Stewart): this song is straight up mean. It’s that catchy guitar riff that fooled me into thinking it was a love song. That, and he keeps sort of tacking on back handed compliments about how "great" she is, or at least that he doesn't really mind her mediocrity.

3. “Just What I Needed” (The Cars): you can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you'll find, you get just what you needed.

   Music is so mysterious and intricate. I should really pay more attention to the lyrics. But sometimes it’s just so hard to tell what the hell those singers are actually saying that even if they were saying, "You're a stupid piece of dog shit," these songs would sound so haunting and romantic. Have you ever listened to a Tori Amos song? They all sound so lovely and dark and beautiful, but most of them are about killing people or getting your period or getting raped or having your parents neglect you. Weird. And yes, I definitely had to look up the lyrics before I had any idea what she was singing about. 
   Happy Monday!
*Lyrics from Rod Stewart's "Maggie May". Wow, what a romantic sentiment!.....
**Addendum: Okay, so my friend Mike pointed out that I make Maggie seem like the victim in this song, and really she's not. Of course, art is open to interpretation, but in this case I think he's right. Maggie's a heinous beast who toys with a young man's future in order to turn him into her sexual plaything. BUT, I still always thought it was a love song and it's really a song about people treating each other like garbage. So it stays. Because I can't hear the lyrics over that catchy tune, I always thought it was so romantic. I'm a dumb-dumb.

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