17/9/2005

Rant: Creepy ‘Love’ Songs

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:57 am

OK, I’ve got a song stuck in my head, and it’s one that’s bothered me for years. Since the tagline of this blog says something about this being a place to spill some when my brain is over-flowing, you get to hear about it!

Sting said in an interview that’s he astonished and slightly horrified that people play the Police’s hit ‘Every Breath You Take’1 at weddings. “Have they listened to it?”, he asks. (This isn’t the song I have stuck in my head, I’m just working up to that!) ‘Every Breath You Take’ is, quite intentionally, a rather creepy song about stalking, obsession, ownership and surveillance, made to sound like a love song.

Some creepy love songs are quite intentionally that way. The heavy rock band ‘Extreme’ wrote the ballad ‘More Than Words‘, which sounds very lovely (if you like that kind of thing), and is all soft and nice (and quite possibly also gets played at weddings), but it’s basically just the old teenage boy pressure tactic ‘If you loved me you’d sleep with me’, dressed up in sweeter chords… and made somewhat creepier by the fact that it’s sung by men in their late 30s. More than that, it trivializes the fact that the girl says “I love you” – only her body will do, apparently.

But the song that’s going around and around in my head, and just makes me really mad, is Savage Garden’s ‘I Knew I Loved You‘:

I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life

OK, firstly, way to completely contain her, and make her invalid without you: if you dreamed her, what happens when you wake up? This reduces her to just your fantasy, not a living, breathing person with a history and a life.

Secondly, if you loved her before you even met her to know who she is, then what you love isn’t her, just some idealised dream of the perfect lover that you constructed in your head, completely independent of her existence. In the infatuation phase of a new relationship she might look like that image, but that’s basically because you’re suppressing your awareness of any mismatches – doing a Procrustes and chopping off the bits that don’t fit. As you get to know her, she’s going to stop fitting into the contours of the dream… so what becomes of her when you wake up?

Bah, maybe I’m over-analysing silly love songs… But give me something like Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ or ‘Sisters of Mercy‘ or ‘Light As A Breeze‘ – songs that recognise the richness, wonder and strangeness of a woman who you can love but never, ever own…

  1. Sadly, lyric connections are generally loaded with either popups or ads. I’ve tried to avoid the popups but on some of these pages you may have to scroll down past the ads to get to the words.