Below the Love: Writings on Valentine’s Day

BELOW THE LOVE:
Writings on Valentine’s Day
This Valentine’s Day, PopMatters writers have culled the best from popular culture — past, present, and future — to give in-depth insight into the world’s most revered (and vilified) emotion.
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:: 10 LOVE SONGS AMERICA NEEDS TO HEAR
By Devon Powers

Love hatas, feel me on this one. If Valentine’s Day weren’t already bad enough, it gives full-blown validation to the most tired-ass of all tired-ass pop music products: the love song. Despite the gazillion ways in which the I-love-you/ do-you-love-me?/ yay-we-are-in-love/ damn-you-give-good-love/ oh-snap-there-goes-our-love/ it’s-over-and-you-weren’t-that-dope-anyway story has been musically told, songs about this dynamic keep being pumped out. Yet despite this overflow, there remain a few surprises that some creative artists, adventurous music execs, and open-minded listeners could make into sensations. Here are a few ideas for love songs that are overdue:

1. The Homo-Slow Jam
Queer Eye and Boy Meets Boy may have anesthetized gayness for the metrosexual cable-watching set, but same-sex desire has yet to permeate pop music beyond the outskirts of dance music, punk and folk rock. Not to mention that gay people of color remain largely invisible, the subjects of typecasting even more severe and limiting than their white counterparts (who themselves have just begun to escape). A slow jam expressing same sex desire — in a way beyond camp or RuPaul-ish drag — would blow the closet door off in the R&B/hip hop community as well as expose a new facet of the public to the realities of queer life.

2. Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson
Sure, everybody connects this song to the love affair between Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross in The Graduate, but where’s the real anthem to May-December romances, of the stripe that’s oh-so-hip post-Ashton and Demi? I can just hear Cher and John Mayer now…

3. Dirrty Country
Shania Twain has made country-pop sexy, but the cowboy clique need their own Christina Aguilera. After all, spurs and chaps have so many other fun uses.

4. Emo-Rap
Why hasn’t hip-hop embraced the “I love you so much I hate myself and you, too” paradigm? Eminem aside, there’s far too few rappers out there who have tapped into to the creative power of low self-esteem. I’ll be happy when P-Diddy finally samples some Jimmy Eat World.

5. Self-Love, Baby
I’ll just come out and say it: masturbation needs a new anthem. It needs a theme song for Sunday nights spent lying around your apartment, when it might be nice to have some company but it’s just as nice to (ahem) take care of your own business and go to sleep. None of that “when I think about you” or “wish you were here” crap, either. Oh, and this song only needs to be about four minutes long.

6. Ode to the Neurotic
There’s so many songs that lament unrequited love — pining for some jerkbaby who won’t return affection because of unattainable standards. So why not embrace all that’s wack about ourselves and write a love song about that unlovable stuff? (Possible song titles: “Yes, I’m Emotionally Needy, Who Gives a Shit?”, “Could Stand To Lose 10 Pounds” or “Desperate to Get Laid”.)

7. Love.com
*NSYNC were the pioneers with their “Digital Get Down”, a groovy jam dedicated to the joys of webcams and typing with one hand. Now that it’s legit to find, make, and break love online, pop culture is due for a bevy of songs which detail the highs and lows of this frontier.

8. Three’s Company
No, this is not an excuse for more songs from playas or groupie gangbangers; and no, the ballad you wrote about your night with Olsen twins is not original. What has yet to be done is music for all those relationships that don’t neatly fit into the monogamy paradigm: polyamory, bisexual communal partner-sharing, suburban swinging, post-coupledom. Now that’s what I call music.

9. Indie Lite Rock
Indie rock has its own manifestations of the lovesick diatribe, but it could learn a few lessons (and snag a few covers) from the world of adult contemporary. The meek implorations and catty screams of effete boys and vulgar girls could both use a little Celine-izing. Just think: big, majestic vocals! Broadway-worthy choruses! Timpani and crash cymbals! The possibilities are endless. I personally can’t wait until the Warhols cover Barbra Streisand.

10. We Are the World 2.0
It was a schmaltzy publicity stunt and a half-empty political gesture, but it’s depressing to consider that pop music’s most visible moment of global consciousness happened during the Reagan administration. What the world needs now is less American strong arm and more American embrace.

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