Sunday, September 16, 2012

Music Sunday: The Lots of Love Songs, Dysfunctional Categories, Edition

Sometimes it is difficult to find a theme for these Music Sunday posts. Last week, for example, I went for the birthday theme because I really couldn't come up with anything else. This will probably happen again in the future. Some days it's just harder to feel the music than others. But sometimes the theme of the week comes easily, and from some seemingly unlikely places.

This week, for example. This week's theme came to me while I was reading a book.

This isn't really unusual in itself. I read a lot (if you're a regular around here, you know that about me already), so it figures that at least sometimes I will get ideas for this blog, both generally and in regards to Music Sunday, from things I'm reading. It seems a little more unlikely, however, that I would get an idea for a Music Sunday blog post while reading a book written by an anthropologist and a neuropsychologist...a book that is titled How to Think Like a Neandertal(by Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge [2012, Oxford University Press; 210 pages]).

Yet, this is exactly where I found today's theme, love songs. In the chapter that discusses the idea of whether or not Neandertals had a concept of marriage, and whether their style of pair-bonding was similar to that of modern humans, the authors pointed out that there are only two primates (and, yes, we are primates) that always pair-bond for life and are thus truly monogamous. Modern humans are not one of those two species; that very short list consists of gibbons and siamangs (p. 82).

That got me thinking - a dangerous thing, as I note here from time to time. What it got me thinking was that the fact that because humans do not naturally pair-bond for life, but most often rely - at least in Western culture - on things like romantic love to hold relationships together, we have developed a wide range of love-song types.

Love songs, of course, are not the only kind of songs we have. But, in truth, they probably make up the vast majority of songs in Western popular music. So, I thought that on this Music Sunday it would be nice to look at some of the variety of forms of love songs.

Or, maybe, not so nice, as in the case of the obsessive love song. This type of song is, I think, exemplified by "The Spy", by The Doors:

A more recent example of the obsessive love song - you might also call them stalker songs, really - comes from The Police, in the form of "Every Breath You Take", here in a live performance in Madrid from 2008:

And there is the "I love you but you don't love me and I'm so sad" song. There are a lot of these around, but the one that always comes to my mind first is "I Honestly Love You", by Olivia Newton-John, released in 1974. I'm not sure when this performance, taped at the Sydney Opera House, took place:

A sub-category of this kind of love song is the "I love you and I need to tell you, but will I ever get the chance?" song, exemplified by Heart's "Alone":

Lest you get the idea that this is a category of song that only women sing, here is an example of another sub-category, the "I love you but I can't tell you because you belong to someone else" love song, this time sung by a male to a woman with an engagement/wedding ring on her finger. This is "Midnight Confessions", from 1968, by the Grass Roots, which got to number five on the Billboard Hot 100:

Apropos of absolutely nothing, "Midnight Confessions" was my favorite song when I was in the eighth grade.

Another category of love song, the "I love you but you're so far away, please be true to me because I'm being true to you", is illustrated by Journey's "Faithfully", which could also be put in the category of the "it's so hard being in love with a working musician" love song:

There is another permutation of the "musician on the road" love song, the cautionary "beware of musicians that tell you that they love you, because they're probably lying" song, here illustrated by R.E.M.'s "The One I Love", which starts out with "This one goes out to the one I love" but then confesses that the object of the singer's love is just "a simple prop to occupy my time", followed by the later admission that "another prop has occupied my time". Yeah, life on the road can be hard, and not just for the traveling musician, but also for all the ones he (or, presumably, she) has left behind. No real pair-bonding going on here:

Another category of love song is the "I don't love you anymore, please let me go" song. My favorite example of this sort of song is "If You Could Read My Mind", by Gordon Lightfoot. Here, he doesn't blame his former love, and he isn't even really glad that he doesn't love her anymore. He doesn't really understand why, but "the feeling's gone and I just can't get it back". Yeah, love songs can be really depressing sometimes:

And then there is "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill, originally released as a single in 1978. This song has made many "worst songs" list. On the other hand, I've also heard it called "the ultimate love song." Well, I suppose that depends on one's attitude toward love and taste in music. It definitely fits here, however, as perhaps be best example in the category of the "I love you, but this whole love thing is really, really complicated and I'm so confused right now" love song:

Maybe one of these Sundays I'll share some happy "Silly Love Songs" (and maybe even that Paul McCartney and Wings song, which isn't really one of my favorites, honestly). But not today, because this post has already gotten long and out of hand, even though I could have probably come up with as many more categories of love song as I've shared here today.

Oh, and just a word of apology for the videos I've shared that have ads at the front of them. When I haven't been able to find those with no ads attached, I've tried to find those with either the shortest ads, or ads that can be skipped after a few seconds.

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