SILLY LOVE SONGS?
I CAN”T be the only person who's wondered this.....You'll be listening to some streetwise, tough ghetto singer (or rapper), all about the mean streets and killin' people and selling drugs, and how you can't trust nobody....and in the middle of the album, there'll be a love song.....a REALLLY SAPPY, Saccharine, cliche-ridden, ooh-ah—isn't love grand....love song......and you'll wonder: Where on the mean streets did he meet Paul McCartney? This is not a new phenomenon....Tower of Power would be funkafying about how they were gonna “Knock Your Damn Self Out!!” for half an hour....then it was time for “You're Still A Young Man.....WAHOOO!”....and the same band that covered “I'm A Man” and made it MEANER !!! (Chicago Transit Authority) went straight to innumerable variations of “Color My World”...but I wrote those off to the gradual and insidious process of falling in love with your own horn section. Let me explain: If you have a lyric line that's not that strong...say it's a not-very-clever cliché type line...but you have a powerful horn section land on a really big-sounding Chord to underline it, it suddenly sounds profound....like Moses has just come down from Mt. Sinai with those two tablets....”Oh, THOU SHALL NOT KILLLLLLL!!!!!” ...Got it!! This works so well that the band starts to rely on it more and more (and the horn players get better and better at it), and it becomes like a drug addiction, complete with the diminishing returns. Similarly, if the singers voice is so beautiful that he could “sing the phone book”, singing something more profound and possibly controversial starts to seem like too much trouble....after all, everyone Oohs and AAAhhs when he sings “Baby, I Love You” so why mess with success. But I gradually realized that this doesn't explain ALL the Sappy love songs.
There's also the guy from the mean streets who has so much success that he starts to be more about the mean streets of Malibu (Hello, Bruce Springsteen), but that doesn't explain the phenomenon either ...though it would explain where he meets Paul McCartney....
Then there's the bio-chemical explanation: Sexual arousal causes the pituitary gland to secrete oxytocin, a substance that induces feelings of warmth, desire to bond, understand, care for the love object. It even allegedly makes the annoying habits of the beloved seem cute and/or brilliant. So, instead of singing “It Must be the Money!', the rappers should be singing “Must Be The Oxytocin”...this would explain why the SONGS seem brilliant to the artist and the listeners who've just fallen in love (“They're playing OUR Song, dear!”)....and annoying to everyone else. Come to think of it, I recall detesting “Isn't She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder when it first came out...”What a sugary piece of crap”, I thought....”and it has a “baby solo” (baby sounds....”More reverb on the baby, please...and we'll need a little more baby in the monitors”)....Stevie Wonder needs THIS? What next, will we need someone to die to drum up sympathy for the next song (known as the “Seasons in The Sun” principle)? Five years later, as yet still unmarried and child-less....I thought “Isn't She Lovely” was the greatest song ever written....no apocalyptic horn chords, but brilliant harmonica riffing, gorgeous chord changes, I'd almost burst into tears if it came on the radio....well, not that I'm ungrateful for my kids, but they're all now teenagers or older....and I think that song is a saccharine piece of crap again.
What's really going on here? As best I can dope it out, there's a couple of things at work.....First of all, maybe the gentle feelings of love are not that familiar to the songwriter from the mean streets, so he falls back on cliches because he's out of his (or her ) comfort zone....Or maybe it's the opposite: The feelings of love are UNIVERSAL, maybe it's ignorant to think otherwise, so the songwriter comes up with...you guessed it....the same lines as everybody ELSE!!! (Go, Oxytocins!!!)......or maybe it's deeper than that....maybe the power of love is SO overwhelming that NOBODY fails to be awed...no one's really “Qualified” to distill THAT down into a 3 minute lyric sheet...so everyone falls a little short there, yet feels the need to TRY to process the experience. (remember a couple of blogs ago)
a postscript: Wildcat O'Halloran (once called “one of the most entertaining songwriters on the current blues scene”......and later called “derivative” by same magazine, who at least didn't say I needed an autotune) mostly writes funny songs (e.g. next album will feature a song called “I Don't Need An Angel, Just Not A Rollercoaster”), but will include what he refers to as a “praise “ song on next CD.....hope you don't think it's stupid....but, if ya do......that's right ….”Must Be The Oxytocins”