Friday, January 30, 2009
Today, as I was doing laundry I was listening to an episode of This American Life called "Break-up" (This American Life is my favorite NPR show. If you don't listen to it, I highly recommend it. My favorite story ever is on this show. Fast forward to 40:15. You won't regret it.)
Anyway, one segment was about what makes a good tragic love song. One woman, Starly Kine, talks about how, after her boyfriend dumped her (isn't dumped such a terrible word?) , she decided to write a break-up song. She wanted to do it right so she consulted Phil Collins and some other pop song writers. During the segment she plays parts of popular love songs and then talks about them. One of the key ingredients for a good song, she says, is extreme corniness. This is because "there's nothing strained or subtle about being crushed by the person you care most about in the world. it's big and gawdy. And it only makes sense that the songs about it are too." Phil Collins says his lyrics aren't intellectual or really very poetic as much as they are blunt. He says you go wrong if you try to too hard. It's supposed to be sort of raw and unmanageable. Don't think too hard about the words, he says, just write what you feel.
For example, there was a guy who got drunk and shot up his girlfriend's car. After he was sentenced the judge asked him if he learned anything from his experience and the guy said yeah, "You can't make a woman love you if she don't." A songwriter read about it in the paper and that's where this song came from(fastforward to 1:15). Perfect break-up song line. I never really liked this song, but now I feel it is significant and, somehow, valuable.
Because things are corny they are often dismissed as cheap. This is not true. Things are corny because they are common; people break up every day. Just because it happens so often does not mean it loses value with the repetition. Or at least, it shouldn't.
Kine cited "Against All Odds," which I have courteously embedded in this blog for you, as her ultimate break up song. It is corny. But I have to say, that I have been singing it to Soapy all day long. Because, even though I never actually had a bad break up, I imagine that if I had, this song would have been my anthem. In fact, I was imagining what I would listen to if Chris ever left me for a fancy touring bike half my age, and I am pretty sure I would listen to this song a lot--right after I torched all his clothes.
I hereby embrace all corniness. Feel free to confess your own favorite tragic love songs.