Love in music, in books, in Hollywood, tends to either be depicted as too good, or too bad. It comes in those two flavors, typically, the whole spectrum of love compressed down into the black and white of "love" as it's shown in "art."
But "love" in "life" is not so simple. When, in life, do two people from different social strata meet on a doomed ocean liner and fall in love instantly and eternally? When, in life, has an oil-rig jockey ever had a secret affair with his boss' daughter that was disapproved of right up until the time when [ASTEROID-Y SPOILER ALERT!] his boss punches him in the head or something and then steps out onto the asteroid to sacrifice himself for the previously-disapproved of love between the guy and his daughter (and also to sacrifice himself to save the human race, but that was obviously secondary?)
No, "love" in "life" is not so much people staring at the green light across the bay and throwing themselves onto the train tracks and tying themselves to a whale (Ahab did love the whale, right? And he tied himself to it at the end? Or was that in The Little Mermaid 2: Electric Boogaloo?) Instead, it's more... realistic. And by realistic, I mean hopeful. And saying the wrong thing but meaning the right thing. And also a little mean. And grateful in a way. And also uplifting. And, of course, there's always Armageddon.
Confused? Don't be. It can all be explained and set out by listing
The Seven Best Songs That Show What Love Is Really Like
Yep, it's a SemiDaily List!
1. Fat, by The Violent Femmes.
What ART depicts love as being: Love in art is the ability to always say exactly the right thing at the right time, and to have yourself perfectly understood -- like what Hugh Grant does in every movie he's in.
How this song shows the reality of Love: Listen to the first line. Imagine saying that to your wife. Do you ever manage to say the right thing? Of course you don't. That's why Hallmark is in business.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Your wife, when you try to convince her to just drop the divorce suit because your heart was in the right place. I'd also write on the note: Obviously, if you understood me, I was saying that you are NOT fat right now. Plus, I need my shirts out of the closet.
2. Blue Jean, by David Bowie.
What ART depicts love as being: Two people from different backgrounds or with seemingly different values meet and fall in love. Instantly. Neat, huh?
How this song shows the reality of Love: Does that ever happen? No matter how many times someone tries singing a song from the bleachers to impress Julia Stiles, or how many dances people do in the library, do the greasers ever date the preps? Or the rich date the steerage classes? No.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: That rocker girl that sat in back of you in math class, the one with the spiky hair who hung around the guys that smoked cigarettes outside the back door in math class -- the girl you always thought was really sexy but worried that she'd beat you up. You'd also never give her the mix tape. But it's a cool song.
3. What Ifs + Maybes, by Bromheads Jacket.
What ART depicts love as being: In art, everyone always wants to join the cool group. Farmer Ted does everything he can to get into the party -- and it works because the prom queen gets drunk and he sleeps with her and doesn't face date rape charges, but instead is cool and presumably goes on to lead a happy life until the FBI one day raids his house and finds all those files on his computer. (This week on Law & Order: SVU...)
How this song shows the reality of Love: Once you're out of high school, what's so great about the cool kids? Nothing. It's not just me saying that, either -- it's a British rock star. Or group. I don't know much about Bromheads Jacket. Anyway, the song points out that if he was in the cool group, he might've ended up in prison or "stuck in a house somewhere with her and a baby" instead of the amazing life he's lived with his presumably less-cool girlfriend or wife.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: A very understanding significant other who will not be offended that you have sort of pointed out to him/her that she/he's kind of a loser. (See song number 1, above.)
4. Untouchable Face, by Ani DiFranco:
What ART depicts love as being: Happy. People meet and fall in love and spend the rest of their lives together.
How this song shows the reality of Love: It's not a happy song. Not at all. In this song [SPOILER ALERT] people fall in love and then don't spend the rest of their lives together. Are they bitter about it? You betcha.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: The guy or girl that has the restraining order against you. It's worth the weekend in jail.
5. Beautiful Girl, by Flight of the Conchords.
What ART depicts love as being: Flattery will get you everywhere, won't it? Point out to a girl how beautiful, how special, how great she really is, and the world is your oyster. Just take those glasses off of her, have her let her ponytail out and change from those paint-spattered overalls, and soon you and her are in the spotlight dance together.
How this song shows the reality of Love: Look, most of us are not supermodels. Most of us are not models. Most of us, truth be told, would be considered the least attractive person in the K-Mart Sunday ad, the person that they make stand next to the lawnmowers instead of modeling sweaters or, God forbid, underwear. Shouldn't we be honest about that? And when we meet the most beautiful girl... in the room... shouldn't we definitely go for it while also not getting her hopes up? Is there a more romantic pick-up line, in short, than telling a woman that she could be a part-time model?
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Ideally, a girl who doesn't listen closely to the lyrics, but who will hear the romantic music and see "Beautiful Girl" written on the little sleeve and just melt.
5. Diamonds on the Soles Of Her Shoes, by Paul Simon.
What ART depicts love as being: In the movies and books when a rich and poor person meet, they go on a magical date that somehow transcends the fact that one is dirt-poor, with the rich person finding the poor person charming, and the two then fall in love. Example: Lady & The Tramp. Eating food thrown out the back of a restaurant never seemed more romantic, did it?
How this song shows the reality of Love: When I began dating Sweetie -- who wasn't rich, but who had, you know, a job, -- I had zero dollars to my name. I was a struggling student who put together a romantic dinner of wine and spaghetti -- just like Lady & The Tramp! The spaghetti featured Ragu sauce. The wine cost about $3. The cork from the wine disintegrated and fell into the bottle and we spent the dinner, which we ate sitting on the floor of my apartment in the bad part of town, picking bits of cork out of our teeth. Also, Sweetie gets sick when she drinks wine. Love is about overcoming those flaws. First dates and poor people are not a magical combination. But sometimes, love will survive even in the face of ending up out sleeping on a doorstep.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Sweetie. Whoever yours is.
6. Road Movie To Berlin, by They Might Be Giants.
What ART depicts love as being: Love has been compared to many things in its time, almost all of them magical and flowery and rainbowy and fun. After all, "Love is a many-splendored thing," right? Art Buchwald said that, I think. The exceptions are when love is scary and dark and maybe will keep you locked up in a basement for a while, like in that Eurythmics song, Love is a Stranger.
How this song shows the reality of Love: What if love was none of those things, but instead was a lot more like a road movie to Berlin? This song hits the nail of real love right on its one-way head: Can't drive out the way we drove in. And it points to the reason lots of love affairs begin: getting drunk.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Someone artsy, or into German philosophers. Or your husband/wife once you've settled into married life.
7. We Will Become Silhouettes, by The Postal Service.
What ART depicts love as being: Timeless and eternal, but in a good way.
How this song shows the reality of Love: Love is timeless and eternal, sure, but it's more likely to end up with someone staring out the window at a scorched landscape while looking at a picture of the woman or man they loved. U2 once asked if love would last until the end of the world. They're nothing but pikers, doubting Thomases. The Postal Service posits a love that lasts not only beyond the end of the world, but into a time when nuclear holocaust has caused people's bodies to explode, leaving only silhouettes behind - -but silhouettes that are still in love.
Who you'd put this song on a mixtape for: Anyone: tell them that it's a timeless expression of love that demonstrates how you would go on loving them forever, no matter how bad things got, and that the fact that you will love them even when they're a silhouette, when their body finally goes, demonstrates that your love for them is deep and strong and emotional and not just based on their body. At which point, they will say Why, what's wrong with my body?
At which point you would be well-advised to discreetly skip past the song "Fat" that you put on as the second song to drive your point home.
Happy Valentine's Day from TBOE!
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