Thursday, May 1, 2008

Book Review: Touch Me, I’m Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs You’ve Ever Heard

I was really looking forward to reading Tom Reynolds’s Touch Me, I’m Sick, which is a follow-up to his delightfully snarky I Hate Myself and Want to Die. In I Hate Myself and Want to Die, Tom Reynolds took a close look at 52 songs (mostly from the pop charts) that are incredibly depressing. Overall, it was a thoroughly entertaining look at just how ridiculously cheerless songs like “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and “Last Kiss” truly are. Unfortunately, like too many sequels, Touch Me, I’m Sick doesn’t quite live up to the first book’s greatness.

Like I Hate Myself and Want to Die, Reynolds arranges his songs in categories like “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (stalker songs), “I’m Not Bitter, I Just Wish You’d Die, You Miserable Pig” (angry break-up songs), and “Perfect Storms” (the ultimate in creepy love songs). This book also focuses on dissecting popular songs and explaining why they are so disconcerting. While this premise is intriguing, the end result does not live up to its promise. Despite some very funny moments (the essay on “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is hysterical, particularly if you always found that song to be wrong), much of the book falls flat. Certain songs which should be funny when analyzed don’t quite deliver.

A prime example of this is Reynolds’s treatment of Clay Aiken’s “Invisible,” a song that is creepy (Clay Aiken wants to be invisible so he can watch me in my room?) as well as grammatically incorrect (it should be “If I were invisible”). However, with “Invisible,” Reynolds does not simply discuss the book. Instead, he attempts to show the song’s ridiculousness by featuring a discussion he has with a friend in which he talks about “Invisible.” Although Reynolds tries to be inventive in his presentation of the songs (he uses fake letters and diary entries as well as hypothetical scenarios), I often found myself wishing that he had devoted less energy to the clever presentations and more energy to the actual content. Why use fake journal entries supposedly by Fergie when the song “Fergilicious” is ridiculous enough to dissect in a more straightforward fashion?

All in all, I found Touch Me, I’m Sick to be a pleasant, if somewhat inconsistent, book. Perhaps even Reynolds knew that writing about creepy songs might not be as easy (or as funny) as writing about depressing songs. In his introduction, he admits that, while many people know songs that are melancholy to the point of absurdity, it is considerably more difficult to find songs that are creepy. While I’m not planning on giving away my copy just yet, I don’t foresee myself returning to this book anytime soon.