Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bad Love Songs, Part I: Desperate & Needy Edition

A quick Google search for the "worst love songs" will bring up numerous hits for lists from sources like VH1 and Helium. As with many things regarding music, these lists are pretty subjective, and for every person who nods in agreement regarding some song's inclusion, I'm sure that there are many people who read them and think to themselves "How can Meatloaf be on that list! 'I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)' is a classic!"

Despite the subjectivity of musical tastes, I've decided that there are too many bad love songs too not do a post (or three or four) on them. Since there are a plethora of substandard songs, I'm going to do a series of posts on songs grouped by theme.

Today's theme is: If I sound really desperate and needy, maybe I'll win your love. After a bad breakup or watching the guy/ girl we like go out with another, we've all attempted to get the object of our affection to pay attention to us. For some of us, this may mean a maudlin love letter, a drunken phone call, or a desperate email (or five). Thankfully, we are not the writers or performers of the following songs, which are so desperate and pathetic that they make even the most lovelorn of us feel a little better that our sentimental ramblings or wretched pleadings were not preserved in musical form forever and ever.

"Hello" by Lionel Richie. Just listen to the open chords of this song - you can almost immediately tell that this song is not going to be a happy jaunt. The song doesn't pick up when Richie starts singing. With lyrics like "I wonder where you are and I wonder what you do," it isn't any mystery why the narrator doesn't seem to be getting any response from the object of his affection. Also, the video is so eighties and so cheesy that it is cringetastic. If you want another good laugh after watching that video, check out drag queen Varla Jean Merman's version of the song.

"It Must Be Him" by Vicki Carr. Sweet baby Jesus, words don't even begin to describe how utterly pathetic this song is. The song's premise is that a woman decides that she doesn't need a man to be happy. Her resolve lasts until the phone rings, which prompts her to jump and pray "Let it please be him... It must be him. It must be him." While I'm not a super-feminist by any stretch of the imagination, just hearing this song makes me want to find the person responsible for it and make him or her suffer by listening to this song on an endless loop until there is an apology to humanity for subjecting us to lyrics like "Oh dear God. It must be him. But it's not him. And then I die. Again I die." Rather than burning bras in the seventies, perhaps protesters should have burned copies of this song instead.

"Saving All My Love for You" by Whitney Houston. Despite my love for vintage (pre-Bobby Brown) Whitney, this song is just too desperate and needy. Whitney actually performs the song very well and the melody and the arrangement is beautiful. Unfortunately, the gist of the song is that a woman has fallen in love with a married man. She is apparently under the delusion that he is going to leave his family for her, and he is stringing her along by telling her that they will eventually "run away together." With such chestnuts as "My friends try and tell me/ Find a man of my own./ But each time I try/ I just break down and cry/ 'Cause I'd rather be home feeling blue," you get the feeling that our resident songstress is just a glass of wine or two away from putting her head in the oven or boiling someone's bunny.

"I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) by Meat Loaf. I actually feel a little bad about including this song since it gets so much flak, and lyrically it isn't even the worst song on this list. However, this song's excessive feeling of desolation goes beyond the seemingly nonsensical lyrics, the deliciously overwrought delivery, the completely insane orchestrations, or The Phantom of the Opera meets '80s freak-out video. It is, in fact, a perfect storm of desperation and neediness, delivered to us by the king of excess, Meat Loaf.

Before we even start with the lyrics, we should start with the song's arrangement. This song, which clocks in at twelve minutes in its unabridged form (the video is over seven minutes long), could be considered a bit much just based on the frenetic orchestration that apparently includes every synthesizer that was in existence in 1993. The song opens with the revving of a motorcycle engine and then immediately goes into some insistent chords played on the piano. However, nothing can fully prepare us for the epic insanity that starts after Meat Loaf sings the chorus for the first time. The band revs up, the frantic piano chords begin again, and the beat becomes more and more insistent. This is the musical equivalent of having a door slam behind you in a haunted house. You are now stuck in an acid-induced nightmare that includes a soundtrack played on an over-miked, 500 piece orchestra that sounds so feverish that even Celine Dion would tell them to take it down a notch.

Once you get over the orchestration (if you can - trust me, it isn't easy), you can then pay attention to the lyrics. Apparently, the speaker will "Do anything for love" including going to hell, staying until the final act, sealing a pact, and being honest (I guess this can be difficult when in a relationship). He prays to the "gods of sex and drums and rock and roll." Then he starts saying "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that. No, I won't do that." The sentence structure is an English teacher's worst nightmare and has led to many a debate regarding what the speaker won't do for love. However, according to Indy's Meat Loaf Fan Site, if you pay attention to the lyrics (a very difficult feat after a minute or two of this song), you can figure out what the speaker won't do.