~Monday, March 28, 2011

Not a Love Song

Growing up, I always thought there were two kinds of songs. There were the religious, let-us-break-bread-together-on-our-knees kind, and there were love songs. I remember sitting cross-legged in front of the TV and watching an episode of Double Dare on Nickelodeon. Mark Summers was interviewing the kids before the game started. He approached one girl with long brunette hair. He looked at his note card and stated that the girl wrote songs in her spare time. He asked her if they were love songs. I frowned at the TV. Weren't they all love songs? The girl blushed, embarrassed, and said yes.

Despite 24 years spent enmeshed and working intimately in the English language, despite A's in Old English Poetry, Middle Welsh Poetry (yes), Seventeenth Century Poetry and Twentieth Century American Poetry, I still have a difficult time reconciling that there are songs that are not about relationships. After all, even all those Hosanna in the Highests I sang growing up were about man's relationship and love for God. Come on, Mark Summers, what other kind of songs are there?

Rolling Stone often publishes articles analyzing rap lyrics, detailing which rappers are currently battling. Those articles always blow my mind. I am nothing if not trained to take the English language and break it down into subtext and I can't figure out rap lyrics. Similarly I once read that Sara Bareilles penned the song "Love Song"—which I had thought was about a man—was in actuality a veiled reference to her producers about her struggle to produce a marketable love song. Once again, mind = blown.

Sunday I slipped on my barefoot trainers and ran along the river. It was cold and wet, but I needed a day to be alone with nature. I programmed my iPod shuffle to play Mumford & Sons. I had not listened to the band since I had been dumped; it was time to conciliate my relationship with them again.

I jogged down the path with the river to my right. The water level was high with the recent rain. The traffic on the trail was light, but people were still present. Mumford & Sons began to softly croon and I was okay; I didn't think of Valdosta and cry like I imagined I would have if I had kept the album close to me after the relationship. I heard the tinkling of the banjo and watched the Chattahoochee River. I smiled. It was all so very Georgia.

"Awake My Soul" was playing. As with any good song, when the tempo increased, I pushed myself faster. I could feel the pebbles between my toes, hear the steady whoosh of the river and feel the cool air stab my lungs like tiny sewing pins. "Awake my soul," he kept repeating, his voice becoming stronger and stronger with the actualization of the sentiment. I did feel awake.

And for the first time, the song wasn't about Valdosta or any boy for that matter; it was about me. And it wasn't a love song.

Or maybe it was.


Bathwater said...

Not all songs are about love, there are about 2% that are about other painful topics.

Rowena said...

A song that has meant a whole lot to me under similar circumstances was Sleater-Kinney's "One Beat." So many great lines, but the best part is the absolute self-confidence with which their singer makes herself heard. "If I'm to run the future, you've got to let the old world go," she sings, and I've always imagined it as the voice of a new self addressing an old one, with great compassion but also a lot of will power to go forwards and make things better.

Anonymous said...

Cute, I like how you closed the story.

AND FUNNY YOU MENTION MARK SUMMERS I was just going through old albums a couple weeks ago and found my autographed picture from him. I was on stage with him at a local show back when I was like, 9.


Je m'appelle Danielle said...

Too many songs are about love, in one way or another. However, at least they are not all sad vibed. I just took a look on my iTunes top 25 played, yeah its somewhat depressing and too lovey dovey.

At least "Bad Romance" is on there! I obviously know what I do to myself.


Charlotte said...

Great post. I've also developed such a deep appreciation for Mumford and Sons recently. Did you know that many of the lyrics in their songs are taken from Shakespeare? A little birdy told me that recently and I've started paying closer attention. Great stuff.

I always assumed that all songs were love songs in one way or another, too.

jo said...

love and pain. i kinda think these are the 2 topics that motivate people to write songs. that said, i really like sara bareilles's love song. i like how it was a bit of a "stick it to the man" kind of love song.

jo said...

oh and i forgot to say that bout your love-ectomy... it's a good idea. i totally know how that feels. and when you start to feel too jaded etc, it really is time to pull back and concentrate on yourself again.

Emma said...

Ha, I still remember the moment I found out Sara Bareilles song wasn't about a boy but her producers.

Dream in Grey said...

It's no good, you've convinced me...I'm off to download some Mumford and Sons

Also, i like songs that seem to be about one thing but are actually about something else. If you want non-love songs listen to some Prog rock - dragons and wizards aside they have some weird topics.

Porcupine Tree for example recently wrote an album (Fear of a Blank Planet) based on Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis

Breeza said...

Oh wow, Double Dare. I remember those days.
I'm glad you and M&S are okay again :)

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Spain, one of my first assignments for my culture class was to find a song that wasn't about love, and bring it in to play.

I asked my host sisters for help, and they insisted this one song wasn't about love. I disagreed, but they were native speakers, what did I know?

Only one person in my class found a song not about love: it was about war. The rest of us failed. (Luckily, not really: it wasn't graded, but we were unable to find songs not about love.)

There are probably a few, but very, very few.

J said...

I like "Love Song" so much more when I imagine it is about a dude and not about her record company. And I too have avoided my share of songs after a breakup...when I finally do choose to listen to them again, it's such a relief. Like I am choosing to be happy again, and all the bad stuff is in the past.

Maura said...

I love myself the most whenever I am running - every time, without a doubt.

And I just discovered Mumford and Sons...good thing, because since this gimp is out of commission, I need somethin' else to lift my spirits!

Great post.

cutefatgirl said...

Maybe it was just your love story with yourself....:)

I feel Ry in ever song... and they break my heart all over again.

LLandL said...

Maybe sometimes it's on us to let a song, intended as a love song or not, stir the right reaction for ourselves; another form of art for interpretation. I think it's good that you're claiming M&S as a love song for yourself, a girl's gotta have beautiful things.

treacle said...

indeed :)


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