A young singer and musician has recently released her first solo album full of love songs. It is, she says, about “all kinds of love.” The album synopsis signs off: “And really, in times like these, who doesn’t need more love songs?” I kept re-reading this slinky albeit common maneuvering; the way love songs metamorphose from expressions of personal emotion to registering our whole social sphere. It’s an idea in which one of the most intimate, dizzying and fraught emotional experiences of our lives can emerge—miraculously and magically—as a common bond of comfort and reassurance.
Love songs, like any song, can be a coping mechanism. It takes only a cursory read of the comments on Celine Dion’s YouTube videos to understand both the reality and the hyperbolic nature of what a love song can do for suffering. Whether it’s the most intellectual, emotional or silliest of pursuits, listening experiences depend on what we need music to do for us at any given moment. And in this fashion, depending on the juncture, I drift along lines of faith and suspicion of the idea that love songs serve as antidote or comfort for the times. Love songs can reassure and inspire, and in certain moments of listening a love song feels like it can undo even the very worst of things. But I find the reverse is also true: it can bring up the worst and most un-alterable of things, too.
Where were you when you first heard a love song?
Naturally, I grew up listening to love songs with little conception of romantic love, which makes me guess that it was love songs—in their widest form—that were paramount to understanding and learning the world as monogamously (and mostly heterosexually) coupled and erotic. Songs were the medium and love was the message, and the messages were copious. I can still remember waiting at the doctors office, sitting in a pink, leather-like, sticky chair watching Joanne pine for “Jack-Jack-Jackie”; I sang along as Darren Hayes wanted to stand on mountains and bathe in seas; Celine Dion taught me that love has nothing to fear from death; and the Bee Gees truly stole my heart with their one-line challenge, “How deep is your love?”
Yet as taken as I was with romantic love, I felt very much committed to songs that warned of a lackluster affection…
Originally published in the first edition of Felt Journal, find the full piece here.