What’s Wrong with the Silly Love Song?
When musical cynicism softens for Valentine’s Day
Flashbulb moment: June 18 in the late 1990s. A friend of mine invited me to do some day drinking in honor of Paul McCartney’s birthday. Not having much to do, we spent the afternoon working through Sir Paul McCartney’s catalog…the Beatles, Wings, and more…toasting in his honor. As you can tell, we really just wanted an excuse to drink and listen to music. We could have easily drank to June 18th being the day the Vikings invaded Constantinople (860 AD) and turn up the heavy metal, but Paul was an easier target.
But what I really remember on that warm June day was listening to “Silly Love Song,” a song Paul wrote with his wife Linda McCartney. True to its title it’s simple and silly. But in that slightly drunken moment, I understood the genius of its lyrics, particularly the opening lines:
“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs
I look around me, and I see it isn’t so
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs
And what’s wrong with that?
I’d like to know, ’cause here I go again”
In that moment, some of the brain cells linked arms and danced, shouted “aha!” and tucked away an important insight: this is why love songs are necessary.
It’s easy to be jaded about love songs, particularly ballads. These string-laden, covered-in-corn-syrup anthems can easily be tossed aside as bad.
The likes of Chicago (80’s era), John Bolton, John Mayer, Adele, and Celine Dion all have hit records. For some of us these are beloved songs that bring feelings of cartoon hearts and unicorns. For others their music feels like pouring lemon juice in your ear followed by a match.
That’s at one end of the spectrum.
At the other is the anti-love song. The scorched earth of love that can be equally as bad. Here you will find Guns-n-Roses “I used to love her (but I had to kill her), Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughtta Know,” and CeeLo Green’s “Fuck You,” (sometimes called “Forget Uou” for those who fear the word Fuck). These are the songs you drink whiskey to before drunk-dialing an ex and making your life worse. That’s what they should really put on the parental warning sticker.
The obvious truth is most music is about Love and its full catalog of emotions and actions. It’s got it all: Romance, sex, heartbreak, sadness, revenge, anger, redemption, and back to romance again.
The main reason we have all these categories of love songs is because it’s complicated, confusing, vulnerable, exciting, and a part of living life to the fullest. It’s really easy to be scared of it, but eventually it presents itself to all of us.
It’s part of being young and dance floors and parking lots. Where Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” or Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” or the latest hit of the day plays when you lock eyes with someone and feel something you’ve never felt before. The rhythm changes and you do as well.
It’s when you fall from that high and have your heart broken. We run to the likes of Adele, Celine Dion, and Sam Smith, engaging in cathartic crying with every twang of the chord. Others discover the anti-love song and drift towards Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” or “Song for the Dumped” by Ben Folds Five, if you want that T-shirt back.
Then, if and when you’re willing to try again, and again, putting yourself out there with Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” or Loretta Lynn’s classic “Rated X.” We grow with this complicated emotion, gathering new scars, memories, and lyrics that worm into the brain.
If you’re willing to take these emotional hits, you may just grow up and find a kind of love that combines a touch of magic, losing your breath with someone, a solid understanding of the pain love can bring, and building a love that is cement-strong through the days, weeks, years, ups, downs, and all that life throws at you. As life is a notorious ass-kicker, if you’re lucky enough to have someone who faces it with you…that is the ultimate love song…because it’s yours.
Don’t label it or judge it. As long as you and that special someone are in harmony. Then it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.
So write your love song. It may be silly like Sir Paul’s. It will have chapters of divine excitement or crazy heart break, but keep the beat going and let it write itself. Because “What’s wrong with that?”