songs of love and hate
Showing 38 posts tagged songs of love and hate
Frank Ocean - Bad Religion (live)
For a song as simple, throwback, and timeless as “Bad Religion”, there sure were a lot of thought pieces examining its and its artist’s role in the musical and historical landscape of American pop culture. This, of course, is due to the use of the word him instead of her, and all the ensuing talk about “Frank Ocean the openly queer African-American R&B / hip-hop artist.”
Ocean’s “coming out” letter after previewing the album to critics who noticed the masculine pronoun, the one-week-early release of Channel Orange, and Ocean’s subsequent show-stopping performance of “Bad Religion” on Fallon will certainly go down in history. I’m here to talk about the song.
The song centers around its hook, which itself centers around three increasingly-specific metaphors: unrequited love as a “bad religion,” unrequited love as a “one-man cult,” and unrequited love as “cyanide in [Ocean’s] Styrofoam cup.” The simple brilliance of the song is really how relatable it is, especially in the context of history. Yes, almost everybody has been through a bad relationship and can identify with him. If the song doesn’t do it for you, Pitchfork writer Lindsay Zoladz aptly noted, you should “check your pulse.”
What’s even more brilliant about the song is its interplay between straightforward storytelling and analogy, resulting in seeming spontaneity. The song runs just under three minutes and, honestly, almost sounds like Ocean made it up on the spot. Such is unrequited love, though. Leading you to get in a taxi just to “outrun the demons” and give the driver your bummed-out spiel, regrets only coming later in the form of an empty wallet.
Yet, Ocean keeps the “three lives balanced on [his] head like steak knives” ambiguous to the driver. Why? Is this a reference to bisexuality? To a love triangle? It doesn’t matter. It’s not like the driver is listening anyway. That’s why Ocean’s telling his story to us.
Jordan previously appeared on OWOB writing about St. Vincent.
The Delgados - All You Need is Hate
As soon as I read the theme for this week I knew I had to write about this song by The Delgados, the Scottish indie group outshone to some extent by the Chemikal Underground label that they founded. “All You Need is Hate” is a pastiche of love songs re-imagined as a song of hate. The main way it does so is simple and even a little juvenile, taking famous lines from love songs and replacing the word “love” with “hate”. “Hate is all you need”! “Everlasting hate”! “Hate is in the air”!
There are three reasons why the song is amazing and not just silly. One is the level of manic pleasure that Alun Woodward applies to the staking out of a hopeless worldview through lines like “We kicked and punched and stabbed to death/And everyone applauded my fine actions”. Another is the context of the album it appears on. Hate is a dark, grandiose study of despair and finding beauty in that despair, that for the most part is deadly serious. “All You Need is Hate” comes as its second track, but the contrast still makes it shocking and the anger behind its levity clearer.
The last factor is that it sounds like such a great classic pop song. The Delgados had long since moved away from their punky indie roots, and Hate took the process even further. For its elaborate arrangements they employed a choir, brass, strings, and production from Dave Fridmann, back before he crossed the line between making records sound enormous and making MGMT hurt people’s ears. As a single, “All You Need is Hate” came backed with The Delgados’ cover of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”, which is as good an indication as any of what they were going for, and succeeding in! “All You Need is Hate” energetically skips along, every line backed with inappropriately stirring strings, before the drums go into overdrive for the towering chorus. Its success as satire is founded completely on its success as pop.
— Iain Mew
Iain previously wrote about Coldplay for OWOB.
The Casual DotsAlbum
The Casual Dots
Kylie Minogue - Can’t Get You Out of My Head
I just can’t get you out of my head, boy your loving is all I think about…
So much has already been written about Can’t Get You Out of My Head that choosing it for the theme of ‘love & hate’ seems too pat, too easy; the aphorisms about obsessive, destructive love write themselves. But if you can’t entirely control who you fall in love with, you certainly can’t decide which songs soundtrack your time together. The first time I heard CGYOOMH I was in S’ bedroom, lying on his crisp white sheets basking in the strident sunshine. He lived with his parents and brother, none of whom knew (officially, at least) that he was gay. I was his ‘friend’ who lived quite a distance away and so had to stay over a lot. His brother’s blasting of ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ when I visited for the first time after S returned from a two-week holiday all-but-confirmed that no-one was taken in by this story.
“Have you heard the new Kylie song? It’s going to be massive” he had said earlier. When we turned on the radio it soon came on (of course it did – it went on to become one of UK radio’s most-played songs ever) and I instantly knew he was right. That beguiling chant moved something primal and within seconds you believed that this song had always existed; it had only just escaped.
The song conquered the world and not a further day with S passed by without us hearing it. I was only 21 but S was a few years younger and exploding with irrepressible energy, so I felt much older. I took to this role with gusto. I had to, really, as S had made it known when we started dating that he was planning on moving to London in 6 months’ time. So I was guarded and ‘responsible’. I’d like to say that I was fearful of getting hurt but at the time I would probably have leapt at the chance, such a novice was I in matters of the heart. I vividly remember sitting in a club one night as CGYOOMH played and S presented me with a bracelet. “I love that you’re always so calm and reasonable” he said.
It all changed when S went away for aforementioned holiday and I missed him. God, I missed him. I felt it as a physical pain, I couldn’t function properly and I’d receive his texts with a gratitude bordering on hysteria. And so, as pat as it sounds, I began to understand the undercurrent of CGYOOMH. How could I not? Every day I was hearing something which grabbed the knotted hurt inside of me and threw it into the world:
Won’t you stay? Stay forever and ever and ever and ever….
Things changed after that. It was my first understanding of the power dynamics in relationships and, most pointedly, that saying ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’. When I had been disengaged and casually interested, S was a bounding puppy of affection, always striving to keep my attention. Once I had fallen hard for him, he pulled back. CGYOOMH was always there, burrowing deeper and deeper into my psyche, becoming ever more desperate and urgent. Finally a date for his London move was decided and we met in a subterranean bar in Glasgow to decide our future. I was acutely eager to spend as much time with him as possible and we decided we’d keep dating at least until he left for good. Ten minutes after I left him that day I realised that I couldn’t do it. He was already too dominant in my being, my thoughts, my days, my life – I realised that another 2 months of him followed by… nothing…would destroy me. I ran to the train station where he was heading home and caught him literally as he boarded the train, shouting “I’m sorry, I can’t do it, we need to break up!” as the doors closed. Again, that sounds like creative license, an event borrowed from a bad melodrama but it happened. His face betrayed utter bewilderment as the train pulled away. I went home and sat in my brother’s bedroom sobbing.
The subsequent period until he left was difficult. I would feel sick to the core if I even discovered that he had been out, let alone if I bumped into him. God knows how people going through their first break-ups cope in a world of Facebook and Twitter. I found out that he had started sleeping with an ex and a couple of attempts at hanging out ‘as friends’ confirmed that I had to keep my distance. The last time I remember seeing him before his move was at his leaving party. I didn’t hate him but I was glad he was finally leaving. Someone gave him Kylie’s Fever album as a going away present.
My next serious boyfriend hated Kylie.
I bumped into S years later in a London club. The passage of time meant that I had enormous affection for the 6 months I had spent with him but nothing was stirred in the present day. We spoke for ten minutes, hugged and went our separate ways.
These days I can make convenient observations about CGYOOMH and its darkness but really, it’s a great pop song that’s been rather over-played.
— Philip Matusavage writes about pop and (UK) politics. His tumblr has been one of my favourite finds of the year; you should follow him.
One Direction - Little Things
Did you know that Harry Styles has four nipples? Did you know that Louis Tomlinson is the oldest member of One Direction, but Liam Payne is the one who’s sort of the dad of the group? Did you know that Zayn Malik once recorded a Youtube cover of Harry’s current ladyfriend Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me where he changed some of the words, and I quote, “because… er…. girl lyrics”? Did you know those changes included switching out short skirts and t-shirts for Ray Bans and glasses? Did you know that Niall is a real name? Did you know that Harry, at eighteen, is the youngest member, meaning that not a single one of them is actually twelve?
My name is Isabel, and I am very angry at every member of One Direction, all the time.
Did you know that if you mix vodka with Tropicana lemonade, you pretty much can’t taste the alcohol at all?
I am too old for this. That’s the first thing, or it was. I am almost a quarter of a century old, and they are babies, fresh-faced and (ugh) dimpled and making the boy bands of my own youth look like actual men. I love pop, and I could appreciate the rush of drums exploding into the chorus of What Makes You Beautiful, but I’m also old enough that while I think of myself, still, as a girl, I bristle if someone else decides to call me that. I’d heard the critiques of that song, how it was glorifying low self-esteem — the fact that she doesn’t know she’s beautiful is what makes her beautiful, really? She would be less beautiful if she knew she was beautiful, really? Whatever, One Direction — but I won’t pretend I mustered up much genuine upset about it. Really, when it came down to it, to them as an entity as opposed to purveyors of one catchy song, it was always: I’m too old.
(That was before. Now I understand that if you listen to One Direction, and you believe that you understand One Direction, no matter how deeply aggravated about that you are, you know that they would never find you less beautiful. That’s kind of their thing: unconditional dopey love.)
Zayn Malik is definitely not twelve. Zayn Malik’s face should come with a surgeon general’s warning and require ID to purchase, because Zayn Malik is a gateway drug into a spiral that leaves your brain feeling like a fried egg, 90s PSA-style. You think: they are all twelve, but that guy is sort of cute; you think, he has very pretty eyes, but that doesn’t mean anything; you see a picture of him smoking, and smoking is not even a thing for you, Jesus, what is happening, why are his wrists the way they are, why do his shoulders even, his tattoos are so stupid, that blonde streak is frankly embarrassing and yet — and yet, no more embarrassing than everything it is doing to you. But you think: okay, it can stop there. He is not twelve, but the rest are, and also the rest don’t have cheekbones like that, and so what if Harry’s bottom lip eternally looks like he’s just finished a cherry lollipop, and so what if Louis’s eyelashes, to borrow a beloved phrase, sparkle like gilded grass, and — is that stubble? Does Louis have stubble? Fuck me with a pair of safety scissors, fuck his flawlessly arched eyebrows to hell and back.
Then you realize you know all of their names now, and splat: salt to taste, your brain is done, sunny side up.
Isabel, you say, isn’t this a music website? Why did you pick this song if you are only going to talk about some walking Calvin Klein ad’s hips? I’m getting there, God, have some patience. Or tell yourself this is meta: if I’ve had to suffer through the slings and arrows of falling in obsession with these grinning British doofuses, you have to suffer too. After all, we’re talking about love and hate, right? You want music, fine: I was considering, before all of this, writing about Ani Difranco’s Untouchable Face, which I’m sure many of you will agree belongs in the Songs Of Love And Hate pantheon; its exhausted bitterness still stings me, years out from my last bout with unrequited affection. Has anyone so artfully conveyed what it is to hate someone with every cell in your body for the crime of not loving you the way you could love them, given the chance? Is there a better summation of that brutal internal battle than “fuck you for existing in the first place?” That’s a perfect line.
It’s also my One Direction tag. Does that clarify matters?
But okay, the song. They are, nominally, a band, we are here, ostensibly, to discuss a song. I’m dancing around the song because Harry Styles is a literal life-ruiner but also because I am still struggling to process it. My narrative with this song is my 1D Experience writ small: conflicted mystification to incomprehensible fixation. When Little Things was released as a single, a common reaction was, “Way to take the worst part of What Makes You Beautiful and turn it into an entire song”: from one line, tucked into the end of the refrain, fetishizing insecurity, to an entire song wallowing in some poor girl’s self-hate. I’m not here to argue, exactly, with that reading, or to disagree that it makes One Direction seem very gross.
(Here’s something else very gross: — you know what, I’ll spare you the details, but when I told my gynecologist about the situation, freshman year, she asked me, point-blank, “Do you have an eating disorder?”
"No," I said, "I’ve just been really busy, is all.")
I’m not here to argue about One Direction at all. On the one hand, I want to believe that sunshiny moppets who confuse “bouncing” for “dancing” need not bring anyone even the suffering caused by tedious argument about music on the internet; on the other hand, God knows they’ve brought me suffering enough. God knows that if a boyfriend told me I know you still have to squeeze into your jeans, I would fucking lose my shit.
The thing is that if you can’t taste the alcohol you can pretend that you’re just drinking, you know, for fun (you can pretend the idea of fun holds any meaning for you right now), not to get drunk, which means you can pretend to be surprised when you find your limbs cold against the kitchen tiles, you crying about your body, its grossness, its existence. You can pretend to be surprised when your ex-boyfriend takes you upstairs and tells you you’re beautiful. You can even pretend that when he kisses you, it’s just to prove it.
(When you kiss him back, though — at that point you kind of have to admit that the jig is up.)
The thing is it’s true: I’ve never loved my stomach or my thighs. I didn’t even know we were allowed to cop to hating the dimples in the back at the bottom of our spines — that line really fucked with me, the first time I heard it, because who told you that? Did she say it, or did you read it in the way she bit her lip when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on your door, hooking her bra back on after sex? And who gave you the right to broadcast that to the world? That is so hurtful.
And yet. The thing is that I would lose my shit if Harry Styles looked up through his disgustingly glossy curls and said that thing to me, about squeezing into my jeans, but I would also lose my shit if he lied to me and said I didn’t. Because if he lied I could never trust him (you can always trust One Direction, One Direction would never lie to you), because if he lied it would mean I needed not to squeeze into my jeans. Because if he lied he would be admitting that squeezing into my jeans is a problem, it would mean there was something that could make me unacceptable, but if he could see me squeezing into my jeans and not look away, and want to keep looking, maybe I could pretend I was safe. Because nothing he could say could gross me out the way my own body did, constantly, in those days, except, sometimes, with him.
Like, remember in ninth grade, the girl who wound up being like a sister, with all the loving and hating that implies, told you when she met you she thought your voice was so annoying, too high, and you scooped up at the end of your sentences, and you said like too much? Like, remember how you cried about that, and how ever since, you’ve never liked the sound of your voice on tape? (Remember how he saved your voicemails, the ones he thought were cute?) Too, like, girly: when I said I was too old for this, that’s part of what I meant.
Like, do you know how humiliating it is that I’m getting all this from a ballad? I hate ballads. Fuck you, One Direction.
Like, I believe now that they’re not twelve, but I’m still not convinced they are of mankind born; I still sort of suspect they were manifested into corporeal existence by the collective untapped will of a million t(w)eenage girls (and some boys). And, like, because of that, I feel confident in saying One Direction would never think you’re too girly. One Direction thinks however girly you are is the perfect amount of girly, no matter how much that is or isn’t.
And fine, you shouldn’t need permission (from a boy, no less) to be girly or not, to speak with the voice you have and exist at peace with the body you are. And permission will never be enough as long as you’re never enough. And if you’ve never craved it nonetheless, I salute you. If you hear you’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you as smug instead of too familiar, I’m happy for you; I wish I could agree.
I’m trying to talk about the song, but I can’t untangle it from all these little things: from being so drunk I didn’t notice I was falling until I was on the ground, from soft boy smiles across a bed while I’m putting on my jeans, from the literally cruel crinkles in Louis’s eyes when he smiles, from the way they are, I swear, always touching each other, because this is part of the daydream too — boys who can be vulnerable with more than one person, gentle with people they’re not sleeping with — from being girly meaning too excited, too obsessive, too much, from not knowing, still, if I was lying when I told the doctor no, from Niall’s gravely upsetting tank tops and their song about how they want to give you infinity orgasms, from wanting less to be beautiful or even wanted and more simply to be seen: the whole of me, the little things added up, the pieces I dissected obsessively in mirrors made finally to cohere. It’s too real and the perfect fantasy, those contradictions reinforcing each other, colliding at the precise unbearable intersection of love and self-hate, where it’s all too much and never enough, and I’m so mad about it, and it’s become so important to me.
He wasn’t in love with me anymore, but he still loved me more than I did. I wasn’t in love with him, either, but I don’t think I knew it until he told me — until he gave me permission to let go. That was that night: not that he called me beautiful, but that he said I would always be. No matter what. Unconditional.
Isabel previously wrote about Liz Phair for OWOB. Read up on that week in case you’ve missed it so far; it’s one of our best entries.