Monday, March 19, 2012

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

I'm back after a nice little hiatus (generally called Spring Break by us college peoples) but while in the beautiful but very, very weird Sunshine State (aka Florida) I encountered this song on a local radio station:


I have had this song stuck in my head for the past five days and it makes me hate the world. Not because I dislike Selena Gomez; although I dislike her music she seems to be kind and congenial. Not because I find the songwriting obnoxious and repetitive after less than halfway through the song on its first listen-through (and yet it's growing on me; what the hell is this?!). But because I can't believe that's what we've gotten out of centuries of musing love: singing about how love is like a love song.

Okay, so this isn't totally new; I mean "Heard it in a Love Song" is kind of built around a similar premise (albeit not such a sweet, female-friendly one if you look up the lyrics):


(By the way, welcome to probably the only blog that will mention Selena Gomez, the Marshall Tucker Band, and fangirls in the same post.)

Of course Paul McCartney has his ("Silly Love Songs"), Sara Bareilles has an anti-love-songwriting song ("Love Song"), and even comedian Bo Burnham (who I'm mad at; he knows why (actually, he doesn't; moot point)) has an anti-love song song ("Repeat Stuff"). There are a plethora of others; these are the ones that just come readily to my mind. Despite writing about loves songs as if they are trite and lame (and either celebrating them anyway or mimic their style to prove a point), there are a crap ton of love songs out there. Literally, if I were to flip through a radio station right now, I bet that eighty percent of the songs would be about love (just kidding; if I actually did that I'd probably encounter mostly commercials). The point is, our culture is extremely saturated with love songs. So much so that we have settled for comparing love to love songs (or some derivation of this).

Really, guys? Really? After Shakespeare and the Brontes and Austen and Robert Burns and Pablo Naruda and the Beatles and the Beach Boys and all the other writers and songwriters and poets who've penned romantic lines put all that effort into making sense of love, we're just going to stop and say, "Well, it's already all been said. Everyone gets it. Cool beans, guys. Let's just say that this love is like some other love which is in that love song, and we can pack up and have lunch."

If you can't tell that I'm a little frustrated but this, I am. As a Cultural Studies major, I read a lot of theory about the culture industry - you know, the thing that makes all the stuff we know and love and call cinema and music and so on. And while it's all fascinating to read about, it's also very, very depressing. You see (okay, how do I make a very complicated topic very short and sweet?) it involves this whole idea of the culture industry hating the masses and creating stuff just to dumb us down. I very, very much want to believe that this isn't so. But then I hear the multitude of love songs and the multitude of impossibilities they list off and I get all angsty and conflicted (it's the curse of the cultural scholars).

On hand, I know that many love songs are not written from personal experience. Many of the people singing them did not write them. I should not expect my life to be like what I've seen in the movies and heard on the radio. But after growing up with Disney and Whitney Houston and the Beatles, it's a little hard not to expect it. What's more, I like love songs. And like Leopold Bloom from The Producers, "I want everything I've ever seen in the movies!"

I feel I am not alone in these sentiments. My friends have similar expectations. The posts I see on Tumblr seem to express the same longings, of wanting a great romantic love that seems non-exist in the modern world. The high divorce rates, the attitude and dating trends of my generation, the abundance of anti-love songs and claims that it's all been said and done and that loves songs are trite and just a way of making money is enough to make a girl scream. It's a constant struggle, between seeing love as just a capitalistic tool or a real, honest emotion; between cold, hard realism and passionate idealism; between physics and metaphysics, realism and myth. It's argued that in this disparity comedy arises; I would also argue this is where fangirls form. Confronted with conflicting beliefs about love (it doesn't last; it doesn't die) something has to give. To use Freudian psychology, some sort of catharsis has to take place. And thus the obsessing with one thing or another.

There is far, far more I have to say about this, but this is just the beginning and this post is long enough. So more to say on this later.

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