Oozing with Cheese
01/30/2012 09:31AM ● Published by Style
Illustration by Aaron Roseli
If February had a soundtrack, it would be nothing but love songs.
The best ones speak on our heart’s behalf, articulating what we cannot. They are often quite simple and direct – think Elvis’ “Love Me Tender,” George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart,” or Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” OK, just kidding about that last one…sort of.
I asked a Nashville songwriter and friend, Brett Warren, what makes a good love song: “A good love song better have an amazing melody, because the content is usually very similar.” What ruins one? Brett says the wrong singer or sappy, obvious lyrics. He’s been pretty good about finding the right singers: he and his brother Brad have written hits for Martina McBride and Tim McGraw, among others. As far as lyrics, Brad says a simple way to avoid getting too sappy is to mention the word “love” as little as possible.
“Someone once told me that if you can say love without saying love, you are better off.” Which explains why it’s only used a couple of times in his latest hit, a tender ballad for Toby Keith called “Red Solo Cup” – an ode to the ubiquitous party cup. Hey, love is blind…and occasionally thirsty.
Like the emotion itself, love songs can also be too dramatic. To me, that’s any love song that also features a full orchestra, gigantic drum riffs, or Michael Bolton.
Since the good ones are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves, let’s choose five at random that, in my humble opinion, should be avoided like a first date at a discount sushi place.
1. “Sometimes When We Touch” by Dan Hill
Sincerity oozes from this sugary ’70s classic like the overfilled center of a jelly doughnut.
I wanna hold you ’til I die/ ’Til we both break down and cry/ I wanna hold ya ’til the fear in me subsides.
If love had diabetes, this would give it hyperglycemia.
2. “Hello” by Lionel Ritchie
Don’t get me wrong…I liked Lionel (when he was with the Commodores); then he started wearing sweaters and dancing on ceilings.
Hello!/ Is it me you’re looking for?/ Because I wonder where you are/ And I wonder what you do/ Are you somewhere feeling lonely?/ Or is someone loving you?
This song, while lame, wouldn’t be here if not for its video, which features Ritchie as a teacher in love with a student – creepy in itself. But, the young student he’s falling in love with is also blind, making the line Is it me you’re looking for? unbelievably awkward.
3. “If” by Bread
Every feather-haired ’70s white guy driving a van with an airbrushed stallion on the side owned the eight-track of Bread’s Greatest Hits.
If a picture paints a thousand words/ Then why can’t I paint you?
I don’t know. Why don’t you take some art classes?
4. “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt
James Blunt yelps the title of this song over and over like his ankle is caught in some steely-jawed love trap.
You’re Beautiful. You’re Beautiful/ You’re Beautiful, it’s true.
Got anything else? Like, You’re smart. You seem like you’ve got a great personality/ I’ll move out of my parents’ house if you’ll date me.
5. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
I pop a Dramamine whenever the love theme to Titanic sets sail.
Love was when I loved you/ One true time I hold to/ In my life we’ll always go on.
Love is supposed to be warm. When I hear this, all I think about is that scene where Jack is frozen solid.
There are thousands more, of course. But there are thousands of good ones, too. Brett’s all-time favorite? “Let It Be Me,” by the Everly Brothers. He says the simple melody is still perfect after all these years. So if you’re ever in doubt, just cue up that one; or my personal favorite, Nat King Cole’s “When I Fall In Love.” But maybe “If” by Bread does do it for you. “If” so…that’s fine. Gas up the van, plug that eight-track in and let the stallion ride.
And save “Red Solo Cup” for the wedding reception.