As a divorcee with roughly two dozen failed relationships and a rudimentary knowledge of how chords work, I'm clearly the perfect candidate to talk about love songs. They're basically the only reason music exists at all -- people who make you feel all cooey and gooey inside is la-la topic number one by a pornographically huge margin. And yet, despite our endless harmonious yammering, we still write song after song from fucked-up viewpoints that make it clear we actually have no clue what love is.
Whether it's your job to write them or you're simply an everyday lothario too cheap to splurge on a goddamn rose, make damn sure the protagonist of your goopy love song doesn't use ...
#5. Passive-Aggression: Pointing Out All Their Partner's Flaws
DAJ/amana images/Getty Images
Singing about your perfect and angelic lover is pure bullshit (stop singing about their halo, because they don't fucking have one). But singing about how imperfect they are is even worse, especially since it usually winds up being passive-aggressive and insulting. For some twisted reason, focusing on the dirty, sloppy, awkward, fat, ugly, stupid side of your supposed paramour is totally copacetic if you throw in some variation of "but I love 'em anyhoos!" at the end.
"What rhymes with 'veiny cankles?'"
This variation on crooning all began with the Crystals' "He's Sure the Boy I Love." The singer accepts that her lover "doesn't look like a movie star and doesn't drive a Cadillac car" (as opposed to, say, a Cadillac spaceship), which is fine and mature. But then she starts digging her fucking nails into his spine, going on about his perpetual unemployment and how "he always buys on the installment plan". So not only is he not Sean Connery, he's not even Sean Connery's favorite valet. Does she like anything about him?
Oh, he's a decent hugger. Gotcha. Couldn't have based the song around that instead of all the homely jobless stuff? Double gotcha.
"When I hold my nose so I don't sniff that sweaty old wifebeater you never change out of, our embraces are out of this world."
In the '80s, Deniece Williams doubled down on the Crystals' anti-sentiment with "Let's Hear It For the Boy," which is all about her *ahem* love for a complete schlub who dresses like a hobo, can't sing, and never has anything interesting to say. Williams was one record scratch away from recording an old-school diss rap. But because he's good at ... something (probably dickin'), she loves him anyway. Too bad her constant "let's hear it for my maaaaa-ayaaaannn" comes across as sarcastic golf clapping in song form. Did Williams record this while sporting a pained smile-frown, like how we look when our kid spills a 20-pound bag of flour on the cat?
"As long as I can still masturbate to thoughts of somebody better, you're all I'll ever need."
Guys can be sarcastic fucks too. Total Scanners explodey-head moment, I know. Take "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" by Nine Days, a band named after the amount of time they were relevant. His girlfriend is a depressive basket case "who cried a river and drowned the whole world" and who always looks sad no matter what. It drives the singer bats, really: "Now how many lovers would stay / Just to put up with this shit day after day." But our tragic hero does in fact love his girl ... "when she smiles." You should smile, girl! You're so pretty when you smile. No more sadness from my pretty smile girl, mm'k?
Rock-solid proof that I did not make this band up.
And since balladeers never learn, One Direction recently joined the fray with "Little Things," about how much they love a girl despite her big 'ol thighs, fat butt, back dimples, tea addiction, and endless sleep-talking. All these things depress and mortify her, but luckily for her five dreamy boyfriends, there's nothing more romantico than putting them front-and-center for the universe to hear.
"Now you definitely don't know you're beautiful. And you never will."
#4. Obsession ... Over Absolutely Nothing
Leanne Kanowski/iStock/Getty Images
It's one thing to write a song about your lovers' eyes, or their touch, or the adorkable way they hide their enemies' bodies in just the right places. It's a whole other deal to take the most inane, meaningless events possible and base your crappy, melodramatic love tune around it.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
"I got the 'My Baby and I Watched The Chase and She Got More Answers Right Than I Did' blues."
Sam Smith, that guy who just won Grammys for both Best Song and Best Record (just like how Return of the King won an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Color Talkie) does this as well as anybody with his Redundancy-Award-winning tune, Stay With Me. "Oh, won't you stay with me? 'Cause you're all I need" sure sounds sweet and romantic until you pay attention to other lines, like, oh, the entire first verse:
Guess it's true, I'm not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love 'cause I'm just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don't want you to leave, will you hold my hand?
Yes, Mr. Smith is crooning a weepy tune about a dude he brought home from the bar to fuck. He probably never asked for a name, he'll be out the door in a few hours, and Smith fucking knows it. That's not stopping him from serenading the guy, calling him "darling," and begging him to cuddle for an indefinite period of time, because that never turns out poorly.
"Oh, won't you stay with me?
Or I'll kill your family."
But at least Smith's one-night-only man knows he exists. In "You're Beautiful," James Blunt declares his love for a girl with whom he briefly locked eyes while on the subway one goddamn time. According to him, that was "a moment that will last till the end," and he sadly mourns how he'll never get in her drawers. Never mind that his beloved likely just saw a spider behind him and turned away in disgust, never once acknowledging Creepy Starey Guy's actual existence.
Angel dreams aren't quite the infallible love connections they used to be.
But at least Blunt's lady exists, period. Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet" is exactly what the title advertises: a heartfelt serenade for a beautiful girl whom he's never, ever seen or heard of before. "Wherever you are, whenever it's right / you'll come out of nowhere and into my life." It's "Someday My Prince Will Come," except Snow White has an excuse to be naive and dramatic because she's 14 years old. Michael Buble is damn near 40 -- not exactly a prime age for staring out the window and dreaming of a Form Letter Girlfriend who will be "so amazing" once she gets around to tracking his ass down.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"On second thought, never mind. I'm good now."
#3. Delusions of Grandeur: "I'm the Most Important Thing In Your Life"
Evgeny Sergeev/iStock/Getty Images
As wonderful and perfect a couple as you might be, you need other good things in your life to keep you going. There's nothing healthy about the only good aspect of your life being the person you share a bed with, which makes delusional love songs that imply as much the musical equivalent of deep-fried chocolate french fries.Rescue You," he wants to do just that: be the superhero who will save his love from all the pain and misery in her life. And I do mean "superhero":
I can take you there
Girl, fly you through the air
Girl, I can be your superhero
Fly you through the stars
Let me light up your darkness
I can be your superhero
Basically, this girl is in a terrible relationship and has absolutely nothing going for her, sav for th lov of Th Weeknd. And God, does he pour it on thick. He "saw [her] signal from afar," because besides antler hair, his main mutant power is girl-helping. She's a "damsel in distress" because we're suddenly not in the 21st century anymore, and "[his] heart is the key" to her being happy again.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Where's Bane when you need him?
Let's hear it for the girl.
Worst of all, there's the Backstreet Boys, whose lyrics rarely ventured far beyond "ooh baby, wub wub" simplicity, playing the literal Savior Card with "The One," in which they cast themselves as the soothing, heavenly glow that will remove all the darkness and toxicity that has plagued your pitiful, meaningless life since, oh, birth:
I'll be the one / Who will make all your sorrows undone
I'll be the light / When you feel like there's nowhere to run
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, once you were lost, but now you're found. Praise be to AJ McLean. The girl in question is "wild and free" and that's apparently a bad thing all of a sudden. Luckily, the Boys are the "helping hand to make it right" and will "take you from darkness to light." So the next time '90s kids debate Backstreet Boys vs NSYNC, remember that only one of them delivers both soothing harmony and actual Jesii.
Freedom's just another word for not yet accepting that you too want it that way.