As we pack up the Halloween decorations and prepare for frigid winter here on the East Coast, the cold keeps us inside more. It can be a lonely time, but having friends and family around pretty much constantly keeps me from feeling too solitary. However, I know there’s someone out there who can’t say the same. Maybe you’re on vacation alone, maybe you’ve just been single for a bit too long, or maybe you just forgot to turn the heater on. I want that person to know that they’re not alone, and there have been plenty of songs about men pining after women. However, the five that I chose aren’t just about want or lust. There’s something missing in their lives, and only that one special someone can fill the void.
Track 1: “We Can’t Be Beat” by The Walkmen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwo8F6H-AxE)
Embracing someone’s flaws is the quickest way to getting to know them on a personal level. Contrary to most love songs, “We Can’t Be Beat” is not about some intense desire to be with someone, or building up the courage to pop the question. Rather, it’s a slow, passionate song for the love of Walkmen lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s wife. It starts with him lamenting his past ideals of being young and ambitious. However, he craves flaws, cracks in the armor, and imperfections. Most people see marriage as an endgame, but he seems to view it more as the beginning of a new game. Marrying someone isn’t the end of the struggles of being young; you still have to get along with another human being and, in some cases, bring another life into the world. The end of the song feels like a story my dad would tell me about how love is “supposed” to work, in that the man slaves over the woman like a sad puppy. “If you want my eyes/Take my eyes/They’re always true” sounds sappy out of context, but it’s a sentiment that resonates more with age.
Track 2: “If You Go Away” by Frank Sinatra (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SUn4JqUTsA)
My first exposure to Frank Sinatra was his 1966 “Sinatra at the Sands” live album, where he performed for a lucky crowd of people in Las Vegas, mixing standup comedy with his classic crooning melodies. “If You Go Away” isn’t on that set list, but I like to imagine Sinatra singing it for someone in the audience who stayed after everyone else. As long as there is someone listening, he can keep going. One person, be they the love of his life or a drunken hotel guest, holds his heart in their hand. Sinatra, more than any other musician today, made his emotions clear in every song. Some consider this a product of the times, but I like to think that
there’s a much more personal touch to songs like this. It’s just so melancholy, you can’t help but feel sad when the violins swell, and the song almost cuts out halfway through. “If you go away, as I know you must/There’ll be nothing left in the world to trust”. Ultimately, we all want happiness. Whether that’s with someone else or not, it’s clear that the “you” in this song, be it a woman or not, is the most important thing to him. The fact that it almost makes me want to leap through time and tell Mr. Sinatra that she won’t go away is a testament to the power of his voice and lyrics.
Track 3: “I Wish It Would Rain Down” by Phil Colins (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcY3FH208l8)
If Frank Sinatra needs love because it provides him life, Phil Collins needs it because it’s the only thing going for him. In the context of this song, he’s a shell of a man, left still desiring the one who left him after so much time apart. He wants the rain to
come down more than anything, and not because he’s thirsty. If the rain had the power to pour down so hard that it washed him away along with the strong emotions that he’s feeling, then he could be truly free of the woman who stole his heart and ran away with it. I still well up with emotion every time I listen to this song, if only for the moment where the angelic chorus chimes in with Collins for the chorus. I’ll bring back the lost puppy metaphor for the line “And I know, it’s eating me through every night and day/ I’m just waiting on your sign”, which just brings to mind a sad man, hat in hand, waiting outside his ex-girlfriend’s door, desperate for them to reconnect.
Track 4: “Araceli” by Nataly Dawn (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i02PvPttBsI)
Enough with the cheesy romance. Sometimes, the quest for love isn’t neat and tragic. If you’ve heard of Nataly Dawn, it’s probably from her YouTube channel “Pomplamoose”, where she covered popular songs in the style of someone like Regina Spektor or Fiona Apple. However, she released a solo album earlier this year, and “Araceli” is by far the breakout hit. Instead of being told from the man’s perspective, Nataly Dawn is the omniscient narrator of this particular song and it focuses on the titular Araceli. She’s the most beautiful woman in the world, and all the men love her. However, what sounds like a peppy love song is actually a Shakespearean tragedy. Araceli gets sick, the doctor sees how beautiful she is and wishes her lover would die, the doctor kills himself out of grief, Araceli drowns herself in regret, and she is desired by the highest power of love, Zeus himself. Finally, she gives up on love, and goes to be with Hades. It’s a cautionary tale, but it’s not clear what for. I don’t think Dawn is suggesting that all men are evil and need to be ignored, or that being beautiful is a sin. Maybe it doesn’t need to have some deeper message. We all think we’re the special someone for our own personal Araceli, but maybe it’s just up to her to find someone that wouldn’t go to great lengths just “behold her perfect face”.
Track 5: “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_I4wtNPv5w)
Remember when this article was about sad love songs? Just because you love someone and want to be with them forever doesn’t mean that you have to mope about it. “You Make My Dreams Come True” feels like a perfect example of mid-80s optimism in America, and you can’t listen to this song without feeling happy and ready to have your own dreams come true. It’s a love song that’s not about craving perfection, or craving flaws, or even craving the sweet release of death. It’s a success story, and if “I Wish It Would Rain Down” is about giving up, “You Make My Dreams Come True” is about reveling in the powerful emotions of love, and how those same emotions can lead to rad guitar riffs.
No matter what these songs tell you, there is no correct way to love someone. Sometimes, it’s an obsession. Sometimes, it’s unrequited. It can make you cry, sing, and truly examine what you want out of someone. Each of these artists has a different view on the ideal relationship, but the recurring theme is definitely desire for something more.