Neil Smith

1 year ago · 3 min. reading time · ~100 ·

Neil blog
Love Hate Love Songs

Love Hate Love Songs

This is LOVE! Capital letters and exclamation mark included. 

All things considered it’s a pretty damned exciting feeling. The sheer exhilarating rush of love and lust and desire and anticipation and kissing and touching and closeness and all that stuff is some huge, almighty rush. It’s a heady hormone powered brew and there’s no surprise that countless artists in musical history have tried to capture the flash-flood of emotions in song.

Which does, therefore, beg the question: Why are love songs so often a study in abject misery?

Most of them don’t deal with Love itself but rather how crap it feels when love, for whatever reason, doesn’t work out.

If love songs were stories about drug use, they would all be about the difficulty of finding a dealer or how awful going ‘Cold turkey’ feels. Drug novels however tend not to follow the same template as love songs. Hunter S. Thompson wrote extensively about the good times he had whilst ripped to the tits. Coleridge didn’t have a bad word for opium and the novels of Iain Banks have a lot to say about the positives of the ‘high’ life.

Adele by contrast, is all about the sheer existential misery of the break-up and later, ‘the coming to terms with the break-up’. However gigantic the emotional crest of the relationship may once have been is of no relevance because once Adele gets her hands on it that wave is brought crashing sharply down onto the beach of separation and loneliness. Whatever joy there was is quickly relegated to a mere afterthought. 

Adele is joined by Sinead O’ Connor, Roy Orbison, Whitney Houston and an army of others in reminding us that there is nothing quite as bad as the thing that used to be really good. Nothing in fact, compares to U. Realising this before the break-up would have been timely.

At the other end of the affair comes a different take on the misery that is love in musical culture. Jackie de Shannon and Bruce Springsteen both have classic examples of the ‘unrequited love’ genre. ‘When you walk in the room’ and ‘Man’s Job’ are songs where the protagonist reels off all the incredible things about their dream partner only to reveal in verse three that they completely lack the nerve to even say hello to them far less see if they are free at the weekend. 

Folks! Get a grip!

Choose to get given the elbow in no uncertain terms and move on to some less depressing prospect. If there really is someone for everyone then hiding in the corner and being too scared to find out which someone might be your someone is a complete and utter dead end. Springsteen, of course, has form in this area. His back catalogue is littered with examples. ‘I wish I was blind’ and others all explore the same territory. 

In between the pain of not beginning a relationship and the agony of getting over a relationship there is the torment of being neglected and cheated in a relationship. 

Chris de Burgh should probably get an honourable mention in this category as being the only person I can think of who took time out from sleeping with the help to write a hit song about how unexpectedly attractive his wife suddenly seemed the one time he bothered to notice her at a party

Although not a hard and fast rule, songs about cheating are often sung from the point of view of the victim. Chuck Berry was led a dance by the feckless Maybelline, Marvin Gaye heard it through the grapevine and Eminem and Rihanna gave us the view from both sides when they loved the way you lie. In country music, Dolly Parton was even worried enough about an infidelity that hadn’t yet happened to reach out to Jolene, Kenny Rogers managed to have problems with both Lucille and Ruby and anyone messing with Taylor Swift can Swiftly expect their infidelity to be immortalised in song.

Away from cheating and frankly, in a class of its absolute own, is Lily Allen’s banger about premature ejaculation. Not Fair is the kind of ditty that would make anyone think twice about dating a singer/songwriter.

It’s hard work keeping up with all this dysfunctional relationship stuff. 

So, are there any actual love songs? Do any artists sing songs that make you smile and add to the positivity of existence? 

Well of course they do. Not many, but there are definitely a few beacons of light in the relentless stream of romantic angst.

The Drifters hit the mark in ‘Under the boardwalk’ and perfectly capture the feeling of hanging out with your sweetheart on a hot summer day. Katrina and the waves had their biggest hit with the feelgood ‘walking on sunshine’ and Queen make the list with ‘Crazy little thing called love. AC/DC’s ‘You shook me all night long’ captures the early erotic madness and the B52s sing, in Love Shack, about 

“Huggin and a Kissin

Dancin and a lovin

Wearin next to nothin

cause it’s hot as an oven”

These are the bands having a good time at parties. They’re dancing, joking, kissing, groping and bouncing around like loons rather than moping in the corner wishing that life was fair. 

We should probably all be a little more B52. 

Even you Adele.


Neil Smith

1 year ago #7

Pascal Derrien

1 year ago #6

Phew no mention of Barry Manilow !!!

Neil Smith

1 year ago #5

Neil Smith

1 year ago #4

Ken Boddie

1 year ago #3

I believe, Neil, that Chuck Berry takes the biscuit on “silly love songs” (sorry, Paul McCartney) with “My Ding-a-Ling”, but the one that cracks me up every time is 

Hooked on a Feeling

by Blue Swede

Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga

If I’ve given you an ear worm for the whole weekend, then my job is done. 


Neil Smith

1 year ago #2

Jim Murray

1 year ago #1

You're kind of cherry picking to make your argument, which is valid. The simple fact is that  is that love actually works out less than half of the time. The majority of people can relate to heartache and loneliness. On the other hand, I just thought about it a for a few minutes and came up with a couple of examples of groups that wrote about love in a very position way. Pretty much the Beatles as a group and individually, Dylan has written some good love songs, the Shirelles from way back sang great love songs. The musical theatre is full of love songs. Almost everybody did back then. Frank Sinatra. Tony Bennett. There's a pretty long list of great loves songs. I think people write about heartache and unrequited love to exorcise personal demons demons. I mean, you're a writer, it's that part of it for you. I know it is for me. Interesting observation though. 

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