Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 6th 2019
Not all love songs are roses and flowers
February. Valentine's Day. When crass commercialism is thrust into the public eye in the name of romance. And yet, it is still when the minds of the romantically inclined turn to things of sweetness and light, while the more cynical and love-burnt of the rest of us dread days of roses, chocolates… and love songs.
Oh, the dreaded love song. The same old tropes get dragged out year after year. "I love, do you love me?, please love me, we're in love…" Or, it could be that, to be 'subversive' some radio station might play a string of break-up songs of varying degrees.
Look, there's no denying that love is one of the main staples of song-writing. The majority of songs are about relationships, in varying stages of build or decay. And that is just something we have to live with and, come February, tolerate more than usual.
But love isn't all wine and roses. Love is scary. Love is a form of insanity when we let our inhibitions go and we try to allow some-one else to share ourselves. Love is scary, it is intimidating, it is painful, it is something too many crave like an addiction; but love is also wonderful, illuminating, enlightening and glorious. It can be dangerous; it can be a safety net. Love is a contradiction within one person. Love is indefinable. In general, love is really weird.
With that in mind, sometimes an artist releases a love song that is not, well… usual. They are still proclaiming their love for another person, sure, but they might use language that is not quite loving (yes, that means they swear a lot), or have a situation that might otherwise preclude it from being a love song. Insanity, lust and satisfice all feature in them. There's emotion behind them, sure, and the song-writers must love the object of their desire, but…
Holy unsubtle references, Batman!
These are love songs that are strange or weird because of the above reasons, or even just the manner in which the love is portrayed.
Rules are simple: no comedy songs (even the strangely awesome Sir Lancelot's 'Shame And Scandal In The Family'), they must be songs about love and not breaking up or losing love, or songs about unrequited love. I also decided against using any of the vast number of songs that could be construed as stalking songs (like 'Every Breath You Take' by The Police) or songs that are generally misused in one way or another. And songs that are just really uncomfortable ('Baby, It's Cold Outside' which is basically a guy almost forcing a reluctant girl to sleep with him does not feel right) are also not included.
And Serge and (daughter) Charlotte Gainsbourg's 'Lemon Incest' is too creepy for words.
The most important thing, however, is that I have to like the songs. There are some really strange love songs out there that I really don't like. Your mileage, as usual, will undoubtedly vary.
WARNING: Lots of NSFW stuff follows!
But, first, I want to mention 'Closer' by Nine Inch Nails, written by Trent Reznor (1994). Its chorus ("I want to f**k you like an animal / I want to feel you from the inside…") makes people think it's a sex/love song, but it is really about a guy using sex to overcome his own self-loathing. It's not so much a weird love song as a weird self-therapy song. It's just a weird song. I own the CD Single. I think Nine Inch Nails are vastly under-rated. And Trent Reznor did the music for one of my favourite video games, Quake. So the man is a legend.
Okay, the list!
'You're In Love With A Psycho' by Kasabian (2017); written by Sergio Pizzorno
This is a song about two people who love each other. What a rarity in modern song writing! So what if one of them is a little… demented? It's still love, right? The lyrics are awesome, with pop culture references and strange lines. It is one of my favourite recent songs. However, the reason it is first on my list is that there is also a hint that maybe the singer only thinks the girl is in love with him ("You walk… so quick…"), but to him this is love all the way. He even wants to share his chips with her. You can't get much more romantic than that.
"We've been waiting far too long
We'll play it out again
This is just my serenade
You're in love with a psycho…"
'Wannabe' by The Spice Girls (1996); written by Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Melanie Brown, Matthew Paul Rowbottom & Richard Stannard
I'm allowed to like a Spice Girls song! No, really, I am! This is about a fledgling relationship. Girl has met guy and is laying down the rules for their relationship. But maybe the choice of words could have been better? Because the whole song seems like if the guy wants to be with the girl, he has to also be with the girl's friends and that's just really creepy and disgusting and yet, in some people's minds, probably a fantasy come to life. I'm not sure that's what the song means, but it's certainly how nearly everyone I've spoken to hears it. Hell, Geri even name-checks the rest of the band and what they like! I have a friend who would consider this awesome but… Sorry. No.
"If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends…
Make it last forever, friendship never ends…"
'I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges (1969); written by Dave Alexander, Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton & Scott Asheton
This is a song about a guy who is willing to do anything for his loved one. Literally anything. He is the submissive partner. I've even read an actual paper stating that it is the first song about BDSM. Not sure about that… but it is Iggy Pop, so you never know. It is a short song, but the concept of a man willing to be another's pet is… yep, weird.
"And now I'm ready to feel your hand
And lose my heart on the burning sands
And now I want to be your dog…"
'iFly' by Ball Park Music (2010); written by Samuel David Cromack
A strange song about a guy who hooks up with a girl at a party and then professes his love for her. They subsequently meet up again and kiss, this time without alcohol, and all is right with the world. Ah, what a sweet song – alcohol-induced love. This song could have been me a few times back in the 1980s. Yes, some themes are horribly timeless. But what tips this song into the weird category, as far as love songs go, is the chorus: "I f**king love you, I think you're pretty/I f**king love you, all of the time…" Now, I'm no romance or love expert, but that seems to be one of the least romantic declarations of love ever put onto tape.
"Well, I remember the first time that I got to kiss you sober
I remember the first time as if it is right now
I was just myself, maybe I was less…"
'Drain You' by Nirvana (1991); written by Kurt Cobain
Pretty sure this song was never released as a single, but the Nevermind album was one of those pieces of pop culture that changed things in music. And this song sits there as an album highlight. This is a love song about co-dependency. Ah, how sweet! The medical imagery, though, is odd and some of the lines go from "we need each other" territory to down-right "eww" territory. Still, it is a really good song and the love sentiment behind it is very clear and all-too stark.
"Chew my meat for you
Pass it back and forth in a passionate kiss
From my mouth to yours
I like you…"
'Punk Rock Girl' by The Dead Milkmen (1989); written by David Schulthise, Dean Sabatino, Joseph Genaro & Rodney Linderman
This is a straight-up love song: a guy is talking about what he and the girl he loves are going to do together. Nothing wrong there. It's just that she's a punk and their choice of activities… well, it's made for quite an interesting song, that's for sure! They eat food – detailed – look for Mojo Nixon albums and do all sorts of other things around Philadelphia. Oh, and she's from a rich family while he's not. Strange. But catchy as all hell.
"She took me to her parents for a Sunday meal
Her father took one look at me and he began to squeal…"
'Blank Space' by Taylor Swift (2014); written by Martin Max, Shellback & Taylor Swift
Yes, I'm allowed to like a Taylor Swift song. Or songs. Or albums. So sue me. Anyway, Swift claimed in GQ in 2015 that this song was a satirical response to people who felt she was crazy when it came to her love life. But the lyrics tell the story of a girl who is with a guy at the start of a relationship, declaring that she is high maintenance. She gives a good and bad case scenario throughout ("It'll leave you breathless/Or with a nasty scar…") which is fair warning. But the fact she does that makes this a weird sort of love song. Really good song, but really weird. And not a little scary.
"'Cause we're young and we're reckless
We'll take this way too far
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They'll tell you I'm insane…"
Obligatory Taylor Swift picture...
'Shut Up / Kiss Me' by Paul McDermott and Fiona Horne (1998); written by Paul McDermott
I've mentioned this song before and I still think it is one of the best songs produced in the Australian canon. But it is a song of satisfice – the whole "you'll do" concept of taking a partner. The lyrics are beautiful with stunning metaphors and similes, but the whole underlying theme is that these two people are the only ones left and so hook up because, well, why not? Hardly the most auspicious of love stories, and yet it is a love song. Weird and probably depressing, but a love song.
"I was caught by your smile under a blushing moon
You were the only one left there
Words poured like wine over an open wound
You were the only one left there…"
'Where the Wild Roses Grow' by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with Kylie Minogue; written by Nick Cave
I've also talked about this song in another column and it is the best song Kylie Minogue has ever appeared on. In. My. Opinion. This is a song about two young lovers going for a walk. So far, so twee. They go to see the roses growing. How sweet. And then he kills her with a rock. So… hang on – what? Yeah… this song goes to weird. But when it comes from an album called Murder Ballads what do you expect? It is an awesome song, even if dark and creepy. But the lyrics are excellent – this is the sort of writing I wish I could pull out. Nick Cave is an Australian genius.
"And the last thing I heard was a muttered word
As he stood smiling above me with a rock in his fist…"
'Kiss With A Fist' by Florence and the Machine (2009)
There is nothing that can be said about this song. From the word go, you know what it's about. This is about a woman staying in an abusive relationship because it's better than being alone. Not good! However, on the other hand, she gives as good as she gets, and beats the living snot out of the guy as well. So that makes it better… right? This song is really weird… But it is possibly one of the best songs about a dysfunctional, abusive, shocking relationship out there. That's a musical genre, right?
"I broke your jaw once before
I spilled your blood upon the floor
You broke my leg in return
So sit back and watch the bed burn…"
I still have a VHS of the Doug Anthony All Stars with Paul McDermott at his entertaining and inappropriate best. Very weird and funny. Whenever I watch it I wonder what the world must think of our Australian inappropriate humour.