Dear Alternative Rock Songwriters:
You can stop writing songs about how you will always love your ex-girlfriend even if you’re apart, and she’ll never be alone, because you will always be there for her. Newsflash: She doesn’t care about you, and she ain’t coming back. Furthermore, you are risking getting a restraining order placed on your emo ass if you don’t STFU.
The same applies to guys pining over their female “best friend.” If she wanted to fuck you, it would have happened by now. If she did fuck you, but continues to fuck other guys, that means she isn’t ready for a relationship. In either case, your throaty histrionics are not going to sway her like the final third of a goddamn John Cusack movie.
The only exceptions to this rule are if:
1. You are Journey. OK, in 1982, “Seperate Ways” was a kick ass song. The only other examples of the creepy pining boyfriend in popular song lyrics back then were intentionally played as stalker anthems (I’m looking at you, The Police), so your heart on the sleeve approach was refreshing. Today we laugh at the silly video with the tight pants and wall-mounted synthesizer, but secretly we still think it kicks ass.
2. You are Lou Barlow of Sebadoh. As much as I hated “Willing to Wait” when it came out, damn if your girlfriend didn’t come back and marry you. OK Lou Barlow: you win this round!
It is important to note that not all neurotic songwriters fall into this category. For example, David Gedge of The Wedding Present and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp have each written their share of songs about wanting the one you can’t have. But these guys are masters of deadpan wit, and rarely come off as overly sentimental or cliched (much like their patron saint, Morrissey).
If a goth whines in the forest, does Robert Smith hear it?
Full disclosure: I may have been guilty of writing one or two of these “I’ll be here in case you change your mind” songs in the past. But no one has been forced to listen to my music via commercial radio stations and satellite feeds pumped into cafeterias and gymnasiums throughout the Western world (see my earlier post Get Off the Radio). My embarrassments have, for the most part, been my own (although this will probably change once I really start to dig into the cassette archives for future uploads).
And lest I sound bitter: I’m happily engaged, and like to think I have a healthy attitude about women these days. But when I hear some tattooed douchebag singing half-assed lyrics about lost love in his finest Eddie Vedder constipation voice over a bed of digitally compressed guitars, it makes the Native American Stereotype in me cry a solitary tear at how my people’s music has been cheapened. Either that, or he wants to throw a large appliance through the window and walk right out of the goddamn asylum like Will Sampson at the end of Cuckoo’s Nest.