Romantic-Sounding Songs That Aren’t Really That Romantic


Have you ever misinterpreted a so-called “love song,” failing to understand its real meaning? For almost twenty years I thought the 1994 Blues Traveler song “The Hook” was one of the most romantic I had ever heard. In fact, I also believed it was really called “The Heart”:

Because the heart brings you back
I ain’t tellin’ you no lie
The heart brings you back
On that you can rely

But no: it was indeed called “The Hook.” And it was not meant to be a romantic song:

There is something amiss
I am being insincere
In fact I don’t mean any of this
Still my confession draws you near

And just in case a rudimentary analysis of the song’s lyrics didn’t convince you, we also have this highly cynical music video, starring a glassy-eyed schmuck on the couch picking at his toes:

Probably the most famous of all these types of unromantic romantic songs is The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” from 1983, which I believe lead singer Sting has confirmed on multiple occasions is not a love song:

Every move you make, and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

What “Every Breath You Take” actually is, is a “Stalker Song”—a song that wavers between shaky claims of love and an obsessive fixation bordering on restraining order territory.

Consider Def Leppard’s 1993 hit off the Last Action Hero soundtrack, “Two Steps Behind”:

Walk away, if you want to
It’s okay, if you need to
You can run but you can never hide
From the shadow that’s creepin’ up beside you

Lovely. Or take Foo Fighters’ 1997 song “Walking After You”:

I cannot be without you, matter of fact
Oh oh ooh
I’m on your back
If you walk out on me
I’m walking after you
If you walk out on me
I’m walking after you

Then there are classic “love” songs that I wouldn’t immediately classify as “stalkery,” but have somewhat of a manic quality that provides some red flags. Take the Sixties staple “Happy Together” by The Turtles:

Imagine me and you, I do
I think about you day and night, it’s only right
To think about the girl you love and hold her tight
So happy together
If I should call you up, invest a dime
And you say you belong to me and ease my mind
Imagine how the world could be, so very fine
So happy together
I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you
For all my life
When you’re with me, baby the skies’ll be blue
For all my life

OK, OK…by itself, these lyrics are not particularly alarming (no more than any other idealistic love song). But now have a band like Filter sing it:

Another song I’d put in this category is 1966’s “Cherish” by The Association. This one is not so much about a stalker, as it just feels passive-aggressive:

Perish is the word that more than applies
To the hope in my heart each time I realize
That I am not gonna be the one
To share your dreams
That I am not gonna be the one
To share your schemes
That I am not gonna be the one to share what
Seems to be the life that you could
Cherish as much as I do yours

Most of the Brian Wilson-penned love songs on the iconic 1966 Beach Boys album Pet Sounds also seem to have this quality hovering between passive-aggression and outright depression; which is why, much like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, I have to be in a certain mood to listen to it.

Behold: “I’m Waiting For The Day,” a song that literally quakes with seething resentment barely hiding under a chivalric facade:

The last song I’ll mention is not specifically stalkery or passive-aggressive…but rather, just sort of “overly enthusiastic.” Jay & The Americans’ 1965 smash “Cara Mia” is mostly just a bombastic love song…but the way lead singer Jay Black holds the note the word “die” towards the end (I’ve thoughtfully cued it up for you)…yikes:

That said, Jay and the Americans are also responsible for one of my favorite love songs, “This Magic Moment,” so…I don’t wanna cast “aspersions” on their body of work.

Anyway. Remember: the heart Hook always brings you back!


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