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Love Songs For Every Situation: Regret

February 22nd, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Is this series bringing everybody down? Well, it’s a series, and we must get through it, with all the discipline that is absent in matters of love. Today, we deal with regret (we must still do heartbreak and ““ the one I’m really looking forward to ““ bitterness). Regret can come before or after bitterness, and often they coincide, but both emotions manifest themselves after a love has ended. Music has done better capturing bitterness than regret. Indeed, regret seems to be a bit of a stepchild in the canon of love songs, its rejection symbolised by Edith Piaf’s determined defiance.

Abba – One Of Us.mp3
My friend Tom the Sub-Editor once said that Kris Kristofferson has an eloquent song for every emotion. I would say that Abba do as well. “One Of Us” (from Abba’s final album, 1981’s The Visitors) is terribly sad and a little pathetic, in the real sense of the word. The protagonist was in what seems to have been a pretty good relationship but evidently felt cornered: “You were, I felt, robbing me of my rightful chances. My picture clear, everything seemed so easy, and so I dealt you the blow: one of us had to go.” So she dumped the guy only to discover later that she had made a huge mistake. And it is in her regret, self-inflicted though it was, that we begin to feel for her: “One of us is crying, one of us is lying in her lonely bed. Staring at the ceiling, wishing she was somewhere else instead.” Our compassion is tempered a little by her unceasing selfishness. Nowhere in the song does she wonder whether her dumping the guy caused him any pain.

John Mayer – Comfortable.mp3
Mayer is a bit of a hit-and-miss artist. When he stinks, he really does. But occasionally he hits the sweet spot. This is one of these occasions when the melody succeeds in scoring the lyrical sentiment. In “Comfortable” Mayer is in a relationship with a trophy beauty who has little warmth or culture, but has found the approval of his friends. Yet he yearns for an ex who might have been less of a looker, but evidently had lots of warmth and “knew Miles from Coltrane”. Where the beauty is boring and well-mannered, the ex was fun. More importantly, “our love was comfortable, and so broken in”. Seems like the grass was no greener on the other side (if you’ll forgive the lazy cliché). Mayer thinks so too when he sings in the final line: “She’s perfect, so flawless. I’m not impressed”¦I want you back.”

Ryan Adams – Somehow, Someday.mp3
Ryan tells a similar story: he had a good thing going, let it slip away, wants her back. His problem likely was a reluctance to commit (“I wish that you and I had those kids, maybe bought us that home”). Let’s hope that she has not moved on to a man more open to having those kids and real estate purchases, because Ryan plans to let her know, with imperfect grammar, that “there ain’t no way I’ll ever stop from lovin’ you now”. But Ryan better get cracking, because procrastination will not win him the girl back: “and I’m gonna try and show you somehow. Somehow, oh someday. Someday. Someday.” Tell her now, Ryan, tell her before some other dude gets her committed. Now. Not “someday”. Hurry!

Bill LaBounty – Livin’ It Up.mp3
This glorious slice of 1982 West Coast softrock (which featured in the Middle Of The Road series) initially suggests a steady recovery from a break-up: “I finally got my life together, scraped my heart up off the floor. My attitude is so much better, and I hardly ever cry the way I did before.” Oh what the hell, Bill is going to show her that he’s actually doing damn fine. He is living it up, “right from the women to the wine, livin’ out all those fantasies I never did get to.” Oh yes, he got himself “a new persona”, a whole new Bill. And, even as he tells her more of his partying ways and livin’ out all these fantasies he never got to do, he admits to being unhappy, because “it don’t seem living without you”.

Wilco – Hate It Here.mp3
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy regards this as his joke song, seeing as he is happily married and wouldn’t know how to use a washing machine. Given that, his vocals suggest some studious method acting, because our man is dying. The wife is gone, so he keeps himself busy doing household chores, worrying what his mind will do when he no longer has these diversions (“What am I gonna do when I run out of shirts to fold? What am I gonna do when I run out of lawn to mow?”). He checks for messages from her, no luck, feebly phones the mother-in-law, dead-end. This song might have fitted just as well in the breaking-up post, or the forthcoming heartbreak one. I’ll stick it in here, because the reference to all the mundane household chores might suggest that the relationship crashed because of a lack of effort on his part (not necessarily in the arena of housekeeping).

Bob Evans – Rocks In My Head.mp3
Australian folk-pop troubadour Bob Evans (whose real name is Kevin Mitchell) is employing better timing than the other fools in this post: he expresses regret before he knows it is over (” I can’t go on if I don’t know that you’re on my side”). He has screwed things up, and is asking for another chance by admitting that he was an idiot: “Worse than all the worst things that I’ve done are the things that I said. I nearly lost you there; I must have rocks in my head.” Great save there, Bob.

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  1. Darren
    February 22nd, 2008 at 17:18 | #1

    Fair play.The Abba and Ryan Adams tracks are two of my favourite tracks of their type.I’d also give a special mention to Level 42’s ‘It’s Over’.

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