Music Friday: How not to write a love song

These two songs are similar in that they are about a broken heart and have the name of a color in their title. Other than that, they don’t have a whole lot in common. The first was released sometime around 1990, and was apparently a big hit, but I’d totally forgotten about it until it came on the classic rock station a few weeks ago. The second was on Pearl Jam’s debut album which came out the very next year. Pearl Jam refused to release it as a single, and yet it still became insanely popular and remains one of their signature pieces today. Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong, maybe there are huge Warrant fandoms somewhere that totally forgot about Black, but it seems to me that one has endured the test of time while the other has faded away.

Of course there’s a much bigger story behind all of this, with the shifts in musical genres occurring at this time, but I think there might be something to garner from this disparity. I think it might be that “I don’t think I’m going to love you anymore” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “I know some day you’ll have a beautiful life, I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s life but why can’t it be mine?” Nobody believes the first one, not even the person who said it, so why try to make a song out of something like that? Maybe it appeals to people going through that early denial stage, and maybe that’s why it was popular at one time. But everyone who’s ever had a broken heart knows what the second one means, and knows that it is absolutely true. And at a time when the entire rock and roll sound seemed to draw its musical inspiration from Robert Plant’s declaration that “way down inside, woman, you need me” it was a bit of a breath of fresh air for someone to come along and say how the rest of us actually felt about things. And maybe that’s why the music had to change in the first place.

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