Editor's Note: The following post is presented in the form of a conversation between myself and my dear friend Emma Claire Foley, who recently revived her own blogging efforts with Having An Empty Mind. When I asked her to describe her blog, she said, "Uh. . .the description I had is pretty good but I don't remember what it is." And indeed, it is pretty good. So to learn that, and many other things of interest, click the words that are a different color.
I would also like to say that, unlike as in most blog posts done this way, we are not on Gchat. We are actually sitting next to each other.
Me: Let me just say to start this off with informing readers that when this song first started up I said, "Oh I love those string quartet covers of pop songs, I know the music world thinks they are unbearably terrible and cheesy, but I just love them!"
And it turned out to be an actual SONG. Boy, was I surprised -- and delighted.
Emma: I mean, initially I thought of this song as like, yknow, part of the mass of obnoxious noise I subject myself to by leaving the house.
Me: And, I should say because not everyone reading this knows you in person, you are a person who leaves the house a LOT. When I think "Emma Claire Foley activities", "driving around listening to pop music on the radio" is. . .high. Would you say that's fair?
Emma: I'd say I'm past my prime in this, but it's still definitely an important part of my life.
Me: Oh. Cool.
Emma: But THEN, occasionally I experience a moment of, like, falsely low resistance. And I happened to hear the opening from this song, and sometimes when I experience the opening of a song that's excluded from my category of "songs I will listen to" I think, "oooh, fresh start!"
And the phrasing of this song, the way she puts the -- she forces her words to have a melody -- is just so awkward.
Particularly on the first line, "The day I. . .first saw yoooooou. . .you told me. . .you'd never fall in loooooooove." That just doesn't need to be SAID, much less SUNG.
Me: This seems like a good time to say that I also just heard you describe this song as "hey, unavailable man, I'm not like all the others!" I think you also said it was the worst, most distilled version of that particular line of thought, which I can't really argue with.
Emma: Yeah. That brings me to my SECOND thing about the opening: the first painful outbreath describes a situation that's absolutely familiar, and absolutely embedded in the consciousness of, like, any advice column reader or writer EVER. I mean this is square one, "what do I do??/I'm not going to take your advice!!", stuff.
Me: It's gloriously un-self-aware! Actually I'm going to pause and reference what I feel are the other songs of this particular micro-micro-genre that I've showcased on this blog: "Invisible", by Clay Aiken, and "Ice", by Daryl Hall and John Oates.
And yes Emma, you just saw me type "Hall & Oates", go back, erase, and write "Daryl Hall and John Oates".
My love is real.
Emma: Your love IS real. There is not a shred of irony in your love of Hall & Oates.
Me: WELL THANK YOU.
Back to Demi.
Emma: The thing that's frustrating is that it IS possible to do this same feeling in a way that IS self-aware, and sexy. Like in "Lovefool"!
Me: OMG I love that song.
Personally the line that tipped me over into a certain kind of love for this song is what I put in the title: I called your cell phone, my love, but you didn't respond.
That is just IT. I wouldn't have made the advice column connection unless you did, but I'm glad you did because that is exactly what I love about advice columns. The way people will just write things like, "Dear Prudence/Sugar/Dan Savage/Abby/Carolyn Hax/A Queer Chick, I am in a seven year relationship with an amazing man. We are so happy and our life is just 100 percent great. A few months ago I found out that, while out drinking with his work buddies on a trip, after a few beers, he participated in a Satanic sex ritual. We've talked about this, and I've told him that my strict Pentecostal upbringing (I'm not practicing) makes Satanic sex rituals uncomfortable for me.
How can I talk to him about our differences in opinion about Satanic sex? I'd like to show him that I'm open to his interest, and I don't want to be pushy, but I want him to respect my boundaries."
And as a reader you are just sitting there like:
Emma: If you choose to listen to this song and not be bothered by the way she insists on breathing, it seems like two of the main ways that are available for you to place yourself in the song (which I think is what listening to pop music IS) are: 1) a naivety vacation, like "Yeah, Demi! I'm different too!" and 2) in the same rubber-necky way you read an advice column, which in a way requires even MORE faith.
Me: I totally agree with you, and I think advice columns also do have that same duality, but I'm interested to know WHY you think the second option requires more faith.
Emma: I guess I maybe meant "cynicism" by "faith". In that the situation this song describes, which is a girl so stupidly devoted to a guy that she's actually gone insane, is so normalized. That the song was written almost as a comment on itself.
Me: I agree with you and I disagree. Not to hammer on the advice column thing, but something that seems common to me across the people I know who LOVE advice columns is that they are what I would call "frustrated humanists". People who genuinely WANT to love people but who are, indeed, often frustrated by the stupidity and straight-up toxicity/insanity they see around them. Which is why they enjoy seeing inside other people's minds so much, so they can reassure themselves that people really ARE crazy.
Does that sound bad? It sounds kinda bad. But speaking personally, it feels better to think of myself as a crazy person in a world full of crazy people than as. . .alone, I guess, or at least in a minority.
I think this often expresses itself as cynicism but comes from a somewhat different root.
Emma: That, I think is the final failing of this song: it does tap into that impulse, but it's just not good enough to offer that kind of comfort.
You're left feeling like, "Oh. That is what it is.
And I just hate the way she breathes SO MUCH."
The song: Demi Lovato, "Give Your Heart A Break"; 2011
Well that was fun! Thanks to ECF for hanging out on my blog. This is one of my favorite activities.
I'd like to start having more conversations with you. That's why you'll now found a place to click and leave a comment.
I really appreciate that you read, in general, this.