Monday, November 26, 2012

Music Monday: Nashville "No One Will Ever Love You"

Hello my loves,

I have come up with a new idea for this blog. I'm calling it Music Mondays. I don't know if it's a good idea or a horrible idea, or if anyone will even read these posts but darn it, it's my blog. :) I can't promise that I'll do these every Monday or that they'll have a regular format but for right now I'm thinking I'll just use the time to post about my thoughts on a song or album that I like. This way I can produce content that's interesting for me on days when I don't have reviews lined up. Hopefully someone will like it.

I decided to devote my first post to the song "No One Will Ever Love You" which was performed on Episode 2 of the show Nashville. The singers are Connie Britton and Charles (Chip) Esten. Does anyone else remember him from his days on Whose Line Is It Anyway? Aren't you thrilled he's landed a show where he gets to sing? No? Just me? OK, then.

First of all, I'd like to say that if you're not watching Nashville, you really should be watching Nashville. Actually, it's probably not to everyone's taste. OK, if you're anything like me, you should be watching Nashville. I'm not a massive country music fan but let's put it this way, I know Loretta from Dolly and Reba from Jennifer Nettles. And while I don't keep up with everything that's currently popular in country music, I do like Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, and Taylor Swift. But aside from the music, I just connect with this show. This may not make much sense, but this show is what I wanted Smash to be. The balance between the story lines works more or less. The political plot line is weak but it's certainly not like the random, inexplicable, uninteresting tangents that happen on Smash. Nashville gives me a nice blend of serious drama, melodramatic soap opera antics, and fantastic country music. Every Scarlett and Gunnar duet makes me melt. I might get around to them in a later post but there is just so much to unpack there.

So why did I want to draw your attention to "No One Will Ever Love You"? It's haunting. Hypnotic. Connie Britton's vowels drive me crazy and yet there's something that feels right about the way she pronounces things. When she sings "They're not waiting for you", the way she pronounces "for" gives this little kick to the end of the phrase that keeps the song from being too regular. It hints at the undercurrent of strangeness in this questionably romantic song. There are so many layers. The melody and the pace are so melancholy and haunting. But the way she's singing and the lyrics are seductive.

The words are so simple and yet so open to interpretation. 

"Don't you try and tell me someone's waiting. They're not waiting for you."
It's simple, right? Don't give me the excuse that someone's waiting for you because they're not. But look at what these sentences are doing. It would be easy enough to say that no one's waiting. But the second sentence makes it clear that someone is waiting, they're just not waiting for the person the speaker is addressing. Who is this other person? Who are they actually waiting for? Is the speaker merely in denial about whether this person is waiting for the "you" or is she casting doubt on this second relationship by claiming that the other possible love interest is waiting for someone other than the "you"?

Another interesting thing about these opening lines is that they start the song in the middle of the conversation. It's one thing when this happens in a solo song but this is a duet. You could start with him telling her that someone is waiting for him. But we don't do that. What does that accomplish? Well, it helps add to the feeling that this is an ongoing conversation. The moment is not contained within the song. It spills over. We have the feeling that there is a past and a future located outside the bounds of the song. Which of course makes the sentiments in the song feel like they're located in the present. Another result is that she feels like the dominant presence. We enter when she cuts him off. Her version of the truth is so dominant that we don't even hear his position in his own words. She repeats what he has said, mediating our understanding of his words. We only hear him in the middle of the song and he seems to be going on about a different topic. It also creates an interesting sense of allegiances. You're pretty much automatically on the side of the singer/narrator/protagonist when something begins. They are the focal point. You see everything through their eyes so naturally you feel most allied with their opinions and their point-of-view. So are you on her side in this because you start from her perspective? Or do you instead ally with the "you"? It's interesting to consider the differences in your listening experience when you watch the video and when you listen to the song. When you watch the video you know that she's singing to Deacon. But when you're just listening, and you perhaps don't know it's going to be a duet, you feel like you're being addressed by Rayna when she is singing.

"Don't you try and tell me that you're wanted, that you're needed. Cause it's not true."
Again, is this the truth or is the speaker in denial? And again, the speaker is insulting the love object. She is telling him someone is not waiting for him and that he's not wanted and he's not needed. It's as much a form of psychological breakdown as much as it is a simple response to his side of the conversation. By tearing down his fiction, she is opening the way for her version of reality which comes in the next lines. But she's also demolishing his sense of self-worth so she can restore it with her want and her need.

"I know why you're lonely. It's time you knew it, too."
Privileged knowledge. It's not just that she knows why he's lonely. It's that he doesn't know. Is this because he's in denial? Or is it because she has a level of knowledge and understanding beyond his? You have so many narratives about self-knowledge and self-understanding. It's jarring to hear someone tell someone else that she knows something about him that he doesn't know. It creates an anxiety and doubt about the self. Deacon's position/argument/identity immediately become unstable when we believe he doesn't even have command of himself and understand his emotions and motives.

"No one will ever love you. No one will ever love you. No one will ever love you... like I do."
Unhealthy relationships 101. The closing sentiment "No one will ever love you like I do" could be in a Hallmark card. But that's not how the song plays out and that's not the title of the song. That would be "No One Will Ever Love You." It preys upon a human anxiety about finding love and acceptance. Especially in a world that is so obsessed with soul mates and "the one". It goes back to the idea of no one waiting and not being wanted or needed. This refrain instills fear and anxiety and then finally resolves it with "like I do."

"Oh, for once why don't you get down off your high heels? You're no big deal. Can't you see?" 
Putting aside the actual context, this lyric plays on interesting gender issues. It's not about getting off the stage or getting off your high horse. It's about getting down off your high heels. High heels which create a false sense of height and self-importance. They're not shoes, they're heels. Something impractical. Something fake that contributes to an illusion like false eyelashes or hair extensions. But high heels are more than cosmetic. They can actually elevate you to a position of prominence and power and importance. Height draws attention. But it is a false sense of a importance. And it's not stable because you can "get down off" them. We have another kind of privileged information here again. The male singer knows that she isn't a big deal. But the female speaker can't see it.

"No one will ever love you. No one will ever love you. No one will ever love you... like I do." (in unison)
I'm highlighting this section again because of the change that occurs when they sing in unison. Now they are both perpetuating this unhealthy relationship and this unhealthy cycle. But they are both in agreement.

"I'm all you got. I'm all you'll ever need. I'm all you'll ever have."
Do I even need to unpack how problematic this is?

And yet I'm sure someone will play this song at their wedding. Or at least during a slow dance.

Hope you enjoyed the first Music Monday. I may or may not be back with this next week.

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