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Revenge of Popular Culture #4: Love

After a short hiatus, our RoPC correspondent is returning triumphant; this week he (or is it a she?) is all about love:

Now. Back to our regular scheduled programme:

“Imagine saying and hearing “I love you” until “I love you” became “How are you?” or worse, “Alright?” (ROPC#2: link)

Sounds horrible. But pop does this all the time. Here’s the opening lines of The Original’s pop-trance hit I Luv U Baby, released January 1995:

“I love you baby
I love you baby
I love you baby
I love you baby
I love you baby
I love you baby
I love you baby”

Woo hoo. Or, actually, woo who? Nobody without a pill in their belly. But this is love, pure pop style. A dull mantra becomes a song, becomes an interpretation of real emotion via the flat repetition of a word weighted with too much meaning. I Luv You Baby is heartfelt, euphoric and anachronistically moving but that’s nothing to do with The L Word. Stand up, breathe deep and sing the hook to the words “I paid my tax bill”. Put real feeling into it.

Reaching for the lasers? Heart-pounding a bit? Eyes-dilated and genitals a-stir? Mine too, let’s get married.

Nothing’s changed in fifteen years. Usher knows what I’m talking about. His track DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love pulls the same trick. As do Eminem and Rihanna with Love The Way You Lie, and, best of all, Ironik with Falling In Love (new in the chart at 40 this week) (“Just want to be in love forever and ever, you and me always together. Baby, love rocks and you do too”). The word’s context might change – Usher’s lustful, Em’s angsty, Ironik’s embarrassing himself – but it’s use as a lyrical fast track to GENUINE EMOTION is a constant throughout pop history.

All this comes back to is a decades-old point. Dumping the magic combination of O, E, L and V into a song is, as a stand-alone thing unrelated to the tone or feel, totally meaningless. The Beatles knew it (Are the lyrics to Love Me Do essentially any less moronic than Ironik’s Falling In Love?) but did it anyway. It was their way of making sure that (as one genius put it) “there wasn’t a dry seat left in the house”.

And that might be the point – Beatles fans took a dumb nursery rhyme like Love Me Do to heart. They gave it pep and meaning and heady, fluid (ewwww) life. Why not assume the same could or has happened for The Original and pop artists since? That their tossed-off, lazy clichés can be caught by the audience and made personal, emotional and even enduring. Ironik, no?

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