1 January 2005

Rank Song Group
1 Let Me Love You Mario
2 Drop It Like It's Hot Snoop Dogg & Pharrell
3 Lovers & Friends Li'l Jon & The East Side Boyz, Usher & Ludacris
4 Over & Over Nelly & Tim Mcgraw
5 Soldier Destiny's Child
6 My Boo Usher & Alicia Keys
7 1, 2 Step Ciara & Missy Elliott
8 Disco Inferno 50 Cent
9 Wonderful Ja Rule, R. Kelly & Ashanti
10 Boulevard of Broken Dreams Green Day

Review

Unfortunately, between my writing about the 1995 and the 2005 top ten songs my sound card died (ARGH!), so I didn't get to listen to all of the songs. Still, at least I found lyrics for them all. So what's the categorization scores for 2005, and what can we generalize for these songs?

Well, it's definitely a little more complex than in 1995. For starters, there seems to be a new point of view emerging. It's not just men who look at women as nothing more than sexy, flashy objects of desire — apparently now women return the "favor." We have a new type of song emerging here — one which talks about the other gender as being much akin to a pleasing fashion accessory, with which you can also have sex.

These types of songs are obviously "brag" or "attitude" songs, but at what point, in bragging about how many women you have, does a song also become a love song? Or should we call them sex songs instead of love songs? If sex is something men pay for, and they're bragging about how much money and women they have, can we really call that love?

Interestingly, they often chastise women in general for being such mercenary bitches — yet aren't they setting that relationship up themselves in the first place with the callous way they treat women — as nothing more than purchasable items of consumption?

Also interestingly, we have several "attitude" or bragging songs by women as well. They differ in one significant respect — men brag about their sexual conquests, while women brag about their dancing skill. This means these songs now do double duty as dance songs as well.

Finally, there's one song which mentions only once even the possibility of a relationship — the rest of the song the guy is stating his aloneness. Apparently white males either can't get away with (or don't want to?) viewing women as occasional sexual decorations.

Instead, they seem to view women as active where they are passive — the women will hopefully "find" and save them from loneliness. It's as if white guys expect a woman to complete them emotionally, one on one, while black guys expect the women to complement their street image, with one guy and many women clustering around.

How do we see romantic relationships now?

Okay, so now let's look more closely at the songs and see what we can see about romantic relationships today. I found the number one song, Let Me Love You by Mario, to be interestingly atavistic. The man is singing to a woman about how she's hanging around the wrong guy, who's obviously not faithful to her. Instead, she should hang around with the singer, who will treat her so much better.

You should let me love you
Let me be the one to give you everything you want and need
Baby good love and protection
Make me your selection
Show you the way love's supposed to be

He promises a classic love affair: she is a beauty and therefore he will protect her and pay for her with expensive gifts. Amusingly, during the song he berates the woman for hanging around with someone who's obviously not interested in her for herself. I found myself wondering — isn't he doing the very same thing?

Not a hopeful start, at least as far as our potentially having learned anything about romantic relationships. Still, there are nine other songs — we shouldn't give up yet. Since our theoretical subject of interest is love, let's look at love songs first, then the others. We've already looked at Let Me Love You, so here's a quick synopsis of the rest:

Lovers & Friends:

which is as much a brag song as anything else. Interestingly one of the singers (Li'l Jon) seems willing to wait on the girl's decision as to whether she wants to have a sexual relationship. Another (Ludacris) talks about wanting to be friends as well as lovers, which sounds wonderfully romantic until he starts singing about how he's going to sexually dominate her.

Over & Over:

is a love song, but oh, my god, is it depressing! It's one long metaphorical howl of pain at the girl having left.

Soldier:

could perhaps be a love song, although it's just as much women bragging about the tough "street" guys they want. Well, maybe it's more of a sex song. If so, it would appear "street" relationships are hard, fast, tough, and mercenary:

If your status ain't hood
I ain't checkin' for him
Betta be street
If he lookin' at me
I need a soldier
That ain't scared to stand up for me
Gotta know to get dough
And he betta be street.

My Boo:

is definitely a love song for this decade: a charming tale of a man and a woman agreeing they're true loves — despite the woman being with another man, who apparently hasn't been informed of this interesting fact.

Wonderful:

is a brag song with, depending on your mileage, either a love or sex sub-theme:

If it wasn't for the money, cars, and movies stars and jewels
And all these things I got
I wonder, hey
Would you still want me
Would you still be calling me
You be loving me?

I lean towards it being purely a sex theme, for the simple reason that I suspect if you're paying for it, it's probably not really love.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams:

I classify this as a love song, but it's weak, I know — it's on the basis of only one line: "Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me…"

Drop it Like It's Hot:

is a straightforwardly unapologetic brag & sex song:

I'm a Bad Boy, wit a lotta ho's
Drive my own cars, and wear my own clothes
I hang out tough, I'm a real Bo$$
Big Snoop Dogg, yeah he's so sharp…

1, 2 Step and Disco Inferno

are both dance songs. The latter is probably also a brag song, all things considered:

You see me shinin', lit up with diamonds
as I stay grindin', uh-huh
Homie you can catch me swoopin'
Bentley coupe and switchin' lanes
U see me rollin', you know I'm holdin'
I'm about my paper, yeah
Niga I'm serious, I ain't playin'
I'm embedded in ya brain, I'm off the chain.

So what do we learn about relationships and love from these songs? Well, this time around we have exactly zero songs about good relationships! Furthermore, only half of them are even unequivocally recognizable as love songs. However, there are now two dance songs instead of just one, and a brand new category which encompasses fully half our data points: brag/attitude songs. Thus we can (horribly and gleefully) mangle statistics again to conclude the following about 2005:

  • Today, our culture believes we have only a 1 in 5 chance of being in a loving relationship. Unfortunately, that also means we're invariably not with the one we really want or who really wants us.

  • However, we do have an overwhelming 7 in 10 chance of a purely sexual relationship! Alas, it is usually a "love 'em & leave 'em" situation. Still, that allows us to do the following:

  • We now brag far more about our sexual prowess (if we count dancing as a metaphor for sex, which the Puritans certainly did). Indeed, half the time we apparently prefer to brag rather than just love.

  • However, 1 in 5 times we're all, all alone, and quite depressed about it. Still, in the end…

  • We're dancing twice as much as we were ten years ago!

Summary

So what have we learned about love in the last ten years? It would appear we now know dramatically less about happy and loving relationships. However, we've apparently compensated by having both genders decide to be casually and unrepentantly sexual about it.

No love and no hope of love? No worries! Pay for sex, and then you get bragging rights too. "Wham, bam, thank you, sir or ma'am!" and that's all there is to it. Sex is also now more athletic, less emotional, and flashier — style over substance! And if we can't even get that, we just resign ourselves to not being with anyone at all — perhaps by going dancing more?

Conclusions

On the surface, it would now appear our culture believes we're all clueless and depressed when it comes to love, and loving relationships are in fact just doomed. Therefore over the last decade we've whipped one hell of an attitude on love, working hard to convince ourselves we should be satisfied with self-centered quickies instead. Yay, us?

In the end, what this really teaches us is: you shouldn't listen to snarky writers who view pop culture with a mix of amusement and incredulous disbelief. Relationships are what we make of them; may ours all grow and flourish in health and joy, despite silly songs.

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