Thursday, March 03, 2016

The Milk Diaries: Desire

Is there such a thing as a musical coincidence when you talk about music all the time? Probably not, but then it was damn weird when my songwriting teacher brought up Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman in class some time ago. My friend and I had only been talking about that song the night before and I don't believe I've ever talked about that song with anyone, ever.

The class analysed the imagery of the lyrics: lonely image of a heartbroken man, working on the telegraph poles, longing for love and a vacation. We dwelled on the lines, "And I need you more than I want you and I want you for all time..." Some classmates felt put off by the expression, dismissing it as easy and simplistic, yet I felt drawn to it for some reason.

It reminded me Craig Schuftan and his writing on pop, how desire and want is at the centre of pop lyricism. Even now, to vaguely recall pop titles like I Want to Hold Your Hand, I Only Want to be With You or I Want to be Your Dog reflect an adolescent kind of yearning that could be easily dismissed. To want a thing in pop is to echo a frustration but also a very physical desire.

The sentiment of want can be compared with that of need. It's a similar kind of thing, but you feel that there is greater sense of urgency involved: Need You Tonight, I Need You, All I Need is You, Saying that, the insistent quality of need tends to come across as a desperate, trumped up hypberole. It's saying that you need another person in order to exist and that is a bit absurd.

For the practising pop songwriter, to choose between want and need in a lyric is embarrassing. Perhaps these are overused pop cliches or else they denote an overblown sense of devotion that borders on insincere. Saying that, it is still these kinds of lyrics which ring in our ear when we consider expressions of desire in pop. They're simplistic things but they provide a shortform way to articulate love and lust.

It's convenient thing, especially when you stumble upon a line you love. You can say: "It's us."


fotwaudio said...

Nice article Eleanor!

Eleanor said...

Thanks so much, Iain!