The Rise of the Anti-Love Song

I’m addicted to the ’80s station on my XM satellite radio, which (like so many of my vices these days) I justify as research for my novel. The combination of too-happy beats and kinky, alienated lyrics never fails to provoke my creativity. Also in the name of research, today I switched to the ’90s station to refresh my memory of what bands my Generation-Y heroine might have enjoyed.

As I listened to the lyrics of Jennifer Paige’s hit “Crush“, it seemed to me that I was hearing something new, a genre that really only took off in the 1990s and beyond: the feminist anti-love song. Not a breakup song (like “I Will Survive”), but a girl bragging about her lack of emotional investment in a relationship she still intends to enjoy. Jennifer sings:

It’s raising my adrenaline
You’re banging on a heart of tin
Please don’t make too much of it baby
You say the word “forevermore”
That’s not what I’m looking for
All I can commit to is “maybe”

So let it be what it’ll be
Don’t make a fuss and get crazy over you and me
Here’s what I’ll do
I’ll pay loose
Run like we have a day with destiny

It’s just a little crush (crush)
Not like I faint every time we touch
It’s just some little thing (crush)
Not like everything I do depends on you

Other popular examples are Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did It Again”, and Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women”. In the latter song, from the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack, the trio challenges their potential mates:

Question: Tell me what you think about me
I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings
Only ring your cell-y when I’m feelin lonely
When it’s all over please get up and leave

Despite the hundreds of hours I’ve spent rediscovering the guilty pleasures of Belinda Carlisle and Laura Branigan, the only analogous song from the ’80s that I can think of is the Eurythmics’ “I Need a Man,” which is a little different because it sounds like it’s being sung by an experienced older woman, not a teen girl. And even there, you can tell that Annie Lennox really needs that man. She’s not taunting him that he’s slightly less important than her new shoes.

So, gentle reader, am I right — is this a new way of being a girl? What does it mean? Is it possible that we’ll be looking back on the decade of Madonna’s cone-shaped bra and saying how innocent it all was?

16 comments on “The Rise of the Anti-Love Song

  1. Hank Rodgers says:

    As a male, stuck in the sixties and seventies, my vote, from “our” perspective of the same frame of mind; Dylans “It Ain’t Me Babe” (first stanza, and I recommend the others too):

    “Go ‘way from my window/ Leave at your own chosen speed./I’m not the one you want, babe,/ I’m not the one you need./You say you’re lookin’ for someone/Never weak but always strong,/To protect you and defend you/Whether you are right or wrong./Someone to open each and every door,/But it ain’t me, babe,/No, no, no it ain’t me babe,/It ain’t me your lookin’ for, babe.”

    OR my own lyrics; (must be a Country-Western song, because I don’t write music- no bridge, neither):


    You’re nev-er there for me’, she said, to her man where he sat;
    Her big hair-do was dyed bright red, her tone was harsh and flat.

    I won-dered where he went off to — she thinks he is-n’t there;

    If he’s not here for her, it’s true, he may be here for hair.

    CHORUS: It’s nei-ther here nor there, I guess, where we were meant to be;
    But you are there for you, God bless, and I am here for me.

    ‘You’re just not that sup-por-tive now, we ne-ver can a-gree;

    Al-though I’ve tried to tell you how to give sup-port to me.’

    I thought, well it’s no won-der that he can’t sup-ply the prop,

    ‘Cause he’s so small and she’s so fat, he’d have to let ‘er drop.

    CHORUS: It’s nei-ther here nor there, I guess, where we were meant to be;
    But you are there for you, God bless, and I am here for me.

    ‘I think I just en-a-ble you to run a-way and hide;

    I make you a-ble to a-buse my feel-ings and my pride.’

    She’s right, I guess, he needs some help – he seems a lit-tle weak;

    But he’s said no-thin’ for him-self – she ought-a’ let ‘im speak.

    CHORUS: It’s nei-ther here nor there, I guess, where we were meant to be;
    But you are there for you, God bless, and I am here for me.

    ‘You’re on-ly in de-ni-al Joe’ – “That riv-er’s deep” I shout.

    How he got in I’ll nev-er know, I’ll bet that he wants out.

    ‘You should get help – go see some-one, like I did Joe’ — She’s right,

    The cure’s some cute young hon-ey bun — he ought-a go to-night.

    CHORUS: It’s nei-ther here nor there, I guess, where we were meant to be;
    But you are there for you, God bless, and I am here for me.

    Her crea-tures some-times won-der, but our Mo-ther has no doubt;

    Ol’ na-ture ne-ver blun-ders – she just lets us fight it out.

    No use to run and hide, it’s tough, but nat-ure nurt-ures strife;

    She does not let us love en-ough to live a-noth-er’s life.

    CHORUS: It’s nei-ther here nor there, I guess, where we were meant to be;
    But you are there for you, God bless, and I am here … for ME!

    ©HANROD Systems (11/95)

    …please remember, Jendi, this is intended as “humorous”.

  2. Alegria Imperial says:

    Not that the other items in your blog had not stirred in me debates with myself. In fact, most have left in serious reflections. But I have yet to unravel them in clear daylight. This item on ‘anti-loving’ though caught me right where I am: attempting to soothe a friend who cannot seem to find, as he puts it, the right or perhaps perfect woman to love. He complains about how the women he picks and lavishes always seem to turn into ‘need-monsters’. The problem, of course, is not them but him—he chafes under the glare of commitment. I’ve been telling him, women smell how he feels, and that’s when they metamorphose into monsters. (He should meet the girls composing those anti-love songs!) We’ve been engaging in this debate for more than a year.

    This was my last reply to his last litany of a week that started good then turned sour.

    Another week slips into
    the inevitable: the end of
    a string of days. What is to
    unravel or recall determines the
    weight of this week’s end.
    To your first week end
    evening, dusk I hope
    descended grace on its brow
    instead of thorns on its
    fingers as it props you up
    struggling to haul your fatigue
    onto a train.

    Where is your stop, Caro?
    Is if to the waiting
    ‘muneca’? Her seas tonight
    I hope had ceased roiling and
    holds a quiet bed of words
    she wreaths you with, scented
    lily-calm or cherry silken-ed
    What awaits you bounding
    on Madrid streets, love
    in your instep to
    her door I hope not sour drops
    littered behind the door-click, mouth-
    hurting pebbles that her thoughts
    had become when thinking of
    you ‘living your life as your life’
    not ‘life with her as your life’.

    Loving and un-loving
    that have for fifteen moons
    tossed and battered you–
    even if at times washed you
    kissed and brilliant in suns,
    interminable moving suns, that
    dip and set then rise
    ir-recognizable even to you who
    has a sun for a heart—I wish
    soon ends this ‘fin de semaine’. A
    new moon rising unseen as yet
    I wish grips the seesaw lever
    and balancing you on pole-ends
    pulls you upright from the
    ribs, coaxes a deep breath,
    gifts you a glass-clear sense
    not so much to know what’s right
    but what you want from loving
    or un-loving.

    The fruit not the tree, you say,
    Caro, seems to rot in your hands when it
    finally falls. I say, it does, if your
    desire ends in your hands—in it
    a fruit unmasked shows hairs, dimples
    or scars. Its essence is in its fruit—ness
    not in that weight on your hands. A
    woman like a fruit has her essence
    hidden. More than a fruit, a woman
    rots not. To want to hold her it is her
    spirit you must bridle and if you could
    you must sip and swallow or if not,
    sip and spew. One other
    secret: you have to let her imbibe
    your spirit as you do hers. If to this
    you demure, then turn away
    for ends of weeks may not
    turn around and loving will
    remain un-loving.

  3. Jendi Reiter says:

    This is beautiful, Alegria. Another one that I’d like to pull out as a separate blog post. Title?

  4. Alegria Imperial says:

    Thanks as always, Jendi. Because it was in the body of a letter, or it was the letter, it had no title. I would title it fittingly then as, ‘Love-lettered’

  5. Alegria Imperial says:

    Can’t help it! This entry on loving has unleashed more mush than I can be proud of. Sentimentality in this age has equalled crap more and more. But a small dose perhaps won’t hurt I hope. So another more blatant anti-anti-love song


    In dreams as in wakefulness,
    bands of air swirl between us–
    thoughts spinning in flight,
    words but dust in the eye.

    In dreams as in waking
    I trail the wind, your thoughts
    lost in longing, your moaning
    a storm tearing at my heart.

    I float hidden in dreams
    as when awake like a wisp
    I hover but a shadow
    light sweeps with but a wave.

    Once, awake as in a dream,
    I painted my eyes like Circe–
    the wind my voice for your eyes
    knowing the magic lies there.

    But in the dream as in waking,
    the wind but died, failing–
    the song I played my heart the lyre
    for you, but a hiss among shadows.

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