The Magnetic Fields: I Don’t Want to Get Over You
hen it comes to film, I enjoy the romantic comedy genre as much as the next guy—okay, probably more than the next guy. I know the formula all too well by now, but when it's done right, it never gets tedious. Guy meets girl; guy and girl weakly try to convince themselves that there's nothing between them; guy and girl eventually admit that they're madly in love with one another; everyone lives happily ever after. Why does this predictable fluff succeed time and time again at the box office? For that matter, why does it still occasionally resonate with me? Because it doesn't emulate real life. In real life, love is constantly imbalanced, if not entirely unrequited. The Hollywood narratives are non-existent. Real people don’t overcome a few charming obstacles before finally ending up lip-locked when their relationship hits the 100-minute mark and the theatre empties out. Sure, this stance against the clichés of traditional love stories is a cliché itself, but after you experience the real thing first-hand, it hardly matters.
Stephin Merritt knows all of this. Just take a look at some of the song titles from the epic Magnetic Fields box set, 69 Love Songs: "How to Say Goodbye." "Epitaph for my Heart." "No One Will Ever Love You." And my personal choice for the most devastating, "I Don't Want to Get Over You." By releasing three discs worth of self-proclaimed Love Songs, Merritt assumes the role of a guy with an active interest in the subject of love, if not total expertise. He knows enough, at least, to recognize the discrepancy in the importance that two people will place on a relationship. He uses this knowledge to his advantage in songs like "I Don't Want to Get Over You."
The first thing that most people notice when I play this song for them is Merritt's voice. Besides providing me an entertaining challenge when I attempt to sing along, his baritone vocals present an interesting contrast between sound and words. While his voice plays the part of the stereotypically unflappable tough guy, his lyrics betray him; it's almost surreal to hear him deliver lines like "I could listen to my therapist / Pretend you don't exist / And not have to dream of what I dream of" at the octave that he does.
These seemingly morose lyrics are confused slightly by the purposeful misdirection of the song's light, bouncy instrumentation. For a track that features its narrator wondering aloud which pills to take to "leave this agony behind" it feels awfully happy. As Merritt ponders a few possible strategies he could employ to "get over love" and then shoots them down, the subtle upbeat vibe makes a little more sense. Rather than pursuing another perfect relationship, he's rejecting that unattainable ideal. Instead, he's decided to embrace the disparity that love brings, effectively denying any opportunity to leave that behind, agony and all.
"I Don't Want to Get Over You" shows Merritt at his best, both lyrically and musically. After scarcely more than two minutes, it comes to an end, creating perhaps the most telling comparison: the song, like those imbalanced relationships that you wish Hollywood had helmed, ends far too soon.
By: Luke Adams
Published on: 2005-02-02
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