Monday, February 10, 2014

I'd Like to Be

This slight cha-cha is a song of the sort I call simply a "list song." The songwriter comes up with an idea, and then just extends it for the length of a song, listing as many permutations as he can rhyme.

Examples abound. Take the song this one presages, "The Way You Do The Things You Do." In that Temptations classic, the speaker compares his lover to a list of various objects that are known for performing certain functions very well. Her smile is so she's so smart, she "could have been a schoolbook"; and she's so pretty, she "could have been a flower." The whole song is a list of such things she "could have" been.

Here, the speaker lists the things he would like to be. And all of them are in contact with the body of his beloved.

These include her clothes ("high-heeled shoes," "coat around your shoulder")... her accessories and jewelry ("ribbon in your hair," "belt around your tiny waist," "your bracelet and your glove").... even her cosmetics.

In fact, the first such items he mentions that he'd "like to be" are: "The lipstick on [her] your lovely lips... the polish on [her] fingertips."

The most intimate object he'd like to be is... well, no, this was still the 1950s! It's not a clothing item at all, but "the chocolate candy that [she] tastes."

And, in case you were in total suspense about what he rhymes with "glove," the last line is the payoff: "But most of all/ I'd like to be the one you love."

This implies she has not returned his affections yet. It remains to be seen if she is interested in returning the affections of one so very, very interested in touching her-- nay, enveloping her.

While most of these things encircle and embrace her, the way "tender" or "loving"-- to borrow terms from other such songs-- arms might, the "chocolate candy that you taste" is an unmistakeable metaphor.

One way of looking at this is that he wants things to be equal. He wants to envelope her, but is equally willing to be enveloped by her. But that, in today's lingo, is almost definitive co-dependency.

Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with erotic images expressed by one who is already intimate with his listener. But there are two "red flags" here. One, the images are erotic too soon, before intimacy or even familiarity. The other is the smothering nature of the images.

While we can argue that the Temptations song has its faults-- it literally objectifies the woman by comparing her to objects, for one-- at least there is only one image of "holding you so tight." Here, almost every object the speaker conjures is one of surrounding her or buffering her from the outside world. Surely, irrational jealousy cannot be far behind.

Also, the Temptations song is upbeat and airy. Our song is smoky and  sultry. The emotion meant to be conveyed is seduction, but he knows she doesn't even love him yet.

So while, structurally, the song presages "The Way You Do the Things You Do," on an emotional level, it foreshadows a more shadowy one: The Police's "I'll Be Watching You."

Next Song: Just a Boy

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