My friend and I got into a fight about Adele. “Rolling in the Deep” or “Someone Like You” came on the radio, and I immediately began to sing along loudly. My friend said that he does not like Adele because she only writes love songs. At first I was outraged, but then I realized he was basically right. Adele constantly sings about love, lost and found.
I wondered if this was a phenomenon unique to Adele. In my highly unscientific studies of my music library and the top songs list on iTunes, it seems like it’s not. Artists across genres are obsessed with love, though I think female artists, like Adele, sing about it more often.
First, I think female artists are unfairly pressured to write and to perform love songs, especially newer artists. Sara Bareilles’ first single, “Love Song,” was about just that. Her record company told her that she needed to write a love song, and she told them no, in song. I think that as a society, we expect women, more than men, to sing about love because falling in love, getting married and the accompanying pressures are things that we consider feminine experiences.
This is not to say that there have been no male romantics — William Shakespeare, John Keats and Bruno Mars all come to mind — but I think we expect women to fall in love, to be consumed by its pursuit and its loss, more than we expect it from men. Pop music most often limits the feelings of a man to those about sex.
In the end, most songs, regardless of the artist’s gender, are about these two things, love and lust, which are obviously related. I think it’s because these are the two hardest things to talk about. Over Thanksgiving Break, I saw Jason Mraz perform at Carnegie Hall where he played a lot of his older songs and talked about going through his song catalogue as he came up with the set list. He said that he realized that a lot of his songs said something to the effect of “I love you so much, but I’m just going to stay quiet about it.”
I think that’s the reason why there are so many love songs. Instead of telling someone that she loves him, Taylor Swift writes a song about it. And, instead of telling someone I love him, I sing Taylor Swift’s song in the shower, get my feelings out and then hide them for the rest of the day. It’s a vicious cycle.
In a few movies, people do use love songs to tell people the way they feel, instead of concealing it. These are often the most iconic moments in a film — Heath Ledger’s dance for Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You, Adam Sandler’s serenade for Drew Barrymore on a plane in The Wedding Singer and the boom box scene from Say Anything all immediately come to mind. And while I’d love to be on the receiving end of one of these grand romantic gestures, I know it won’t be happening for me — or you — any time soon (unless your life is a romantic comedy).
It’s actually kind of sad. Romantic comedies and sitcoms, movies and television, are the only places where people are willing to explicitly state their feelings. And since it’s a movie, there’s no doubt that things will turn out well. Even if that person rejects them, they’ll probably meet someone else, someone more worthy of the gesture. One hundred twenty minutes later, it will have been worth it in one way or another. The problem is that in real life we never know if it’ll be worth it. Chances are, strumming “I’m Yours” on a ukulele for my crush will only end with my being embarrassed, instead of his realizing his love for me.
Instead, Adele, Jason Mraz, Taylor Swift and everyone else who ever wrote a song, will keep writing about love instead of saying the words they need to say. And you and I will keep buying the songs, screaming them at parties and ignoring the feelings in them. But maybe if I’d learned to play piano, I’d be able to make some money from it.
Victoria Edel is a sophomore in the College. GIRL MEETS WORLD appears every other Friday in the guide.