published Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Leber: A soundtrack for real love

Shouldn’t lives have soundtracks? (Rhetorical question. Of course they should.)

I think of song lyrics to help clarify the way I’m feeling in a moment.

My partner has threatened to ban me from listening to country music because in my more emotionally vulnerable moments, I’ve quoted bittersweet song lyrics to him and demanded reassurance that they will never prove true for us, like Sugarland’s “Already Gone,” Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter” or Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart.”

I’ve also called him to repeat happy, adoring lyrics that bring his face to my mind. Some of these include the classic “The Way You Look Tonight,” Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” or the Jason Mraz/Colbie Caillat duet “Lucky,” among others.

For the record, I loathe “Unchained Melody.”

And my vain admission of the week is that there are also songs I long for him to hear and think of me. So I thought it would be fun to focus on authentic love songs — songs that have a sense of realness to me. There are others, too, but this is my soundtrack. I would love to know yours.

“Sorry Grateful,” from the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company.” It offers the notion that although it’s easy to doubt yourself, and love, no matter how good you have it, the best partners are the ones who nourish the person you are (“You’ll always be what you always were, which has nothing to do with, all to do with her.”).

“Wild at Heart,” by Edwin McCain. Settling down can be terrifying. Committing to a person, to a career, to a lifestyle is a choice we make. McCain’s song about this struggle, beginning with the words “sometimes I wish there were two of me” hits anyone who has ever found him or herself at a crossroads.

“Wicked Way,” by Ben Taylor. Ladies, when a man acts like he’s all sweet on you but really he just wants one thing, are you more angry about his motives or his dishonesty? That’s what I thought. With lyrics like, “I don’t want to talk about what happened on your favorite TV show, I just want to get you close enough so I can take off all your clothes,” Taylor’s (yes, son of James) brutally honest song is oddly refreshing.

“God Only Knows,” by The Beach Boys. I’ll grant you, this classic might be my favorite love song of all time, but it’s also true. I know, a man can’t define me, burn my bra, sister suffragettes, but the people we love help shape who we are. To me, “God only knows what I’d be without you” is a great way of saying to someone “you have affected me profoundly. You have made a difference in my life and in who I am.”

“The More You Ruv Someone,” a Broadway tune, this time from the irreverent and hilarious “Avenue Q.” It’s a sweet and funny song about how the person you love is the one who can drive you the farthest up the wall. I’m not sure if love and hate are really “like two brothers who go on a date,” but there can certainly be truth to the song’s theme and opening line: “The more you love someone, the more you want to kill ’em.”

“The Nearness of You,” by Hoagy Carmichael. Like most women, I love to be romanced. I like flowers, music, a home cooked meal, a night on the town and jewelry. But what really makes me feel completely loved and safe is just simple closeness. Proximity. Nearness. My father reads this, so I won’t elaborate.

“Please Don’t Stop the Rain,” by British singer-songwriter James Morrison. This song is about weathering (pardon the pun) hard times together and understanding that challenges can’t be prevented or stopped, just survived and overcome. Or as he put it: “If it’s going to be a rainy day, there’s nothing we can do to make it change. We can pray for sunny weather, but that won’t stop the rain.”

A number of my friends shared their choices either in conversation or via social media. My favorite responses included Nazareth’s “Love Hurts,” Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind,” and one particularly interesting surprise: Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” offered for the forthcoming nature in which the narrator discusses his personal sexual fetish.

That last suggestion took me back to other early-mid 1990s rap songs and made me a little sad no one tossed “Ice Ice Baby” into the ring.

Because, you know, sometimes in a relationship what you really need to do is to stop, collaborate and listen.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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