In 1967, John Lennon sang “All you need is love.”
But just two years earlier, on the “Rubber Soul” album, he was singing a decidedly different tune. On “Run for Your Life,” the album’s closing track, he spits out bile-drenched death threats to an unnamed “little girl”: “Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” The sentiment is driven home on the song’s chorus: “You better run for your life if you can, little girl; hide your head in the sand little girl.” From the sound of things, Lennon certainly needed some love at that moment.
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to the celebration of love — and if Hallmark is to be believed, romantic love, specifically. But for those who don’t have a partner, Valentine’s Day is probably not a cause for celebration. More likely than not, it can be a cruel reminder of loneliness, as singles are surrounded by flowers, chocolates, cards and couples out celebrating their own happiness.
And of course, there’s the music. Love songs are pretty much ubiquitous on radio anyway, but Valentine’s Day is an excuse to step it up a notch. Turn your radio dial to almost any pop music station today for proof of this.
Love you NOT songs
Anti-love songs to cure your aching, cynical heart:
1. “Kiss Off,” Violent Femmes
2. “Don’t Ask Why,” The Replacements
3. “Unhappy Birthday,” The Smiths (almost any Smiths song works)
4. “You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morissette
5. “Song for the Dumped,” Ben Folds Five
6. “You’re Breaking My Heart,” Harry Nilsson
7. “Cry Me a River,” Justin Timberlake
--Chris Wienk, program manager and afternoon DJ for WEXT-FM
1. “Love Stinks,” J. Geils Band
2. “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” Joan Jett
3. “You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morrisette
4. “Creep,” Radiohead
5. “Liar,” Rollins Band
6. “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor
7. “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” Hank Williams
8. “Hit the Road Jack,” Ray Charles
9. “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis
10. “She Hates Me,” Puddle of Mudd
--Dave Michaels, radio operations assistant and morning DJ for WEXT-FM
1. “Black Cow,” Steely Dan
2. “Rich Girl,” Hall & Oates
3. “Run for Your Life,” The Beatles
4. “Train in Vain,” The Clash
5. “Trust Yourself,” Blue Rodeo
6. “Via Chicago,” Wilco
--Rob Jonas, Troy singer-songwriter
1. “I’m Not in Love,” 10CC
2. “Idiot Wind,” Bob Dylan
3. “Better Off Without a Wife” and “Warm Beer and Cold Women,” Tom Waits
4. “Hello Baby (Do You Remember Me?)” and “It Serve Me Right to Suffer,” John Lee Hooker
5. “I Misunderstood,” “When the Spell is Broken,” “Tear-Stained Letter,” “She Twists the Knife Again” and “Ghosts in the Wind,” Richard Thompson
--Michael Hochanadel, Gazette music writer
1. “Train in Vain,” The Clash
2. “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You,” The Ramones
3. “Lounge Act,” Nirvana
4. “Jealous Again,” Black Flag
5. “Soul and Fire,” Sebadoh
6. “Run for Your Life,” The Beatles
7. “Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder,” Frank Zappa
8. “Delia’s Gone,” Johnny Cash
9. “Never Talking to You Again,” Husker Du
10. “Lovey Dovey,” Local H
--Brian McElhiney, Gazette music writer
Then there are songs like “Run for Your Life,” songs that express the opposite sentiment of the typical love song — the “anti-love” song. When you actually stop and think about it, these songs are more common than pop radio or other Valentine’s Day boosters would lead you to believe.
“It feels like it doesn’t come up in pure pop as much; it just seems to be much happier music,” said Chris Wienk, musical director and DJ for local alternative station WEXT-FM. “But I’ve pointed out some, like the Justin Timberlake song [“Cry Me a River”], and even the Alanis Morissette song [“You Oughta Know”], that were huge hits. Certainly any country song classifies as an anti-love song, pretty much.”
“You definitely see a lot more love songs than not,” said Brittany Nasser, owner of Divinyl Revolution record store (formerly Last Vestige) in Saratoga Springs.
According to Nasser, the anti-love sentiment is most typically found within the punk, metal and country genres.
“There was this great compilation of punk love songs that had really absurd song titles,” Nasser said. “It had stuff by The Dictators, Circle Jerks, Black Flag. One of my personal favorites, The Dead Milkmen, ‘If You Love Someone, Set Them on Fire.’ . . . Even like, ‘Johnny Hit-and-Run Pauline,’ by X, is another great song that has kind of the reverse sentiment that you normally would be wishing.”
Identifying what makes an anti-love song can be a bit tricky. Love songs are generally easy to figure out — there’s no confusing what Elvis Presley was singing about in “Love Me Tender,” or the yearning present in Eric Clapton’s “Layla.”
Anti-love songs can run through a slew of different emotions, from the flat-out rejection of the very idea of romantic love found in J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks,” to the misery and hurt of the failed relationship documented in the Clash’s “Train in Vain,” the famous hidden track off 1979’s “London Calling” album. (“Did you stand by me? No, not at all.”) It comes down to how you define an anti-love song.
Mike Guzzo, owner and operator of Capital Region Unofficial Musicians and Bands Site (www.crumbs.net), maintains that true “anti-love” songs are indeed a rare breed, characterized by the “Love Stinks” model of completely rejecting love.
“There are a ton of heartbreak songs, but do they really classify as anti-love songs?” Guzzo said. “You can list any country song as a heartbreak song, but that’s not anti-love; it’s actually a love song. . . . They were in love, now they’re not — they miss that love, so those heartbreak songs are definitely love songs. Some of these and some of the other anti-love songs are more, ‘I know it’s out there, I know it exists, but I don’t want that right now.’ ”
Troy area singer-songwriter Rob Jonas disagrees.
“When you say anti-love song, it can mean a breakup, certainly within the context of a song,” Jonas said. “If you say an anti-love song is the opposite of a typical love song, some man or woman gushing over their beloved, the opposite going on: two people saying, ‘That’s it, we’re done’ — that would be my definition.”
The majority of the material found on Jonas’ first full length album, 2009’s “Take Me Anywhere,” focuses on failed relationships in some way or another, so he’s well-versed on the subject. For him, writing a song is all about the perspective that you have going into the process.
“Most of the time, my songs are about people who have reached the end of their ropes — that fascinates me more,” Jonas said. “It may be because I’m single and have been for a while, and I’m probably not thinking from the standpoint of being in love when I’m writing songs. I think somebody in love tends to write love songs, while somebody not in love tends to write a lot of breakup or anti-love songs; it’s a natural fit.”
Perhaps it’s best to look at the one song that everyone seems to agree fits the definition of an anti-love song, “Love Stinks.”
The sentiment is right there in the title, of course, and the lyrics take things even further, sarcastically looking at the usual cliched platitudes that come with a typical love song: “Two by two and side by side/ Love’s gonna find you, yes it is/ You just can’t hide/ You’ll hear it call/ Your heart will fall/ Then love will fly/ It’s gonna soar/ I don’t care for any Casanova thing/ All I can say is/ Love stinks.”
Geils’ vindictive outlook is all well and good, but depression among singles during Valentine’s Day can be a very real problem. Don Lynch, psychology professor at Unity College in Unity, Maine, does see an increase in depression around this time of year in his students and patients, but is hesitant to attribute this solely to Valentine’s Day.
“For one thing, here in the Northeast and for people who live in the higher latitudes, good research suggests that depression is linked to a seasonal pattern specifier — SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder,” Lynch said. “I know there’s some research in the field in terms of Valentine’s Day distress.”
The study, done by James Houran and Leona Jerabek in 2004, found that adults “who didn’t participate in Valentine’s Day rituals or receive gifts do in fact exhibit signs of distress, emotional to anxiety,” Lynch said. Responses came from over 2,000 respondents, half male, half female.
Depression around Valentine’s Day isn’t just relegated to singles. According to Irina Firstein, a licensed clinical social worker who has been practicing in New York City for more than 20 years, the holiday can be a burden to just about everyone.
“Amongst singles, of course, it’s pretty obvious — it’s the day they’re feeling like the black sheep,” Firstein said.
“For couples, especially dating couples, it’s a marker of where things are in the relationship, or are not, often times, and a lot is invested in it. Particularly for women, it’s what the man is going to do for them; how are they going to approach it; what kind of gifts and how much fuss [is made over it]. A lot of people are hoping that they will get that engagement ring.”
Beating the blues
Firstein suggests spending Valentine’s Day focusing on other activities if you’re single, such as immersing yourself in work or taking a mini-vacation. Spending time with family and friends is another way to combat depression.
“You can also focus on the fact that it’s a holiday about love — that doesn’t mean it has to be romantic love, really,” she said.
“You can just focus your feelings, thought and time on people that you love and that love you, and have it that way, which I really think is not a far-fetched idea at all.”
And music can be therapeutic as well. Anti-love songs can express feelings of anger and depression in a way that can resonate with listeners going through the same emotions.
“I think listening to depressing, sad or angry music can help people in those moods, contrary to making them feel more angry,” Lynch said. “There’s a sense of sharing that distress with someone else.”