Have you ever listened to a song so much that it became good? I don’t mean to imply that the song wasn’t good all along. Maybe it was just that you felt lukewarm about it. But there was something there, a je ne sais quoi that made you want to give it a second chance.
Maybe even this second chance left you tepid. Maybe you didn’t think about the song for months. But one day, over a plate of seafood pasta at a local bar and grill, the music returned to you, muffled, from the restaurant’s sound system. You thought you were merely enjoying some succulent scallops and fettuccine, but at work all around you were the song’s subtle tendrils of awesome, creeping into your brain between strained conversation, awakening within you a passion that must have lain dormant in your soul until this moment.
The next thing you know, you’re in your car wondering exactly how many times you can listen to Kelly Clarkson’s I Do Not Hook Up on repeat before your brain physically shuts down. And it’s crucial to know, because you will definitely be playing the song on repeat that number of times minus one.
Wikipedia claims that I Do Not Hook Up “has received unanimously positive reviews since [its] release,” so I want to be sure and tread carefully here, as I run the risk of being redundant and fading into the background (literally my worst nightmare). For eff’s sake, the song is a pop powerhouse: rocking guitar…a chorus that dares you not to jump to your feet…KC’s reliably wicked pipes…
I won’t bore you. The reason I decided to blog about IDNHU today, almost 4 months after its release – other than the fact that I am utterly incapable of being timely in anything I do – is because the lyrics spoke to me. Yes, personally.
[Editor’s note: there is a wooden sign hanging by the side of a road outside of Benton, PA that reads “You personally must accept Christ as your savior.” I sh*t you not. Please consider the previous reference an undying monument to that sign’s hilarity. Carry on.]
It seems ridiculous to point out that songs are much like poems, but in my experience, many people don’t realize the amazing mutability of poetry. The more you read a poem – or in this case, listen to a song – the more layers of meaning unfold. And hearing some of the words in a new way forces you to hear others in a new way, and so on, until the poem/song is a kaleidoscope of meanings, impressions, and emotions inspired both by the writers and by your unique interpretations of the words.
All right, I’m done gushing about poetry – but seriously, read some.
Anyway, needless to say, a week straight of IDNHU playing constantly (either on my stereo or in my head) plus a little late-summer loneliness is a killer combo. The presence of lots of easy cliches (“boys will be boys;” “with a snap of your finger;” “love the one you’re with,” etc, etc.) makes it easy to believe the song is vapid, but I now find myself overlooking the cliches in favor of the broader metaphor of the song and the truths it speaks about the peculiar condition of being in love.
The premise of the song seems simple: the subject (“you”) is suffering from heartbreak of one variety or another, and KC spends 3 1/2 minutes prescribing a cure. This does interesting things with the title line of the song, which many have interpreted as a testament to chastity or abstinence or waiting for marriage or some other repulsive agenda along those lines.
Blech. I see “hook up” being used here to mean “a drug hook up” as much as a sexy-times hook up. KC is the person who knows how to cure the subject’s broken heart, and a hook-up is not the answer (“A quick fix will never get you well”). So, contrary to what some prefer to think, when KC says “I do not hook up,” she doesn’t mean “I’m a repressed virgin who won’t let you touch me unless it’s with a ring,” she means “I won’t let you medicate yourself numb when you need real care.”
You know, just like a psychiatrist with a non-rich clientele. Which makes the line “If you want me, I don’t come cheap” both funny and true.
And, incidentally, this taps into some of those “truths” I mentioned earlier. I appreciate the frankness of a song that credits a) our drive to fix people’s brokenness (“I can’t cook, no, but I can clean up the mess she left”) and b) our desire that someone find us worth fixing (“I see you through those bloodshot eyes”) with being powerful factors in falling in love. As a rule, we don’t like to think about these things because it seems to cheapen the long-exalted concept of love. Or perhaps we don’t realize their influence because of how genuine love feels.
Or perhaps I’ve made that final, irreversible plunge into the depths of bitterness. Not ruling it out. I’ll leave that one up to you and Kelly Clarkson.