Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song”

Hey there! So, I am completely in love with this song, and the singer’s persona, so I wanted to write about all the awesome stuff that I’ve picked up by listening to it eighty bajillion times.

Here’s the video, but since I’m only going to be talking about the words, you may want to listen while reading the lyrics rather than while watching it; it’s an interesting piece but I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

And here are the lyrics:

Head under water
And they tell me to breathe easy for a while
The breathing gets harder, even I know that

You made room for me, but it’s too soon to see
If I’m happy in your hands
I’m unusually hard to hold on to

Blank stares at blank pages
No easy way to say this
You mean well, but you make this hard on me

I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you asked for it
‘Cause you need one, you see
I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you tell me it’s make or breaking this
If you’re on your way
I’m not gonna write you to stay
If all you have is leaving
I’mma need a better reason to write you a love song today
Today

I learned the hard way
That they all say things you want to hear
My heavy heart sinks deep down under you
And your twisted words, your help just hurts
You are not what I thought you were
Hello to high and dry

Convinced me to please you
Made me think that I need this too
I’m trying to let you hear me as I am

I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you asked for it
‘Cause you need one, you see
I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you tell me it’s make or breaking this
If you’re on your way,
I’m not gonna write you to stay
If all you have is leaving
I’mma need a better reason to write you a love song today

Promise me you’ll leave the light on
To help me see with daylight, my guide, gone
‘Cause I believe there’s a way you can love me because I say

I won’t write you a love song
‘Cause you asked for it
‘Cause you need one, you see
I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you tell me it’s make or breaking this
Is that why you wanted a love song
‘Cause you asked for it?
‘Cause you need one, you see
I’m not gonna write you a love song
‘Cause you tell me it’s make or breaking this
If you’re on your way
I’m not gonna write you to stay
If your heart is nowhere in it
I don’t want it for a minute
Babe, I’ll walk the seven seas when I believe that there’s a reason to
Write you a love song today
Today

I absolutely adore the story this tells.

So, first, we have a kinda assy boyfriend:

Head under water
And they tell me to breathe easy for a while
The breathing gets harder, even I know that

My heavy heart sinks deep down under you
And your twisted words, your help just hurts
You are not what I thought you were
Hello to high and dry

Clearly, their relationship hasn’t been going well. Boyfriend asks her to write a love song about him, or he’ll leave. She tries, but the inspiration isn’t there (blank stares at blank pages). I think it’s partially the process of trying to think of the song that makes her realize that the relationship’s not going well. I kind of like to think that she came up with the peppy tune while she still thought she could write a love song, but as she tried to find words about how happy she was, she realized she wasn’t that happy after all.

However, even though she is quite clear that she won’t write a song she doesn’t mean (which isn’t nice, but does show some kickass artistic integrity!) she’s not initiating a break-up. She even says her goal with the song: “I’m trying to let you hear me as I am… ‘Cause I believe there’s a way you can love me because I say/ I won’t write you a love song/ ‘Cause you asked for it.” This, to me, is the best part: she’s not crazy-inspiration in love with him, but she’s not going to kick him to the curb. If he can find a way to admire her for her integrity, for the strength of her voice, their relationship can still work.

I told this friend that I loved this song, and she said she liked the tune, but thought it was mean to dump a guy just because he wanted a song. The blog that first brought to my attention had that same idea too, that it was a cool song partially because you knew the relationship ended because of it. But that idea bugs me, the idea that obviously he would dump her for this song.

It’s not a nice song, but it is an honest song, and if he really did care about her, the relationship is nowhere near ruined. He just has to say, “Woah, I had no idea you felt like that, but it took serious guts to write that song. Thanks for being so honest. I never meant to try to control you, and I’m sorry.” It’s only over if he says, “Oh, you didn’t write the love song I demanded? Then I’m following up on my threat and leaving!” In which case, it’s not her being mean, it’s totally him.

Actually, even if she didn’t have those few lines in saying “we can still figure this out if you want,” I don’t think I could get behind an argument that she’s somehow being mean. I guess being so public about it is more than most people would do, but it was his idea to put their relationship on the national stage. And if he bullied her enough about it that she felt pressured to actually write a song (rather than dropping it after the first time she didn’t show interest in the idea), my sympathy’s with her. I know that women aren’t supposed to be honest about their menfolk, they’re supposed to be nice, but you should know by now that my response to that kind of thinking is basically “fuck that.”

So to see a song basially saying that exact thing– “I’m not going to write you a love song because you asked for it”– that’s pretty awesome!

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8 Responses to Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song”

  1. Crowfoot says:

    I’ll admit that my first response was that it was kind of mean – but I think my first response was wrong. I don’t think it’s mean – it’s honest. One cannot demand a degree of love from someone else and telling them to either say it or show it publicly or you’ll leave them is just emotional blackmail. If he had said “I’m sorry but I don’t think I can continue in a relationship with someone who isn’t also deeply in love with me” well that would be different.

    women aren’t supposed to be honest about their menfolk, they’re supposed to be nice

    yeah, definitely. And I’m still struggling with my Nice Training :-/

    I like how in the video she’s a Love Song Writing Machine for guys to walk in and drop a coin and get one out of her. Of course she’s arguing that she’s not that in the song – but the visual underscores how that’s how he’s treated her.

  2. Eng says:

    I thought your friend’s response was interesting, because mine was sort of the inverse – the lyrics and the message were neat, but I couldn’t stand the tune. You’re right, though – the fun jingly background music, annoying as it is, is an interesting foil to the content.

    Which, to be sure, is excellent – certainly it displays an amazing strength of personality and integrity.

  3. yinyang says:

    According to Wikipedia (there’s no citation so I couldn’t verify it), she didn’t write this for a boyfriend, but for her record label, because they wanted her to write a “marketable love song.” It certainly doesn’t invalidate your interpretation, because it does read like she’s speaking to a lover (which may have been a purposeful decision on her part). Personally, it makes the song even more interesting, because of the double meanings, especially in these lines:

    You made room for me, but it’s too soon to see
    If I’m happy in your hands
    I’m unusually hard to hold on to

    And these ones:

    Convinced me to please you
    Made me think that I need this too
    I’m trying to let you hear me as I am

    I really love this song, too, because either way you look at it, it’s a very bold thing to come out and say.

  4. eloriane says:

    Yeah, I’ve heard that interpretation as well, but I didn’t mention it here, because now every time I hear the song I hear it as a song to the record company, and I like it better as a “love song”! But alas, I suppose the truth must come out.

    But you’re right, it’s a very brave song either way, and in some ways, it’s even braver as a song to the record company, as it’s much more financially risky to “break up” with one’s boss than a random boyfriend. Especially if other companies are wary of taking her on as a result. It seems to have worked out, though, which makes me happy. 🙂

  5. Samantha says:

    I love Sara Barellies, this song is one of my favorite songs from her. I love your analysis of the song. 🙂

  6. eloriane says:

    Okay, dear god, three people since yinyang have commented with the record company interpretation, which is, like, missing the entire point of the post? I started my whole discussion by saying, “I absolutely adore the story this tells.”

    This isn’t about what “really” happened– whether it’s her personal relationship or her professional relationship, we don’t know anything about it. This is about what happened in the universe in the song, the story of the relationship. And the song is pretty clearly, to me, about a romantic relationship.

    That’s the level on which I find it interesting, and having everyone say “oh but really it’s about the record company” sucks a lot of the awesomeness out of it. So those comments aren’t going to be allowed through. Why someone feels the need to comment on a six-month-old post to tell me that actually everything I said was wrong, even after such has already been pointed out once in the comments, and with a much more aggressive tone than yinyang… well, just in case you weren’t trolls, this is why I didn’t let you through. Next time, make sure you’re saying something new.

  7. She performs and performs for a man who’s come to fully believe he owns her. And the Music Box, he’s placed her in. For a nickel, the girl inside the box has come to succumb to her destiny as a performer, once the coin is put in and the music begins. The man has lost complete awareness that the girl he loved has become a pay-for entertainment.Her singing is more a lament for the sad situation, which by now she knows she can’t revert, for she’s lived that situation for too long. She’s in a box for goodness’ sake and can’t get out of it alone. The man has set aside that she may have loved her, but now she is no more than a possession: unique, valuable, quaint. the girl has been lost in the exchange, the transformation.She comes to realize this and asks him, which he still does not understand that if he can’t realize she is his lover, or was, of flesh and blood, tells him trough music, which is the box’ purpose to provide, that if there is not a change, will not perform today.
    She is still his hostage however and sabotages his enterprise by putting a nickel through the works. The music box stops completely. Once he realizes what has happened, he simply fixes the machine and does not attend to the real problem which is the unfair situation he’s placed her in. For some reason however, she’s been so indoctrinated by his treatment, that upon the dropping of the coin which starts the machine working again, she feels grateful, and embraces the coin.
    And the whole travesty begins to continue again. He satisfied he’s fixed every thing to the way he feels it should be, closes the box and goes on his way to do whatever he does…minding the store and providing entertainment through his nothing less than marvelous Music Box, with a lamenting girl in it, he fully believes is not of feeling, but of performance from which he gains notice and the public’s attention.

  8. ellaboi says:

    hahaha… This is kinda soooo late but then i cant help but respond.

    I like the interpretation here, though some may not agree based on the “real” story as to how the song was written.

    But no matter what the real meaning is, or people like it or not. its still depends upon us on how are we going to take the song.

    as for me, i definitely like it. soooo much…
    I kinda relate to the “message” it says, according to the interpretation posted here.

    It really shows honesty and guts to say it out like that. whether Sara intends to put it that way, it means that way for me.

    By the way, i also hope i can be as gutsy as the character in the story. hehehe 🙂

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