Please don’t write me any more love songs
Songwriters who are stumped while writing a pop hit — or maybe a dance jam to rock the club scene — seem to do what so many have done in the past: Write a love song. From medieval odes to anything on Taylor Swift’s latest album Red, we’ve been writing love songs for a long time.
There’s nothing wrong with the musical world’s history of writing about love. Love is a complicated and deep emotion that can inspire great songwriting. It seems these days, though, that so many artists just fill an entire album with love songs, be they lamentations or glorifications.
Having a few love songs on an album is understandable — love is a central part of the human experience. But is there nothing else in this great and beautiful world to write about? People have been writing love songs since they’ve been writing songs, and there certainly doesn’t need to be another album full of them.
As a writer myself, I can see the temptation that songwriters have to write love songs. Love is a powerful emotion and one of the few intimate experiences that can be commonly understood. That common understanding means that it is much easier for a songwriter to spark a moment of connection with an audience, something I think of as a good goal for any song. However, some artists — Taylor Swift comes to mind again — abuse the easy connection that a love song grants and use it to pump out cookie-cutter hits. Writing about an emotion also lends itself to abstraction. Listening to an album with 12 songs full of abstractions leaves me dissatisfied and mindlessly humming the one catchy song on the album. It doesn’t leave me with anything to think about or give me an appreciation for the originality of the writing.
We should not stop writing about love. It is too important an emotion, and I’m sure people will continue to find original things to say about love for a long time. All I ask is that songwriters branch out and not retreat into abstractions about love. Instead, they must write songs that touch on the full gamut of emotions and experiences that life offers. Listeners should be told a story or impressed by clever wordplay.
Songwriters, follow the lead of Sara Bareilles: Don’t write me a love song. Explore the scope of human nature and emotions in your songwriting, and paint a more complete picture of the world we live in with your lyrics.