10 Greatest Love Songs (That Aren't Actually Love Songs)

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Melissa Fossum
See more photos of Wilco @ Gammage Auditorium
Wilco, "I'll Fight" [2009]

In the world of popular music, any song is a love song by default until proven otherwise. And of course, everyone wants to be safe and protected. It's a plus if you're being protected by a romantic man that writes you songs with sweet ditties and wants nothing more than to keep you from harm. He'll even die for you if necessary.

"I'll go, I'll go, I'll go, I'll go for you/
I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight for you/
I'll die, I'll die, I'll die, I'll die for you/
I will, I will, I will"


Pretty sweet, huh? I'm pretty sure this song has been played at many-a-wedding without a second thought.

Nay. Screw you Jeff Tweedy and your lack of enunciation. Aside from the chorus, the lyrics to Wilco's "I'll Fight" read nothing like a love song. You see, back in the days of the Civil War, rich folk could pay men desperate for dollars to go to war in place of their beloved sons. The song is written from that soldier's perspective. It's about a desperate man in a dangerous situation, not about a desperate man willing to lay down his life for his love.

"I took your place, a deal was made, and I was paid/
And the gold as I was told was a place where my body could be laid/
And we will steal your life and die old in better homes/
Surrounded by your peers without suffering or fear/
Grandchildren far and near/
And none will shed a tear/
For the love no longer here"

It's pretty easy to decipher when you break it down. Maybe, deep down, we all subconsciously want Tweedy writing love songs about us, but fine... I guess this is the nobler story. -- Christina Caldwell

See also:

-Q&A: Wilco's John Stirratt on The Whole Love, The Autumn Defense, and Lacking Irony
-Live Review: Wilco @ Gammage Auditorium, 1/21/12

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Cyndi Lauper, "Time After Time" [1984]

Let's face it: It's damn near impossible to hear the first three chords of Cyndi Lauper's 1984 chart topper "Time After Time" and not think of that one time you put this song on repeat, downed two bottles of Pinot Grigio and a pack of cigarettes and cried, alone. Okay, maybe that is just me... but I doubt it? (Crickets)

That's why saying this quintessential '80s ballad wasn't necessarily inspired by a romantic relationship is kind of like being the guy who says the sky isn't blue; it's just how the human eye interprets white light. Everyone hates that guy, though that guy is, well, technically right. As for the inspiration of "Time After Time," the proof is in the lyrics, people.

When record label execs demanded one more song out of Lauper and Rob Hyman (who co-wrote and sang backup vocals on the track), both artists suggest a case of writer's block in the recording studio was the real stimulus for this classic "love song." Lyrics such as "the second hand unwinds," referencing Lauper's producer's backwards-winding watch, and "the drum beats out of time,'' about looking around the studio and just going with what you see (kind of like Steve Carell stammering "I love lamp" in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy). The song's chorus, as well as the verse, hint at a less-than-poetic inspiration, too. "You said go slow, I fall behind" Lauper sings, referencing the shift from an upbeat reggae beat to a slower, more romantic speed.

So, yeah, it's a song packed with "nothing special" inspiration -- though the end result is pretty damn sweet, isn't it? -- Nicole Smith

See also:

-Cyndi Lauper Is Kicking Ass and Taking Names on Celebrity Apprentice

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1 comments
Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

Toy Soldiers by Martika. Sounds like a love song but the message is basically, no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, you will fail!

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