You’d think that people would’ve had enough of silly love songs
But I look around me, and I see it isn’t so
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs
And what’s wrong with that?
I’d like to know, ’cause here I go again
Valentine’s Day may be a few days gone, but love songs have no season. In Switchback, we have written love songs over the years: Give You Love, End Over End, Rock Your Heart, One Heart, My Baby, Whistlepot, Looking At Love, Stellar Jay’s Wing and many more.
But as McCartney sings, there are love songs and there are “silly” love songs. What exactly becomes silly about love?
I was happy to see during the Super Bowl that one advertiser actually went through the definitions of love that I am about to offer now. According to the Greeks, there are four sorts of love: Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape.
Eros is the sort of love that most songwriters write about. One could argue that this is where the Silly Love Song has its home. Eros is the physical love between two people. And it is easy to see how this very-awkward-at-first type of love is easily made all the more awkward in song. Switchback pokes a bit of fun at this type of love when we wrote “her love hit me like a twister in a trailer park.” Sort of that physical “wow” that some of us vaguely remember.
Storge is love of family, love of friends. In songwriting, this is seldom made into a Silly Love Song. However, there are some wonderful exceptions. In this category for songs, I would say from the musical Gigi is the great “I Remember It Well.” Here, two old lovers turned friends reminisce quite inaccurately about how they were when young. It is a beautiful example of Storge love. For Switchback, an example of a Storge song would be “Simple Benediction.” We don’t mention love by name, but refer to the familial love, encouraging us to “join our hands together, for we never know the next time we will look in each other’s eyes.”
Philia. Perhaps after Eros, this is the most written about love. Love of belonging and sentiment. Think of “God Bless America” or Lee Greenwood singing “I’m proud to be an American.” Very few Silly Love Songs when it comes to these, even though after Eros songs these can be the most maudlin and syrupy. Perhaps one that comes to mind is the well written “I Got Friends in Low Places” performed by Garth Brooks. Does Switchback write Philia sort of songs? Not many in my opinion. Again, the idea is to stir loving sentiment on a general level. So the closest I think we get is perhaps, “Bolinree” which asks, “Why did we ever have to cross the sea?” That sort of longing, sentimental tune is perfect in Irish music.
Agape can be described as spiritual love. Unconditional love. Seldom silly, this is the sort of love that in the Abrahamic religions refers to the love of God. This love of God is emulated in a person’s relationship to another person. You might not feel Storge for someone, but you choose to practice Agape. This is the love that helps little old ladies across the street, fetching the neighbor’s damn cat out of the tree for the 15th time sort of love. Agape is also the powerful love of people who lay down lives for others. Perhaps our best Agape work in Switchback can be summed up in the song “Falling Water River,”: “Private William Henry made it on the evening news/ by the morning he’s forgotten by the likes of me and you.” Private William Henry, it is assumed, is practicing Agape love, laying his life down in service, striving to reach that All-love, that most people refer to as God.
So then, what exactly are Silly Love Songs? In McCartney’s case, he was referring to the Eros songs that he loved writing or as he describes them “soppy” songs. He says that as people grow older and have kids, they become more tolerant of the “soppy” songs, so perhaps here he feels that even though they are “soppy,” the Storge side of us will forgive the Eros “why don’t we do it in road” sort of song because we will feel nostalgic. Let’s face it. Not many middle-aged people choose to do it in the middle of the road, unless it refers to picking up after their dog.
When it comes to writing songs about love, I personally am very aware that my song should become a song that transcends my own viewpoint and can be assimilated easily into other’s lives. I think Brian and I try to keep the Eros to metaphors. For example, “She’s the hearth of my heart, the rise of my soul, Baby’s got lovin’” or “My baby, when she gives me a kiss, makes the water in my kettle hiss.” Fun with words like that can easily be described as silly. But I think we choose not to fill the world with just Eros, but the other elements of love as well.
Perhaps the most important thing about songs is that at some point, they do touch on one of these four elements of love. The need for love, the quest for love is essential to our existence.
I give McCartney a lot of credit for writing Silly Love Songs. While some of his songs miss the mark in my opinion, most hit true, like Eros’ arrow. A good, catchy love song is something we all eventually find ourselves humming. Those are hard to come by, unlike depressing sad, broken heart songs, which I believe are easier to write. So, c’mon, let’s just fill the world with love songs, even the silly ones. What’s wrong with that?