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Is Love or Singledom the Greatest Muse?
IF Morrissey bemoaned his lack of action and sexual braggadocio…
on The Smiths’ song Never Had No One Ever; one cannot even start to get their head around my lack of relationship glory! A lot of my daily creativity throws in a moral and soulful conundrum around passion and companionship. In order to peruse my desires and aspirations to the nth-degree; I need to have a degree of solitude and focus. How much would I be able to produce if I had a committed relationship and was dividing my time? Would consistent journalism and the relentless curiosity that comes with it create a distraction and, thus, have a detrimental impact on the relationship? I do weight that up and am not assuming that if I had greater clarity in respect of placing my bodily needs over that of the mind, I would be able to find someone and be happier. The reason I embark on such a lonesome and all-hours-consuming drive is that I can get more done and have few distractions. I am interviewing a lot of people and a few things are coming to light. For a start; many of the songwriters I feature are single by choice. They feel there is a risk of having to balance the full-time demands of a relationship with the full-time job and full-time career in music. Full-time-squared is less pressured and destructive than, say, full-time-squared.
One might say the pleasures and burden-sharing benefits of a relationship make the equation less daunting and less heavy. It is possible being in a relationship and being able to commit to music and all it holds. Another thing I have noticed is the fact many are looking for love in order to help get their mind away from music. They are actively seeking a boyfriend/girlfriend because music is such a demanding and tiring pursuit. Having an extra body and that affectionate company allows a sense of de-stress and assistant. We are more anxious and solitary than any time in human history. The rise of machinery and the digital means we fabricate friendships and have access to all things at the click of a button – there is less need to go out and bond with people. Whilst we can get conversation and communication from the Internet; they have not advanced technology so we can have a relationship and sex through this method. Relationships are, luckily, one of the last human pursuits that cannot be outsold to big corporations and technology. Maybe we can communicate with our girlfriend/boyfriend online but the physicality and sociability need to be there in order to make it work. What, then, does this have to do with music?! The other thing I am picking up (from interviews) is that failed relationships and the need for personal space are becoming bigger motivators for creativity than love itself.
We look back to the music of the 1960s and 1970s and a lot of the best songs are about relationships and the paens of common connection. Now, in this fast-paced age, sex and relationships are more complicated and variegated – the full spectrum is being explored and exposed. I am caught between a rock and a hard place right now. I want a relationship myself but feel, if I relinquish the lure of writing and the demands it puts on me; that risks exsanguinating my proliferation and taking my attentions away from my true pursuit. Songwriting, I have found, is less clear-cut than recent years. More and more artists are talking about the benefits of solo life and being able to have independence. Whilst many artists are painting pictures of doomed love and deceitful lovers; they are finding relief in that transition and looking more inward. We have seen the new breed of Pop artist – from Sigrid and Dua Lipa to Tom Misch and Superorganism – and the palette is not as commercial and lyrically predictable as you’d imagine. When artists such as Dua Lipa are talking about love, there is a lot more bravery, personality and broadness – the sex is more sizzling and saucy; the single life more nourishing and less fearful; the relationships more even and challenging.
If you had to answer this simple question: Do you feel songwriters are talking more about love than being single – what would you answer be? I feel the once-reliable muse of romance is being replaced by a move towards single life. So many of the artists I review and speak to are either single by choice or unable to find love. Whilst that might paint an image of loneliness and stress; many are using that sense of freedom to expand their careers and become more ambitious. Songs are reflecting a less confined and predetermined life – children and marriage – and artists, because of the hours they put in, are unable to commit to proper relationships. I am not saying hook-ups are substituting relationships and long-term love: there is a sense that time is limited and a career in music is impossible if one were in a relationship. That being said; I am discovering artists, like I said, who are finding it harder to find love. Dating websites are out there but that either leads to dodgy dates and mixed results. Few are finding anyone substantial and, largely, the liaisons are brief and unmemorable. That desire for love is still part of the songwriting cannon but, more and more, artists are embracing – willingly or not – a life of singledom.
From my viewpoint; I commit a lot of time to writing and, when I do go out, it is for errands and not necessarily sociable. I get carried away with writing and, whilst I get a lot done and pleased with my work; there is little time at the end of the day to do anything (but sleep, I guess). The weekends are very similar: a lot of work and scant time outside and mingling. Although that concentration and discipline leads to a prolific output and a good routine; I wonder whether my work would be stronger were I to embark on a relationship – fewer pieces but better quality, owing to greater happiness and fulfilment. So much of music involves relationships and how sex and love are entwined in the fabric and bones of the process. There are songwriters who write about conventional desire and being in contended romances: there are more and more who are writing about separation and the need to embark on a solo life. Does this mean, though, we are a less together and compatible people? Are successful relationships harder at a time when there is less disposal income in the pocket and more strain on the shoulders?! I find myself coming back to the paradigm of the modern Popstar: the embodiment of youth and the representation of young life.
Whilst artists in Folk and Rock articulate the complexities and realities of love as good as anyone else; it is those young Pop artists who have always focused on love more. Songs are becoming, largely, more mature and there is less emphasis on the ‘Ls’ of life: love, loss; lips, losers and loquaciousness. Artists are talking about psychological concerns and nurturing the self; coping with anxieties and finding it more difficult to concecrate their lives to relationships. It is odd comparing the way Pop and the mainstream, especially, has evolved through the years. Listen to a lot of the 1960s’ best and, yes, you will hear recrimination and romantic fall-out. There are more songs that express happiness and contentment in life. Even as recently as a few years ago; it seemed writers were in a more embracing and open mindset. Whereas love and its allure was a driving force then; now, as we look at new artists coming through – is love and its benefits outweighing solo life and tackling things lone? If I had to do a reconnaissance of all the interviews and reviews I have done over the past few weeks; when I ask artists about song inspiration and their status, the breakdown is quite clear: more artists are speaking about the negatives of life and more artists are single (than those in relationships).
Maybe that is just the artists I have been seeing: I feel they represent the changing nature of music and how artists’ lives are. That projection is not necessarily gloomy and clandestine. Loads of people are happily in love but I guess, given the time one needs to put into music; a lot are talking about love in more theoretical and less tangential terms – the need for something sustainable and uplifting is still there, though. I am one of those people who is motivated by career and creative success rather than embarking on a relationship and laying down roots. That is not to say, too, we cannot see classic love songs coming from the radio in years to come. I think love is a wider spectrum and more open forum than it was in previous years. We are more understanding of different orientations; people are not being defined by relationships and the life of the single person does not need to have any stigma attached. I shall leave things there but wanted to leave the feature’s headline question on the tongue. Listen to modern music and compare it with stuff we grew up with. One can chart a development and shift regarding the nature of a love song and what artists are writing about. Perhaps the charts are less beholden to inane love songs; maybe music has become more diverse and artists are exploring new territory – there is a definite change in the air! That eternal muse of love is strong but her skin is wrinkling and there are crow’s feet forming. What about me, then?! Well; I am hopeful of finding someone soon but feel, in order to achieve what I want from journalism and music my relationship status is not…
ONE I can change and negotiate with any time soon.