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Off Key: Where's the Love?

 by Ben Horowitz
 published on Thursday, February 23, 2006


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According to what I learned in my Sex, Love, and Romance class at ASU, more people break up on Valentine's Day than get together. Fortunately, my relationship survived. But over a week later, I'm still thinking about a failed attempt at a Valentine's Day mix CD.

Obviously, the mix was going to be comprised of love songs. There were a few cute ones from anti-folk darlings The Moldy Peaches and singer/songwriter Jason Anderson, classics from Van Morrison and Otis Redding, and the requisite cheesy 80s power ballads and hip hop poetry.

In the end, I was left tragically short of filling the 80-minute disc, wondering whatever happened to the love song -- and more importantly, what happened to women in music?

Music today is dominated by male performers. When they sing about women, their ballads seem to fall into two categories: "Girl, you broke my heart," and "Girl, we're gonna go to my place and get crazy in the bedroom."

Plenty of people respond to the latter. Some get offended at the objectification of women; others don't have a problem bumping and grinding to the songs at the local club.

The "broken heart" variety of love songs calls to mind bands from the rock scene. You never need to look too far down the charts to find a band singing about some nameless ex-girlfriend, pleading with her for a second chance or saying good riddance.

There are plenty of songs about breaking up, but very few about the awesome elements of a healthy, long-term relationship.

So, do any songwriters have good relationships these days? Is there love after Madonna and the material girls?

More importantly, there is something distinctly missing from all the songs about broken hearts and shattered dreams -- the female point of view. Women are almost always the cheaters, women are almost always the heart breakers and women are almost always the ones who walk away.

The stereotyping may not be intentional. But the end result of song after song addressing a nameless, conniving banshee woman is degrading.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say this is hardly an accurate reflection of reality. I'm not trying to argue that women or men are more likely to break up a relationship, but the over-representation of conniving, back-stabbing women is ridiculous.

If I were a woman, I'd have no interest in taking part in a scene where I am, by default, labeled a destroyer of relationships and a heart breaker. So, it doesn't come as a surprise to me that women are few and far between in many of music's subcultures.

There are occasional exceptions to the rule, sure. But they should be regularities and not exceptions, especially when there are so many talented women out there.

By no means should musicians stop writing relationship blues. Until bands and songwriters stop using their ex-girlfriends as easy song writing fodder, however, they are only contributing to the continued estrangement of half of the human race from the primarily "Boys Only" club of musicianship.

Send the title of your favorite love song to benjamin.horowitz@asu.edu.



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