Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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100 Years, 100 Songs: #98. Donna Lewis – “I Love You Always Forever”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 10, 2007

“Feels like I’m standing in a timeless dream…”

I have to believe that the reason so few people seem to care about, or even remember “I Love You Always Forever” is because of the Maccarena. While Donna Lewis’s 1996 gem was marooned at #2 on the pop charts for over two months, the omnipresent Los Del Rio tune was spending 14 weeks on top, denying ILYAF its rightful place in pop immortality. Of course, this proposition is completely ridiculous, since maybe two dozen people in the entire country know or care what chart position Donna Lewis’s one hit tapped out at. Maybe it’s just that the Maccarena was so ubiquitous that it’s the only thing people can remember about the summer of ’96, that seems more likely.

It’s gotta be that, since I can’t fathom another reason why one of the best pop love songs of all-time seems to only linger on in the memory of 90s pop obsessives like myself. I’ve talked about this somewhat at length in other venues before, but to me, “I Love You Always Forever” is the apotheosis of a certain love song subset, that of the smothering, all-encompassing, almost womb-like pop song–the kind of love song that lyrically and musically attempts to totally envelop you in its spell. Other songs I place in this category are Sophie B. Hawkins’ “Damn! I Wish I Was Your Lover,” Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” and the mother of them all, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” (Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” was arguably the song that invented this type of love song, unfortunately it pretty much sucks), all of which I would’ve loved to have included if the number 100 was, say, 500 larger. Lulling, hypnotic, and extremely moving stuff.

“I Love You Always Forever” probably comes out on top among these stellar peers because Lewis’s voice is so well fit for this sort of song–her voice is almost childlike; high-pitched, whispery and very emotionaly affected, like Joanna Newsom if she graduated from Kindergarten to 4th or 5th grade. It works well for a song whose lyrics could really only be described as childlike–a rare love song that seems almost completely pure in its intentions. It’s as if sung from someone who didn’t have enough experience with love to know that occasionally, yeah, there are some not-perfect things about it–or, as I’d probably like to think, from someone who was currently experiencing a love so immaculate that it erases all unpleasant memories and sensations to ever be associated with the feeling.

It’s the kind of song that you’d give your left arm to be the inspiration behind, and then your right arm to be the recipient of. Even the best love songs are often too selfish, but “I Love You Always Forever” strikes the perfect balance between “I can’t beleive how much in love I am” and “I can’t believe how much in love you are making me feel.” It even verges on being too selfless (“You’ve got the most unbelievable blue eyes I’ve ever seen / You’ve got me almost melting away”), but then the bridge kicks in, and suddenly and unexpectedly Lewis demands validation and reciprication of her feelings (“Say you love, love me forever, never stop, never whenever”), which seems fair enough, since she’s already made more than done her part.

The appeal of the song has as much to do with the production as it does Lewis herself. Lewis’s hushed cooing is presented so pristinely that you can hear the nuances of her every breath, and she’s supported by a bed of the dreamiest synths since “Bette Davis Eyes,” undulating guitar and a metronomic drumbeat that sounds uncoincidentally like a heartbeat. It’s like the Cocteau Twins if Liz Frasier ever sang intelligibly, or could write a better hook than “Carolyn’s Fingers“–soothing, sensual and totally lush beyond imagination. This feeling is more than accentuated by the song’s video, which features Lewis cavorting in peach-colored, overexposed rooms, often surrounded by frilly things and constantly contending with a wind machine blowing her hair back. Lewis is the sole focal point in every one of the video’s shots, which is appropriate–like the song, the video’s main purpose is to convince you that Donna Lewis does, in fact, love you always forever, and she’s not gonna let anything distract you from this focus sentence.

I’m not sure why Lewis’s success was so flash-in-the-pan. Her second, um, hit “Without Love” (a whopping #41), is actually pretty good–at least as good as Sophie B. Hawkins’ second hit, which was significantly more successful–but the public apparently had its fill with Donna, and the one-hit remains her legacy. But even if it isn’t much of a legacy in the public consciousness, it’s more than enough to earn her a spot on my list and in my heart–near and far and always, and everyhwere, and in between. I want a girl to sing this song to me on my wedding night someday.


2 Responses to “100 Years, 100 Songs: #98. Donna Lewis – “I Love You Always Forever””

  1. […] Original post by Andrew Unterberger and plugin by Elliott Back […]

  2. Hey, “Wuthering Heights” is great. And I’m one of the apparently few who remember and love this song along with you – but until now I didn’t notice how much Lewis’ voice in the first verse sounds like Kate Bush’s.

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