Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #38. “If That Ain’t Love, Then I Don’t Know What Love Is…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 20, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I don’t know why or how it is exactly that I ended up giving such a sappy, heartfelt and generally critically-reviled stretch around this corner of the list–dutiful readers will no doubt recall the placement of Lifehouse’s “Hanging By a Moment” and Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah” in rather recent entries–but I do apologize. Know that I don’t necessarily enjoy writing these in such rapid succession any more than you do reading them (but what can I say? I’m a slave to objectivity). With that in mind, and also considering that I’ve already written something about it on IITS (though upon further review, not really one of my finer efforts), I’m going to keep this entry limited to just a few key points. I trust there will be no objections, as I think I’ve only ever met one other person that could even stand this song, let alone go to bat for it on this level.

  • The thing that really continues to fascinate me about this song, and about Gym Class Heroes in general, is their seamless blending of what’s traditionally considered white and black–not just of the sounds, but of the cultures. I know it’s not exactly  revolutionary that Travis McCoy should cast both a hot black girl and a cute white indie girl (later revealed to be McCoy’s real-life girlfriend Katy Perry, unfortunately) as love interests in the video, or to feature both a beatbox breakdown and Patrick Stump singing a Supertramp-dervied hook, but they’re just not something you saw very often in Naughty Oughties pop, especially without any sort of attention being drawn to them. Emo sentiments with hip-hop panache…I dunno, I thought it had potential. (And yeah, you could probably argue Slug and Atmosphere and them to be more innovative on similar grounds, but it’s just not the same thing.)
  • The sincerity of a song like “Cupid’s Chokehold” probably means more when you consider the kind of assholes that the Gym Class Heroes were surrounding themselves with–narcissistic, mean-spirited little shits like Pete Wentz, Gabe Saporta, and yes, Katy Perry, who dear lord I hope didn’t actually inspire the song. These guys made a cottage industry out of turning biting, spiteful phrases and forming bitter, self-pitying love songs around them–where even the most genuine statements of affection come wrapped in insecurity and mistrust. For a song as unrservedly gushing and unguarded as this to come out of that crowd must have represented the most high-alert-level of security breach, and frankly, I’m still stunned that it happened.
  • The harmonies on “If that ain’t love, then I don’t know what love is” are killer. In fact, general note to pop artists going forward into the 2010s: A little harmony is rarely, if ever, a bad thing. Lets us know that you’re trying, at the very least.
  • “Simplicity should not be cited as a virtue,” wrote reader David B in response to my earlier blog entry on this song, specifically regarding the “She even got her own ringtone / if that ain’t love…” lines. And while it’s true that your best girl meriting her own ringtone does not necessarily equate to love on its own (nor does her cooking you pancakes, giving you Alka-Seltzer when your tummy aches or loving the music that your band makes), I don’t see how David or anyone can argue that taking the small-details approach to love balladry is a bad thing. One of the worst things about love being the default subject matter for pop music is that it artists are almost given an excuse to be lazy and vague when describing their beloveds, and the emotions they inspire. But it’s the little things in the song–from rhapsodizing about the way she says his name to framing the entire thing as a rambling, overjoyed phone call to his parents–that make the emotions in the song feel real and bred from experience, and not just a plug and play pop ode. And “Call it dumb, call it luck, call it love or whatever you call it / But everywhere I go I keep a picture in my wallet” is just a fantastic closing line.
  • The Supertramp sample…well, it’s great as long as you don’t listen to the words too closely. But hey, Supertramp! Everyone loves Supertramp!

Snarkier content tomorrow. I hope.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold”

One Response to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #38. “If That Ain’t Love, Then I Don’t Know What Love Is…””

  1. MBI said

    “The sincerity of a song like “Cupid’s Chokehold” ”

    Do you actually believe that “Cupid’s Chokehold” is sincere?

    I’ve never even considered this possibility.

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