I like Bruno Mars. There’s something about his style — the voice, not the hair– that really speaks to me. In fact, I love crooners so much that I produce an internet radio show (Wednesdays at 9 pm EST) complete with ridiculously sappy love songs. Because we all need a good cry during the middle of week and no one has 14 hours to spare for a Lifetime movie marathon. So, the surest way for me to access the heavy load of tears welling up just beneath the surface is a little of Nina Simone, Bonnie Raitt, Adele, John Legend, James Blunt, and Fleetwood Mac. Unfailingly, every time I hear Landslide, this line in particular, “What is love? Can the child within my heart rise above?…Can I handle the seasons of my life?” I’m flooded with a grief of an untraceable source. Yet I always manage to answer in perfect time with Stevie. A resounding, “I don’t know.”
Bruno Mars isn’t on par with Fleetwood Mac or Meshell Ndgeocello or even John Legend. I’m not reduced to tears and I suspect most people aren’t either, at least not in the conventional way. My karaoke performance of Grenade was a tear-jerker for the gathered crowd at Hong Kong at Fanueil Hall, but that’s probably attributable to my spellbinding voice rather than the lyrics. Still, Bruno’s songs are way too pathetic for me to pass up for my show, Go Ahead and Cry. Take for instance, It Will Rain, his most lyrically absurd song which I played despite my intense hatred of it because I wanted to spark a conversation among my listeners about what music does for us and what this kind of music does to us.
Here’s what happens when I hear this song… I cringe. My blood boils. I practically black-out from the sudden rush of rage. I plan blog posts in my head about Bruno Mars, why he should steer clear away from pop music and focus on his vision of good music, and how it’s songs like this one that give pop music a bad rap. Don’t get me wrong though, I do like pop music. It’s
cheesy catchy, it’s digitized pleasant-sounding, and contrived fits a very specific mold depending on the decade. But I expect more from Bruno than this pop music posturing that everyone expects from boy bands and young, female break-out vocalists. I expect him to move me with meaningful lyrics, not fall into the standard pop love song formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girls, boy gets depressed and wants to die.
True story. You fall in love. You fall out of love. You’re heartbroken for days, weeks, months on end. You cry for what seems like an eternity. But if you’re already mired in a foggy depression from an unhealthy relationship, a broken heart, or the perpetual solitutude from a year (or eight) in singledom, the last thing you need to hear is four minutes of It Will Rain. A really crappy situation is aggravated by the persistent belief that life won’t be getting any better. It will rain, everyday. Everyday, it will rain. No more sunlight, no clear skies. Only a grey cloudy sky with the unfortunate chance of tears.
If you’re in love and your boyfriend’s a cheating, beating son of a gun and you’re wondering what to do, don’t listen to Bruno because he’d have you stay. If he leaves, everyday it will rain. And if you leave, it will rain everyday for him and you wouldn’t want to do that to the man you love. You’ve been dating a guy for three years and ready to get married? He’s still interested in seeing other people? That’s real cute for you, if you take Bruno’s advice and stay. It’s also really stupid. A failed relationship isn’t the end of the world. I promise.
People don’t break up because the relationship is growing and thriving, unless one of the parties is a commitment-phobe, in which case the breakup is what’s best for the other person because it frees them up to find someone who isn’t playing games. So, if you’re in a relationship and it isn’t going anywhere and you have an inkling that it won’t be going anywhere, but you’re afraid you’ll be too depressed to get out of bed once you’re single or you’re afraid he’ll completely fall apart if you leave him — well, you need to stop listening to Bruno Mars and take a page out of He’s Just Not That Into You. Because he’s not.
Alright, fine. It’s not all Bruno’s fault that you’re in a dead-end relationship. Seemingly competent, confident, and successful people stay in unhappy relationships all the time, not because they think they won’t be able to stop crying, but because they don’t want to be single. I assure you, being single really isn’t all that bad. Yes, it can be lonely. And maybe the unhappiness in singledom is far greater than the unhappiness in coupledom, but even that isn’t true everyday. Eventually it all balances it out long enough for you to acknowledge that the grass only looks greener on the other side because the sun’s beaming on that side and you’re standing in the cool shade under a huge oak tree on your side. Looks brighter over there. It’s not.
Before you know it, you’ll only cry when you hear Fool of Me or Stay with Me, and the rest of the time you’ll walk around with tunes of What a Wonderful World and Walking on Sunshine in your head. I don’t mean to make light of finding out that the love of your life is only the love of your life for eight months because I know it’s heartbreaking. When you imagine spending the rest of your life with someone, you imagine it lasting…forever. So when he/she breaks up with you, it doesn’t feel like the despair is temporary. It feels like it might live on forever. It doesn’t.
Part of that forever feeling is wanting to wallow in your own self-pity and the pity of each and every one of your friends for as long as it takes. And part of it is realizing that you can control your feelings and listening to this kind of music, although fine for one hour segments on Wednesday nights, isn’t conducive to piecing your heart back together and readying it for the next heartbreak. (How I wish that weren’t true.) When you choose to listen to sappy love songs in a vulnerable state, you choose to stay in the hurt. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, what you surround yourselves with has the power to either make or break your day. Granted, the lyrics are no truer than the myriad feelings we have following a difficult breakup. Think about it. How sad would it be if you could never see the light of day again because someone decided they didn’t want to be with you? How sad would it be to tell yourself that you could never again be happy?
Remember when Big jilted Carrie on their wedding day in the Sex and the City movie? On what should have been her honeymoon she asked her friends, “Will I ever laugh again?”
To which they replied, “Yes!”
And Carrie asked, “When?”
And Miranda, who my friends unequivocally agree is me in our group of four, replied, “When something is really, really funny.” Maybe I am Miranda, because there was no truer moment in any of the Sex and the City episodes or movies. The line is simple and honest. Yes, it will hurt like hell today, tomorrow, and the next day; but one day you’ll forget just long enough to laugh. Going on –singing, dancing, laughing– doesn’t just stop the rain and tears from falling everyday; it’s what encourages us to love again and again.