So the themes of loneliness and longing seem to keep coming up in songs I write about here, and it's interesting that (1) I hadn't noticed these were ongoing themes before this context had me thinking about it a new way, in part because I only post here sporadically; and (2) I seem to never get tired of writing about my interpretations of these themes in the songs, again possibly because I don't post that often. Or maybe because I can relate so well to these themes, as I am sure many people can.
Why is it so engaging to hear songs about people who miss loved ones, or people who love deeply but silently, or people who question whether they are loved?
I know I am not the only one who is touched by lyrics like these, and the reason I know this is because these themes are *everywhere*. Once I was aware of the trend in the MF songwriting world (meaning in his own songs and in those written by friends/peers of his), I started to really look around - at the music charts, at what is playing on the radio, songs in movie soundtracks, not to mention within the a-ha catalogue, etc. - and it is fairly pervasive. Just the other day I was at the Billboard Music Awards listening to 'Girl Crush' performed by Faith Hill and Little Big Town, and thought: this is basically a variation on the emotions behind 'If He's The One' written by Magne for Martin Halla. I looked around me and everyone seemed to be genuinely moved by the song.
[Kinda made me wish Martin had released it as a single, I wonder how it would have done? 'Illuminate the sky' is full of longing, too, and that did very well. Also, although it didn't chart, 'You Can't Have It Both Ways' was to me at first an unexpected success, people absolutely loved it - then I realized it is likely because of this complex story of longing, separation and devotion. It is an emotionally powerful song, and I am glad that people embraced it so well.]
The truth is that people are naturally empathetic, I think. Even if we're not alone ourselves, we have been alone at some point in the past, or we can simply put ourselves in others' shoes so easily, that these themes grab us all by the heartstrings. Just take TV shows and movies: we root for the underdog, we hope for beloved characters with secret crushes on each other to get together, we love a good long shot romance! A victory for a fictional relationship that has faced challenges is always so satisfying to watch ;-) And scriptwriters return to these sure-fire themes again and again.
Many of a-ha's songs are about longing, separation, loneliness. Magne even pointed out in the 'Mad World' book that 'Take On Me' is actually a sad song, no matter how many people consider it a light-hearted dance tune. It is one heart pleading to another for love, in the midst of uncertainty.
It's an accepted belief among many a-ha fans that Paul and Lauren's early long distance relationship inspired Paul to write some of the best-loved, most beautiful and enduring love songs of the 80s/90s. While the element of longing has continued throughout a-ha's albums, and it has manifested in a variety of forms, I don't think any of the newer lyrics move me in the way that the early ones still do; but 'Foot of the Mountain' and 'Sunny Mystery' are exceptions, they are longing of a different, more complex sort, and I absolutely love them. But then I am at a different point in my life, I am not a lonely teenager anymore, constantly carrying a torch around for someone I couldn't be with for various reasons. Still the power of those early songs is that they can take all of us - whether we are in a relationship now or not - to a time in our lives when we knew all too well those feelings of longing and loneliness.
I will be interested to see if these themes turn up in 'Cast In Steel', and obviously I can't wait to hear Magne's contributions to the album. 'Foot of the Mountain' was written in 2007/2008, that's a long time ago now - during which time Magne and Morten have writtten/produced some amazing songs. They have progressed a great deal as songwriters in the last 7-8 years, and combined with Paul's already formiddable talent, I secretly hope that 'Cast In Steel' will be a-ha's 'full potential album' that everyone talks about with misty eyes. And hopefully there is at least one amazing song about longing for love ;-)
I haven't forgotten about 'Supersonic Sound'. Next time ~