Monday, September 18, 2023

This Year: 2007

"This Year" is a series of weekly posts, each about one song from one year of my life. See the introduction for more.

A decade ago, I posted the video for this song as "the truest love song ever."

I stand by my words.

My song for 2007 was then, and still is, Someone to Love by Fountains of Wayne, the band that took its name from a homegoods store I used to drive by almost every single day. (The store is gone now. The band is broken up, too, I think: was even before Adam Schlesinger died.)

Fountains of Wayne was always too smart for their own good, writing pop songs that were uneasily aware that pop songs were silly and ephemeral, songs that twisted their premises one or two more twists tighter, squeezing out the casual audience as they went.

But that extra twist is what made them brilliant, at least for a relentless intellectualizer like me. All the way back at their first album, they had a song named Please Don't Rock Me Tonight. And they had doomed-love songs from the jump as well, with the lovely She's Got a Problem.

But Someone to Love takes it further, in impeccable power-pop format. We get two strong verses, each introducing a main character: Seth Shapiro and Beth Mackenzie. They're both alone in the big city, both have quirky details quickly described, both looking for someone special.

We know how this kind of song goes. We're poised for the meet-cute and the forever-after.

After each verse, we hit that super-punchy refrain:

Don't give out
Don't give up
One of these nights you might find someone to love

But then the short third verse just murders the whole concept of a love song, in four quick lines.

Seth Shapiro is trying in vain
To hail a taxi in the morning in the pouring rain
Beth Mackenzie sees one just up ahead
She cuts in front of him and leaves him for dead

The entire song stops, catches its breath, and then...

We jump back to the refrain like a whipcrack, but it's almost wordless this last time. There's only one thing they can say, only one last thing left.

Someone to love

That's what we all want. But this is not a song about getting what we want. It's not the song we thought it was at all, but a colder, sadder, devastating song instead. That's probably why I like it so much.

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