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Christa Lawler column: What’s love got to do with it?

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Christa Lawler column: What’s love got to do with it?
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Sam Smith’s almost chart-topping new single is sexy.

It’s spare: piano, percussion, raw emotion. It’s the perfect soundtrack for when your spaghetti straps drop artfully from your dewy shoulders. You’re bathed in the sort of flattering light best paired with white wine confessionals (and upscale fitting rooms).


“Stay with me,” Smith sings, choke-whispering the titular phrase.

A Romantic could really get on board with this song. Draw a bath, fill it with bubbles, beg the night sky for a steady rain. Or ooze into that sleepy sway last practiced to Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.”

Gah. Is that an entire gospel choir pleading his case? Stay with him, Unseen Object of Affection. What more convincing do you need?

Or so I thought.

This song, in the parlance of the movie “Clueless,” is a Monet.

“It’s like a painting, see? From far away it’s OK, but close up it’s a big old mess,” the character Cher explains in the Alicia Silverstone flick.

From far away, this song is just smooth. If it had a thread count, that thread count would rival butter. It’s the perfect finale on a You-n-Me-Makes-We mix tape.

But to actually dig into Smith’s “Stay with Me” — read: actually listen to the lyrics — is to be introduced to the comically terrible morning after a girls’ night out.

“Yes, it’s true I’m not good at a one-night stand,” Smith confesses in the opening lines. “But I still need love because I’m just a man.”

The song finds Smith’s protagonist in that moment when he realizes he has achieved a night of companionship, but that doesn’t mean the companionship will linger into the light of a new day.

So, he begs. He uses his cry-voice. He charges soul-first into full-on emotional manipulation. He knows this isn’t love. He says so. But.

“Why am I so emotional?” he asks.

Oh, that? It’s just the sound of the British pop star rolling into the fetal position.

“Deep down I know this never works,” the sage says. “But you can lay with me, so it doesn’t hurt.”

Unseen Object of Affection, this is … weird.

Unseen Object of Affection, can you run in wedge heels?

Ah, well. Unseen Object of Affection, you’re going to be telling this tale to friends over mimosa brunches for the rest of your days.

“Stay with me,” he sings, by now his knuckles have been gnawed to bloody pulp.

Honestly, the world is full of love songs that sound lovey, but lean creepy.

REO Speedwagon is relentless in “Keep on Loving You.” The protagonist of this particular love ballad knows all about those other men. “Still I don’t remember. Because it was us way before them, and we’re still together.”

He meant every word he said. When he said that he loved you, he meant that he’d love you forever.

Recently, my cousin suggested that the melody of “Stay with Me” was pulled directly from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “I Won’t Back Down.”

It’s unclear what Mr. Petty is so steadfast about — it has been used as a patriotic anthem — but let’s just say it, too, could be considered creepy love.

“You could stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

Dude. That’s stalking.

Christa Lawler is the arts & entertainment reporter for the News Tribune.

Christa Lawler
(218) 279-5536