Stages Of Relationships According To Pop Songs
Boston had a Third Stage. Def Leppard had Stagefright. Funkadelic took it to the stage. Rush exited Stage Left. But from the hallowed halls of Psychology, it’s generally agreed that there are 5 stages of relationships.
Citing the work of Dr. Susan Campbell and as a musician, Psychology student and armchair musicologist, I came up with the exciting new field of Pop Song Psychology which coincides consummately with the social conventions of dating and relationships. I’ve researched and discovered there are numerous pop songs that correlate to mainly the first 3 stages of romantic relationships.
Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are”, obviously written in the ROMANTIC period of a relationship: Stage 1. Here no one has flaws, everything’s just perfect. It’ll never end. How lucky they are to have found Mr. or Ms. Right. You’re far from “Movin’ Out” yet.
Billy’s Ode to Stage 1 has outlasted the 2 months to 2 year average duration of the Romantic Stage oh just by a few DECADES.
More songs praising this idealized stage include:
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police albeit disturbingly from a stalker’s point of view. There’s also “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey and “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen. Co–-dependency is rampant in this stage, even put on a pedestal to demonstrate how much in love the new couple really are. The couple believes they can’t live without each other even though they got along just fine for a decade or more before they knew each other existed. “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow is a song that should definitely check in to Co–-Dependents Anonymous. It’ll probably check in as a double CD set though.
“Jesse’s Girl” by our pop star peeping tom Rick Springfield is an interesting twist on this. It’s about a guy jealous of a couple in Stage 1—his homeboy Jesse and his new girlfriend or shorty. If Rick waited a bit for things to run their course, he may just have “Jesse’s Girl” although he won’t win any Grammy Awards for discreetness. The upshot in it for us is we may all finally get to know her on a first name basis. A Stage 1 relationship is the case of most industry standard enamored, entranced, infatuatory soliloquy pop songs that are titled with someone’s first name with the notable exception of Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
“Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi is one of these too. I mean Tommy used to work on the docks. He don’t drive no BMW but Gina’s in love and won’t listen to her parents. She’s into her bad boy phase. She’s working the diner all day, working for her man and brings home her pay for love. But what happens when Tommy just keeps collecting unemployment checks and playing Guitar Hero all day? We never hear about that part. No one sings about debts, mortgages and repossessed automobiles.
Moving on, Tommy and Gina would be livin’ in a new song in Stage 2: the Power Struggle Stage. The “Wow, differences and annoying habits actually now exist and they’re BAD.”
There’s a few metric tons here. Probably more pop tunes than any other stage reside here. The stage where divorce, affairs and breakups most often occur. Here’s a partial list:
“Baby Come Back” by Player
“Misunderstanding” by Genesis
“Break Up Song” by the Greg Kihn Band
Actually Greg weighs in twice here with “(Our Love’s In) Jeopardy”
“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Separate Ways (World’s Apart)” by Journey
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. She’s back after shacking up with some dude from outer space.
“On My Own” by Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle
“She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates
And some songs, like Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” take us fast forward style though both the first 2 stages of a relationship.
For those that make it through Stage 2, the Power Struggle Stage, and aren’t praying for the end of time yet, they enter the Stability Stage: Stage 3. Like Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” you live the mantra of “Yes, we’re all individuals” and can accept it. You know and have resolved yourself about your significant other that “and this bird you cannot change.” You’re cool with giving each other freedom, space and choice.
Stage 3 is the second most common stage for divorce, split–ups, and couples counseling though. Also, people can tend to seek affairs out of boredom and stagnation if either rears it’s ugly head in this stage.
The best advice the pop world gives us here is:
“Hold On Loosely” by .38 Special
Or you could turn to the B–sides of this stage:
“Run To You” by Bryan Adams
“Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams, Jr.
Past the potential barroom and courtroom rubble of the pitfalls of Stages 2 & 3, there’s Stage 4: The Commitment Stage. People here see each other clearly and not through the rose colored lenses of their initial hormonal surges of the Romantic Stage. You don’t NEED each other, you CHOOSE to be with each other. It’s you, me AND us. And perhaps “Me And You And A Dog Named Boo” if as a couple you decide to have pets. You accept each other’s differences, preferences, and peculiarities. Yah baby, “You Can Leave Your Hat On” the tune made famous by Joe Cocker.
Last but not least (actually it is the least) is Stage 5: The Co–Creations Stage. This is where a couple functions as a team out in the larger world beyond their private relationship, but you know there’s just not too many pop songs called “I Love You Now Let’s Save The Whales.” “I Love You And The Rainforest”, “Our Love Is As Strong As The New Trees We Planted”, “Our Love Keeps Growing Like Everyone’s Civil Liberties” and “Our Love Keeps Increasing Like Lawsuits Against Monsanto” are still waiting to be penned by someone too.
It’s heavy stuff this Bono/Sting save the world shizzle and not many couples can go there hence the lack of pop songs about it. No, John Mellencamp’s, “Jack And Diane” are still back in a timeless High School void Stage of a Romantic Relationship. They probably got divorced by now. At the very least I think Diane filed a restraining order and Jack’s paying child support. Maybe Mellencamp will release those follow up tracks on a “From The Vault” compilation in the future. But songwriters don’t typically sing about that reality based gloomy stuff except Don Henley—“The End Of The Innocence” and Steely Dan with “Haitian Divorce.” Even Detective Barry Manilow went there at the Copa—Copacabana. Barry investigated the nightclub crime scene, dusted for prints and wrote his famous auditory affidavit.
Alas, but our friends in Prog Rock are no stranger to songs climbing higher on Maslow’s Ladder than on top 40 charts. These are tunes touching on the theme of Self–Actualization and the song “Closer To The Heart” by Rush is an example of this.
Although rare, deeper self soul searching and the penultimate quest for the meaning of life are more common themes in pop songs than doing so as a couple. U2 captured and rehabilitated these endangered song subject species on the tracks “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where The Streets Have No Name.”
I hope Lloyd Dobler isn’t around because it’s my turn to Say Anything and he may be crushed by what he’d hear right now and throw a vintage 80’s boombox in my general direction. But Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is actually not about a romantic serenade to a girl. It’s a song about discovering one’s Spirituality, a merging into a deeper relationship with the Di–vine not some girl named Di–ane. I do hope this clarifies things for him. But Lloyd’s just out of high school and God’s like not even on his bucket list yet.
By now, time has given our friend Lloyd some minor tendonitis in his fingers, arthritic wrists and shoulder blades from his all night cassette playback vigil outside Diane’s bedroom window. The “Radio Romeo Rheumatoid” is what I hear they call him in physical therapy these days. Besides (or B–sides) “Lloyd And Diane” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Jack And Diane.”
So why doesn’t love stay on the Top 40 charts? Is it nothing more than different CD’s the jukebox of our lives plays at the drop of a few lonely quarters?
Captain James T. Kirk can explore the Universe, be immortalized in 1980’s German New wave pop via Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” yet still painstakingly plead in anguish and confusion, (Spoken in Kirk syncopated verse) “Spock, why can’t love be like a pop song?”
(Spock voice): “Captain, human behavior is highly illogical as are your pop songs. I’m still quite befuddled by the lyrics of “Come Together” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” myself. It would be perhaps advisable not to get me started on “Yellow Submarine” or “I Am The Walrus” for that matter either. (Holding up Vulcan “V” hand sign) Goo Goo G’Joob Captain. I believe that means “Sing Long of Nonsense” in Beatleish or Beatlease, however one may choose to classify this yet uncategorized subdialect of 20th Century British English.”
But do you wonder, wonder, who—who wrote the book of love? Well, at least we know who DIDN’T—God couldn’t get a publishing deal. Now you know the truth…and Ye who knoweth the truth, the truth shall set you FREE BIRD!!
© Composer Yoga