What a supressive time it was
Love is a beautiful thing.
But the concept of love in and of itself turns humans into the most cliche versions of themselves. The grief of heartache, in particular, is uniquely transformative, breaking down humans of all shapes into feral cretins. The heartbroken human will cry at random intervals in the Trader Joe's check out line after spotting all the last minute snacks they and their lover used to throw into the shopping cart "just for fun." The heartbroken human will take up new hobbies like Ship-In-A-Bottle or Tennis that never have lasting power. Most importantly, the heartbroken human will yearn–oh how they yearn–for a companion.
Everyone has experienced a vast array of these dramatic emotions at some point in their lives, but when those feelings are translated into song, the end result is more often than not a little corny. This sentiment is especially true for the early-2000s, one of the most awkwardly suppressed eras in music. "In all of creation, all things great and small, you are the one that surpasses them all," 'N Sync croons on their cringe Christian ballad "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You." The melodrama of the early aughts was truly something to behold.
Here are some of the most shallow, and at times crass, love songs of the early 2000s with sentiments that just wouldn't fly in the new decade.
You're Beautiful by James Blunt
Even James Blunt himself hates this song. "Everyone goes, 'Ah, he's so romantic. I want 'You're Beautiful' as my wedding song.' These people are f*cked up," Blunt told The Huffington Post back in 2017. The 2005 track, which boosted Blunt to international fame, is actually about a stoned stalker who pursues someone else's girlfriend. "He should be locked up or put in prison for being some kind of perv," Blunt said.
The soft, fluttery track, with egregious lyrics like, "There must be an angel with a smile on her face when she thought up that I should be with you," was ranked number seven in a poll conducted by Rolling Stone that identified the ten most annoying songs. It has regularly been panned and parodied as one of the worst songs of all time and, upon further inspection in 2020, well-deserves that merit.
Lips of an Angel by Hinder
In 2005, Hinder's debut album cover– which shows a half-naked blonde in red lingerie and is nearly identical to Candida Royalle's book cover for How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do: Sex Advice from a Woman Who Knows–drew both attention and condemnation. Extreme Behavior itself debuted to negative reviews across the board, but the album still somehow went double platinum, thanks to the help of one misogynist love song in particular.
"Lips of Angel" follows the tale of a young man whose ex-lover calls him up to reminisce about how in love they still are, while the young man's current partner sits in the next room, unaware of the infidelity. "Girl, you make it hard to be faithful," frontman Austin Winkler belts out with a strained growl, "with the lips of an angel."
The song's coinciding music video, which offers a play by play of the ballad's narrative in case the track itself wasn't literal enough, also shows Winkler doing what would now be an extremely meme-able dance. Is his hand broken? Is he having a stroke? We'll never know, but the dance has lived in infamy for those familiar with the band.
Hinder's ethos of drug-induced debauchery didn't last long in terms of cultural relevancy, and the band has since parted with Winkler, sued Winkler, gotten a new, even more misogynistic lead singer, and faded into obscurity.
Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol
"Chasing Cars," with its slow-burn alt-rock build-up, vague and unassuming lyrics, and doughy karaoke-able vocals, made it one of the most abused ballads of the decade. It is one of the most-played songs of the century on British Radio and was nominated for "Best Rock Song" at the 2007 Grammys, but it remains in hindsight a perfect love song to demonstrate how suppressed people's emotions were in 2006. "I don't quite know / how to say / how I feel," lead singer Gary Lightbody warbles. "Those three words / are said too much/ they're not enough." It's incredible to think that in an age where emotional awareness is more critical than ever, these vague anecdotes resonated with millions of people.
In an interview, Lightbody admitted that he also wrote the song while he was drunk, which makes sense. "Hardly the first time, wasn't the last," he said frankly. The drunken haze is present in hindsight. "Let's waste time, chasing cars, around our heads," he belts out at the chorus. What does that even mean?
The Reason by Hoobastank
Another song that was equally as vague and insincere, the message behind Hoobastank's "The Reason" did not age well. "I've found a reason for me / to change who I used to be," lead singer Doug Robb belts out at the track's chorus. "A reason to start over new / and the reason is you." The toxic nature of codependency was clearly not a part of the romantic conversation in 2003.
Regardless, the song was nominated for "Song of the Year" at the 2005 Grammys. Its dated narrative rings loud in the 2020 climate, especially considering the track's impersonal apologies like: "I'm sorry that I hurt you / it's something I must live with every day...I wish that I could take it all away and be the one who catches all your tears."
Fall For You by Secondhand Serenade
ohn Vesely seems like a well-intentioned dude. He is candid and kind in interviews and really gives off a "love is love" type-of vibe. With that said, "Fall for You," his band's iconic 2008 smash hit, just oozes with corniness.
The dramatic piano swells, the backing violins, overly enunciated lyrics like: "So breathe in so deep / breathe me in / I'm yours to keep"–it all equates to being just a bit too much. His candid self-deprecation in the early 2000s was seen as charming, but in 2020 just evokes eye-rolls. "Fall for You" still ended up going double platinum anyway.
Collide by Howie Day
Early-aughts singer-songwriter Howie Day may not be a household name in the new decade, but in 2003 his hit ballad "Collide" slowly crept into listeners' hearts across the country. The song was so commercial-ready that it was featured in every sappy TV show from General Hospital to Friday Night Lights, but now just sounds flimsy.
The lover Day is "tangled up in" is described as clingy, despite Day clearly having had sex with her. He continues to lead her on despite knowing how much more she adores him than he does her. The melody may sound beautiful, but its sentiment isn't as wholesome as it once portrayed.