11 December 2009

Vanessa Williams: Save the Best for Last

On the one hand, this song is a great bit of evidence for second chances—Vanessa Williams lost her title as Miss America in the mid-eighties (and no, i’m not posting links to the particular naughty pics at the center of that scandal), but by the early nineties she effectively owned the soul and mellow pop segments of the airwaves. This song, “Save the Best for Last”, has become her signature song and is considered by some in the blogosphere to be symbolic of her public redemption.

I could buy that if the song weren’t so, well, horrible.

True story, though, before i get to the song itself: This was the “first dance” song at the wedding of someone i grew up with. It struck me as a wildly weird choice at the time, given its lyrical content, but different people have different stories behind their relationships, i guess. Also, i’ve been told that this was a fairly common “our song” in 1992, after it had seeped into countless teens’ and twenty-somethings’ brains as it spent five weeks atop the Billboard charts.

If you’ve managed to expunge the memory of this song from your memory, I commend your wisdom and suggest that you do not follow this link to the video for the song. If you can’t keep away from it, though, make sure to actually watch it rather than just listening, particularly for the cheesy sets (for once the snow really does look like soap flakes!) and the even cheesier overacting (hard to do when so much of the video is in close-up, but Vanessa Williams manages it).

So, on to the song:

Sometimes the snow comes down in June

Okay, i’m going to have to interrupt right here.

I recognize that there most certainly are places where the snow comes down in June. I live in Alaska, and there are a number of places up here where snow falling in June, while noteworthy, is not utterly rare.

Such a meteorological occurrence, however has nothing—i repeat, nothing—to do with the rest of the song. It merely serves to provide the first of two kind of weird images.

Well, and (according to the song’s Wikipedia entry) it provided a hook for reframing the song as a Christmas single. Yes, i know, she specifically says “in June”, but that didn’t stop PolyGram from successfully marketing the song as a wintertide holiday single to gullible teenagers.

Let us all weep for a moment for the future of the world.

(Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, of course. Then it would be really freaky to care quite so deeply.)

Sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon

Okay, i promise that i’ll let her get more than a single line out, but at least it actually sometimes does snow in June. This, on the other hand, doesn’t ever really happen. Besides, if it did, the Sun would have to pass closer than a quarter of a million miles to the Earth, which would be close enough to vaporize all life on the planet, and i suspect (but don’t want to take the time to do the math) it would vaporize the entire planet.

Of course, then we wouldn’t ever run the risk of hearing this song again, so it wouldn’t be all bad.

I see the passion in your eyes
Sometimes it's all a big surprise
’Cause there was a time when all I did was wish
You'd tell me this was love

This part confuses me. She’s surprised that the guy’s feeling passion because she wanted him to be in love with her? Or maybe she’s surprised at the passion because she used to want him and her to be in love with each other, but now she doesn’t? That last one makes more sense, but it doesn’t work with the rest of the song.

Is it too much to ask for a little thematic consistency here?

Oh, wait—i forgot. This is a melodic soul song. The answer, then, is yes.

It’s not the way I hoped or how I planned
But somehow it’s enough

Ms Williams is really portraying herself as a desperate type here, and as we all know, desperation isn’t a good way to land a meaningful relationship. Just sayin’, you know?

And now we’re standing face to face
Isn’t this world a crazy place
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

This is actually a pretty sweet set of lines, and i’m not going to really be able to mock it. It’s pretty clear, though, that the writers of the song came up with this chorus, recognized that it was really, really good, and threw together a ramshackle structure on top of a solid foundation.

You want proof? Consider the very next verse…

All of the nights you came to me
When some silly girl had set you free

Yes, that’s right, this great guy that Ms Williams is singing this song of desperate love to? She was his fallback when other women said no.

Yep, that’s a great way to avoid showing desperation—be a guy’s on-demand booty call.

It’s also where this song as a first dance at a wedding starts to make me slightly queasy.

You wondered how you’d make it through
I wondered what was wrong with you

Vanessa, he’s gonna make it through because you’re helping him avoid epididymal hypertension.

And what’s wrong with him is that he’s willing to use you this way. C’mon—you’re a beautiful woman! What are you doing putting yourself through this? You deserve better! Get rid of the guy and get on with your life!

Sorry about that—i started slipping into my inner Oprah there.

Let us continue.

’Cause how could you give your love to someone else
And share your dreams with me

Maybe she’s actually singing to Tiger Woods. That would explain this, i suppose.

Sometimes the very thing you’re looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

Well, it really depends on what you’re looking for, doesn’t it? If you’re looking for casual sex, then it would appear the object of your affections can see it perfectly well, at least when the lights are on at your place.

We then get some repetition, so i’m going to skip it.

Well, except for pointing out that along the way…

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon

…we get more bogus meteorology and astronomy.

Seriously, songwriters—just let the scientists do their job, and they’ll let you do yours. No matter how badly you botch it.

Anyway, this song still bothers me. A song about how a woman so desperate for love lets herself be used by a guy for occasional no-strings sex, and isn’t it just oh so romantic?

Next time, be more careful picking what songs you declare your undying love for each other to.

1 comment:

  1. 1. I had managed to expunge this song from my memory until you went and started writing out the lyrics.

    2. No wonder kids have so much trouble with science. They listen to songs that lie to them.

    3. I never connected the song to casual sex, but then I was only 14 in 1992 and didn't know what "booty call" meant.

    4. I think this was the song that the Junior Miss contestants danced together to at the beginning of the pageant when Michelle was in it.