Thursday, July 11, 2013

Songs We Hate, Part Whatever: Eric Clapton, "Wonderful Tonight"

Let's be clear about one thing: if I were on the AVClub's Hatesong, I'd talk about "You Can't Be too Strong." But there are plenty of other songs I hate, and this is one of them.

See, I don't have a problem, necessarily, with a straightforward song where a guy brags about how hot his girlfriend/wife is, and how great he is for having her. It probably won't be my favorite thing in the world, but at least it's honest about its intentions. But fucking "Wonderful Tonight," man...rarely does a song seem this disingenuous, unctuous, and generally insincere.

It's late in the evening; she's wondering what clothes to wear.
She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair.
And then she asks me, "Do I look all right?"
And I say, "Yes, you look wonderful tonight."

Let's leave aside the clunkiness of "she's wondering what clothes to wear." Instead, let's concentrate on that second couplet. There's this smug, self-congratulatory tone just below the surface: her self-image relies on him telling her how great she looks, which he does because he's such a great guy. But he doesn't want to acknowledge that he's just bragging, so he buries it in this thick layer of faux-nobility.

We go to a party and everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady that's walking around with me.
And then she asks me, "Do you feel all right?"
And I say, "Yes, I feel wonderful tonight."

See? See?  You think I'm making things up? In the first part, everyone's gawking at the hawt chick he's with--with that in mind, there's just no other logical way to read the second part: he feels wonderful tonight specifically because he's with this woman whom everyone else is lusting after. Which, as I said, would be one thing if not for the fact that he's trying to make it seems as though this is all about how deeply in luuuuuuv he is. Who do you think you're fooling, asshole?

I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don't realize how much I love you.

Okay, so here he tries to recover from that last part: he feels wonderful BECAUSE he sees the love light blahdy blah. Yeah, okay, I wouldn't really be buying it anyway, but then he has to go and stick in more of this self-congratulatory horseshit: what's really important here is that she doesn't realize just how goddamn great he is. Clapton clearly wants this to be a tender love song, but he's like some kind of Vaudeville clown with his foot stuck in a bucket: no matter how he tries, he cannot help crashing around the stage knocking over all the scenery.

It's time to go home now and I've got an aching head,
So I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed.
And then I tell her, as I turn out the light,
I say, "My darling, you were wonderful tonight.
Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight."

...actually, I've made my point; I'm just citing the last verse because it makes no sense to me. Is his head aching because he got smashed at the party? Is that why he's giving her the car keys--'cause he's too shitfaced to drive? But if she's helping him to bed, presumably they're already at home, so what's the point of this? She has to go out somewhere again? Wha? I don't...?  Maybe we're meant to assume there's a lacuna between the first and second phrases in the second line, during the course of which they get home, but that's just weird and awkward.  Bah.

Anyway, this is the kind of post that--if more than seven people actually read this blog--would very likely provoke indignant comments: Grrr this is our song we played this at our wedding you're just a bitter, single asshole reading things that aren't there into a lovely song blarg. Well, I'll concede that anything can become meaningful and important to you if it's associated with good times in your life. Nor will I deny the "bitter, single asshole" charge.  I don't think it's really relevant to the point I'm making, but facts is facts.

And another fact is that none of this means that, objectively, you and your wife/husband couldn't have picked a less shitty song to be emblematic of your love. I mean, if said love is strong enough, no doubt this'll do; I'm not denigrating your marriage itself or anything.  But love is not enough to negate your bad taste. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

I agree! It's a crap maudlin song, narcissistic in intent. Clapton has done no good since he left The Yardbirds.

1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

No ifs if you will see this comment. Thinking this is an old post. It was just on the radio and i told my husband i fucking HATE this song. And when’s we got home i looked it up to see if I am alone. i remember when he told he loved that song and thought it was a beautiful love song …. Whaaaaa…. Guess i am not alone! Cheers!

5:59 PM  

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