Putting our English Degrees to work by tackling life’s persistent mysteries…
The Song: “Your Love” by The Outfield
The Problem: Those pesky pronouns. Whose love does the speaker want to “use”? Whose love does s/he fear losing?
A) We’ll start with the obvious one —the “your” in both lines refers to the same person.
Yet who might this person be? Josie is the main object of affection named in the song, but alas, Josie is “on vacation far away.” Which means the person the speaker desires to “talk it over” with (don’t even get me started on what the “it” might be) must be someone else. For the sake of clarity, let’s call her Susan. In this interpretation, then, the speaker wants to “use” Susan’s love without losing Susan’s love.
Although at first this interpretation seems obvious, upon closer inspection it leads to several problematic questions. Why, for instance, would “using” Susan’s love cause the speaker to “lose” Susan’s love? After all, isn’t it common knowledge that one must “use it or lose it”? One would think that if the speaker were to “use” Susan’s love, then Susan would be thrilled and the act of talking “it” over would deepen their relationship.
Alternatively, if “it” is a cheap one night stand driven by hormonal desperation and loneliness, than why would the speaker care about losing Susan’s love? What do we know about Susan anyway? Very little description of her is given other than this one somewhat disturbing line, “You know, I like my girls a little bit older.” It’s never made clear exactly how young Susan might be, but we can assume that either she’s too young to legally “talk it over with” (in which case, the reader might wonder, how exactly does the speaker know Susan? Is the speaker her babysitter? Cousin? Uncle? This interpretation rapidly leads us down a perilous road…), or is the speaker professing an attraction for “older” women (but then why refer to her as a “girl”)? At best this interpretation is deeply problematic, At worst, it’s illegal and creepy.
In this interpretation several of the logical inconsistencies pointed out above are rectified by attributing the first “your” to the unnamed strumpet “Susan,” and the second “your” to “Josie.” It’s obvious that Josie is important to the speaker. After all, the speaker “ain’t got many friends left to talk to” [sic]. Josie’s significance to the speaker is further highlighted by the fact that she’s the only figure named in the song. Therefore, it stands to reason that the speaker doesn’t want to “lose” her love by using Susan’s love for one night.
However, despite the logical sense this interpretation makes, grammatically it’s a mess. The proximity of these lines would suggest that both pronouns refer to the same person, not two different women, and the unnamed and too-young Susan is the only clear green light to be spied off the end of that dock. Not only that, the song is titled “Your Love” so the object of the “Your” in these lines must be of considerable significance to the overall meaning of the song. Who, then, matters more to the speaker? Who is the greater “your”? The unnamed and too young temptress, Susan, or the named and noble Josie? The answer lies in the third interpretation.
C) The “your” in both lines refers to Josie.
Admittedly, this is a darker, more nefarious interpretation of this so-called love song, but consider its merits. If the “your” in both lines refers to Josie, the only person named in the song, then the meaning of the lyrics (and the manipulative magnitude of what the speaker is professing to his illicit one-night-stand quarry) becomes clear.
Consider it this way: “I just want to use Josie’s love tonight. I don’t want to lose Josie’s love tonight.” Now all the pieces fall into place. It’s not uncommon for women to find attached men to be more attractive than single men. After all, attached men already have the endorsement of one woman (and why are single men single? There must be something wrong with them, one might think). In addition, perhaps the unnamed vixen, Susan, thoroughly dislikes Josie and wants to seek vengeance upon her. It stands to reason, then, that the speaker might use Josie’s love to lure Susan to his place to “talk it over.” Of course, the speaker wouldn’t want to lose Josie’s love in this transaction, since it’s Josie’s love that confers upon him such attractive allure, and since Josie is his one valid, named relationship.
If we consider all the repercussions of such a reading, it becomes clear that the speaker is a sleazy, lecherous toad. But the speaker is also an honest toad in confessing to Susan (and to us) exactly how he’s using Josie’s love. In such a confession, there’s undoubtedly a cry for help (“no one is around when I’m in trouble”), and so the overall meaning of the song unfolds like a lotus flower in murky water. “Your Love” is both an empowering and a corrupting force, because “Your Love” enables the speaker to have seductive power over others.
Your Vote: Please help my wife and me settle a bet. Which interpretation makes the most sense to you, A, B, or C? (Leave a response below or via FB or Twitter. Results will be tallied and posted.)
The Lyric in Context (incomplete song lyrics included here for educational purposes only):
by THE OUTFIELD
Josie’s on a vacation far away
Come around and talk it over
So many things that I want to say
You know I like my girls a little bit older
I just wanna use your love tonight
I don’t wanna lose your love tonight
I ain’t got many friends left to talk to
No one’s around when I’m in trouble
You know I’d do anything for you
Stay the night but keep it undercover
I just wanna use your love tonight, whoa
I don’t wanna lose your love tonight…
What lyrics puzzle you the most? Share them below so we can continue to apply our English degrees for the betterment of all humanity.