Unsentimental Love Songs

Unsentimental Love Songs


Art by Nyo-in

In Episode 31 of The Charlie Tonic Hour, Charlie shared Tender Trap by Joan Armatrading. He explained that one of the reasons that he likes the song is because it deals with the little everyday moments of love rather than the big dramatic declarations that most love songs rely on. That reminded me that Aloysius and I had come up with a term for those kinds of songs: Unsentimental Love Songs.

The unsentimental love song is difficult to define but like pornography, I know it when I see it. It can be happy or sad but it has to deal with some of the everyday aspects of love that is not often articulated in songs. For some reason the 70’s seemed to produce a lot of these songs. Take for instance Sister Golden Hair by America or Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind.


Sometimes the unsentimental love song can be very sentimental but it puts the emotions into plain, unflowery language. Billy Bragg is one of the masters of the unsentimental love song. His songs Brickbat, A New England, and Mother of the Bride are all excellent examples of the genre but one of my favorites is his spoken word version of Walk Away Renee.


It does seem that male song writers have a slight advantage when creating these types of songs. Call it the Hemingway advantage. The closest I could come up with for this article was That Time by Regina Spektor. British singer-songwriters also seem to have an advantage as well. In addition to Billy Bragg as mentioned above I can add You Were Right by Badly Drawn Boy, Something Changed by Pulp and of course, the most unsentimental love song of all time, There is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths.


I hope that this gives you some idea of what kind of songs I am talking about. So the question is, am I crazy for thinking that this is really a separate category of songs? Dear reader, can you verify that I am on to something and share with me some of your favorite unsentimental love songs? If it turns out that there are more people who can contribute then we will do a segment on the show about them. If no one else knows what the hell I am talking about then we will chalk it up to Ginny weirdness and go on with our lives.

Thanks to Koren artist Nyo-in for allowing us to use her art in this story.

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