July 24, 2013 by NowhereButPop
For the most part I relegate myself to being a devoted sycophant for about six bands only: Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones. These are the bands that live in the pantheon of musical greatest, the untouchables if you will. For the most part I listen to at least one album by these six bands once a week. But, at the same time, I really like love songs. Love songs are my musical guilty pleasure. As I once told a friend “I gotta balance all that Metallica out with something”. I have my top ten favorite songs of all time, and then I have my secret to ten favorite songs of all time, most of which are love songs. They’re just nice songs, I don’t know how else to describe it.
Some of my favorites though, are unconventional ones. Of course Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” and Elton John’s “Your Song” are numbers 2 and 1, respectively, on my secret list, but there are three others, that while probably aren’t on the list, are ones I’m inexplicably fascinated by. These three songs have three things in common with each other which adds to my love and wonderment of these songs:
1) They are love songs, but are not ballads.
2) They are the last track on their albums
3) They are on an album that is aggressive, dark, and rough.
These three songs are “Rocket Queen” by Guns N’ Roses, from the album Appetite for Destruction, “Train in Vain” by the Clash, from the album London Calling, and finally, “Bound 2” by Kanye West, from his newest album Yeezus. Even though they aren’t a ballad, make no mistake about it, all three of these songs are love songs that expose a soft underbelly, a sensitivity, to their entire album. The fact that they are the last track on their albums is to counterbalance the aggression of the rest of the album. On these three albums, the last track serves as the light at the end of the tunnel, the rainbow after the flood. It symbolizes that no matter how heavy or bad things may get, there is that silver lining of love being out there. These artists wanted a love song to be the lasting impression of an album that has characteristically been construed as being heavy and hard and rough around the edges. Well, yeah it is rough around the edges to protect that inner sensitivity that becomes ever so evident while listening to the final track.
“Rocket Queen” is a song that has its origin rooted in a relationship between Axl Rose and a woman he met when he first came to L.A. Being a stranger and new to the scene she took him in, cared for him, and “kept me alive for awhile” as Rose himself would declare. This track was his ode to her. Keep in mind that the song starts off with a harsh and heavy riff that’s coupled with Rose’s wailing lyrics telling his “Rocket Queen” to watch out because he’s wise to her act. Then all of the sudden after the recorded sounds of Axl having sex during the bridge of the song, it suddenly turns into this caring and emotional song, seemingly out of nowhere. An album riff with lyrics like “They’re out to get me, so you can suck me”, and “Tied up, tied down, be my rubber maid baby and we can do it all”, has a certain tone to it, but “Rocket Queen”, specifically the ending, breaks from this trend.
Lyrics like “If you need a shoulder, or if you need a friend, I’ll be here standing until the bitter end”, convey a sense of emotion and compassion that is almost entirely absent from the rest of the album. Axl once said “The last part of the song is my message to this person, or anybody else who can get something out of it. It’s like there’s hope and a friendship note at the end of the song”; I think this leaves little doubt that “Rocket Queen” was put as the final track for a reason. Furthermore, the last line of the entire album is “All I ever wanted was for you to know that I care”. Quite a contradiction to the guys who once wrote a chorus with the following lines “Take me down to the paradise city, where the girls are fat and they got big titties”.
Next up is “Train in Vain”, the closing track to London Calling. I find it somewhat suspicious that originally this was a hidden track on the album, almost as if the intent was to surprise fans with a love song. For an album that deals with political futility, nuclear disaster, and a few too many overt jabs at The Who, for it to end on a song about heartbreak is interesting to say the least. Here is a guy in Joe Strummer who really gives off the impression that he doesn’t like anything; after all there’s a cut on the album entitled “Hateful”. It’s almost discomforting to hear that same guy say “without your love I won’t make it through”. For an album with aggressive and borderline Marxist lyrics, the last thing listeners hear is actually a love song about this guy who seems pretty heartless and mean, but in reality is just suffering from a broken heart.
What can I possibly say about “Bound 2” that will do it justice? I’ll start off with the obvious and say that it is and most likely will forever be my favorite song by Kanye West. Everything you need to know about him is wrapped up in this song. Like the other two examples presented, “Bound 2” conveys a sensitive and even loving end to an album that is aggressive and relentless. It’s that beam of sunshine breaking up the storm overhead. “Bound 2” connects the theme of lost love from 808s with the theme of introspection and self analysis from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. What he’s telling us is that even though he’s been in love before, he hasn’t really felt like he’s been loved in return. That’s why the sampling in this song is so important. “I just wanted love” represents him and what he wants, while the “uh-uh honey” represents the reality that he hasn’t found it yet.
At the end of the day “Bound 2” cements the fact that Kanye is just some guy who wants to be loved. The mask comes off for those three and a half minutes, where he’s not rapping about fisting someone or being great. However he does it in the most Kanye West way “How can you not love me, I’m Kanye West”, that kind of way, that got really old really fast on 808s works perfectly here because it’s sincere this time, and it is the exception on the album, not the rule.
What I love most about these three songs is that they juxtapose the rest of the albums that they appear on. “Rocket Queen” denotes hope and compassion on an album mired in sex and rebellion, “Train in Vain” conveys heartbreak on an album that is overtly socially and politically conscious, and “Bound 2” emotes a haunting feeling of wanting to be loved amidst a tonally dark album rife with sexual imagery and unhealthy narcissism. Their inclusion on the album along with their placing as the last track, the lasting image (or sound) of the album, says something about the artist that wrote them. All you need is that one song that juxtaposes everything previously encountered on that album to have a meaningful and profound impact. For these examples and countless others it happens to be a love song. Like I said, you have to have balance.
 I mean this in the immaculate and holy way, not the caste system way.
 The two are not mutually exclusive, there is a difference.
 See, it’s all about balance.
 As you well know the lyrics were changed. Out of all their lyrics, those are the ones that Geffen “recommended” they change.
 Kinda reminds you of something Victor Hugo would come up with…right?
 I am very happy with that Victor Hugo reference
 I may very well have to write an article dedicated entirely to “Bound 2”.